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Leading Practice in Music Colleges

What is a specialist music college?

Schools that specialise in music receive extra funding so that they can provide better facilities and more courses in music . Teachers in specialist music colleges teach the same subjects as in other secondary schools but also support initiatives like the National Singing Campaign which give more young people and communities access to singing lessons and activities.

Students in specialist music colleges take part in more after-school music classes, give more performances and visit more concerts than in other schools. They have extra opportunities to work with professional and community musicians. Specialist music colleges must also help students achieve better results in other subjects, including at least one of English, Mathematics or ICT.

Specialist music colleges work with other schools in their local area and often provide music courses for adults and groups from the local community.

Developing a specialist ethos

Music Colleges have a distinctive character that permeates every aspect of the school, reflecting the specialism.

Music colleges ensure that their specialist status has an immediate impact on visitors. Some schools have plasma screens in the reception area showing student performances and listing forthcoming musical activities for the school and its wider community. Displays throughout the school provide high-quality images illustrating various musical activities. Frequent concerts and performances in assemblies help students appreciate that they are members of a community in which music plays an important part.

Students are introduced to a wide range of music in key stage 3 and encouraged to study music in key stage 4 and post 16. Examination courses cater for a wide ranges of interests and students are made aware of vocational opportunities in music.

Visiting musicians and trips to concerts enliven the music curriculum throughout the school. High numbers of students have instrumental lessons and their success as musicians is valued and celebrated by the school.

Extra curricular activities are an important way to increase students’ participation in music. Most music colleges provide a wide range of such opportunities. These enable students to work in groups of mixed ages, encouraging the older students to act as positive role models to younger students.

Raising Attainment in specialist subjects

Appointing specialist music teachers with a range of skills, including the ability to teach music technology, ensures high-quality teaching. Professional development opportunities are available to specialist teachers, keeping them up to date with local and national developments. Extra capacity is built into specialist staffing to take account of community activities. This ensures the students are not disadvantaged by the school’s community programme and that continuity of teaching is maintained.

Music colleges raise attainment in music by giving students access to high-quality instrumental music teaching, covering a wide range of instruments and vocal tuition. They take care to match students with appropriate instruments. Frequent performance opportunities help develop students’ playing ability and musicianship.

Raising attainment across the curriculum using music

Music colleges aim to raise attainment in other curriculum areas through use of music.

Music colleges recognise the contribution music can make to the development of students’ thinking in:

  • Information processing
  • Evaluating
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Creative thinking
  • Creating and testing hypotheses

There is increasing evidence (OECD 2007) the music improves students’ general ability to learn. Playing, listening to and creating music involves practically every cognitive function. Playing a musical instrument requires motor skills and coordination between auditory input and motor control. Most musicians develop a greater ability to use both hands, compared with the average person.

The positive impact that music has on learning is recognised by music colleges. They make efforts to ensure that as many students as possible learn a musical instrument and that the curriculum is enlivened by the involvement of professional musicians.

Using music across the curriculum is successful when the leadership of the school makes it clear that being part of a music college is integral to everyone’s job. The music staff train all other staff to use music in their teaching.

Applied Learning in music college

All specialist music colleges provide students with opportunities to apply they learning in a range of contexts.

Students work with professional musicians representing a range of styles and traditions. This gives students the chance to observe how music professional work at first hand.

Music colleges create concerts as a vehicle for students to learn some of the sills that relate to the music industry, including how to:

  • Creating funding packages
  • Agree and monitor budgets
  • Implement an advertising campaign
  • Organise front of house
  • Evaluate their success



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