Why it’s more important than ever to include singing in the classroom

16th April 2021

Singing is currently an activity that IS permitted in schools but here are some useful guidelines to clarify the situation:

Guidance from the Department for Education guidance states that singing in schools is permitted and that where social distancing or other mitigations can be put in place, larger groups like choirs can take place.

The DfE guidance includes:

  • 2 metres social distancing between singers
  • using larger, well ventilated spaces
  • back to back or side or side singing (not face to face)

In addition,  Music Mark – the UK Association for Music Education has produced some more detailed guidance on how choirs and ensembles can now rehearse both within bubbles without social distancing and in wider groups with social distancing.

Why Should Singing Be at the Heart of School Music Provision?

It’s some years now since Musical Futures first piloted a practical hands-on approach to singing in the classroom that provided teaching and learning strategies for exploring with students what their voices can do, and applying this to a series of exciting performing, improvising and composing activities. Find Your Voice continues to provide a tried and tested approach that many schools use to develop singing with their own students, but here we examine some of the wider benefits of singing and why it’s so important, particularly right now…..

1. Supports wider music understanding

In our Find Your Voice pilot in 2013 77% of secondary music teachers surveyed stated that they had applied the vocal strategies across their entire curriculum, encouraging students to vocalise first and move onto instruments after. This aided musical understanding as students were internalising the music, listening to and singing it first.

Emile Holba

2. Contributes to enhanced wellbeing

Singing in schools dramatically improves self-esteem (particularly for vulnerable and children with special educational needs), helps children to be more calm and focused, and increases enjoyment and engagement in class, according to a report by the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education commissioned by Sing Up

3. Increases confidence

90% of teachers in the Find Your Voice pilot in 2013 felt their students were more confident overall in music lessons due to the increased participation in singing. Furthermore 70% of teachers also felt their own confidence with singing had improved. As the approach emphasises recreating music with your voice, rather than ‘singing songs’, it means that even the most vocally-shy teacher is prepared to facilitate whole-class singing without feeling intimidated.

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4. Has broader educational benefits

Singing to younger children has a proven link to educational success in later life states Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (in The Genius of Natural Childhood, Hawthorn Press.

5. Engages students in their own musical styles

Teachers reported that 74% of students who participated in Find Your Voice strategies in the classroom continued to sing/vocalise in their own time – either in extra-curricular activities or informally. Why? Because they were learning how to vocalise their own music, which they saw as relevant and engaging. Musical Futures could then respond by providing students with resources that supported their preferred styles of music learning, for example tutorials with professional beatboxer Shlomo.

Emile Holba

6. Has physical health benefits

Research by Swedish scientists  has been shown to have biologically soothing effect, and is beneficial for cardiovascular function according to this report

7. Is a form of communication

Babies internalise the sounds of their mothers’ voices, speech and intonation, while in the womb. From the time children are born, singing is a natural way for them to communicate, even though this often diminishes as pressures of society take over as they get older. The Institute of Education’s Professor Graham Welch discusses here how singing is the most basic form of interpersonal, social and cultural communication.

8. It is free

Anyone, anywhere can sing. Poorly-resourced music classrooms can still access and deliver relevant, high-quality lessons that engage all students without the need for expensive equipment. Musical Futures’ Find Your Voice approach also demonstrates how to make use of mobile technology to support and enhance the voice, which provides another freely-available ‘instrument’ as the majority of young people now have access to a smart phone or device.

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9. Supports language development

study by Northwestern University also showed a link between learning music and the development of language and reading skills. Even though this study was looking at instrumental learning as well as vocal work, singing naturally leads onto songwriting (see here for the Musical Futures approach to songwriting), which has links to literacy and language development.

10. It’s fun!

One of the key components of Find Your Voice was to engage students with fun musical activities, build their confidence, and lead them onto vocal exercises in musical styles they are familiar with. Our extensive range of vocal warm-ups are designed to to do just that!

Emile Holba

Excellent workshops ‑ extremely accessible for all abilities and levels."

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

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