Allowing young people to create music that they enjoy in school – including grime, hip-hop and electronic – can help to improve the attendance of pupils most at risk of exclusion, research says.
A national charity has called for schools to swap Mozart for Stormzy after a study found that diversifying the music curriculum can help to keep disengaged students in school.
The number of students who performed better in maths and English also rose during the inclusive music programme, the research from Youth Music and Birmingham City University found.
Grime, electronic music and hip-hop are still absent from most classrooms, but the genres could help transform lessons with help from music industries, the charity says.
A four-year project, which invested in 10 partnerships between music organisations and schools, gave students the opportunity to learn and create music they are interested in.
It brought music genres, such as grime and hip-hop, into the classroom with the help of music industry professionals and local music-making projects.
The inclusive music-making programme also helped some young people, who had previously been excluded, to re-enter mainstream education.
Over the four years, there was also an increase in participants performing better than expected in maths: from 14 per cent to 21 per cent; and in English, from 15 per cent to 28 per cent.
The charity is now urging the Department for Education (DfE) to adopt a new model of music in schools that reflects the diverse musical interests of young people today.
These include the government issuing an “unequivocal” message about the value of music; schools ensuring music is for everyone; and partners collaborating on designing an inclusive curriculum.
Matt Griffiths, chief executive of Youth Music, said: “We’ve seen the benefits of students exchanging Mozart for Stormzy as part of a re-imagined music curriculum.”
He added: “But despite school being the one place where everyone should be able to access music, we’ve consistently heard how it doesn’t reflect their existing musical lives and passions. And their access is being restricted because school music departments are disappearing by the day.
“Music in schools has the power to help young people with some of the big issues facing them today – mental health, isolation, and social inequality. But only if it is reimagined to become more relevant and inclusive of all young people.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said they welcomed input into making the curriculum “more relevant and engaging for young people.”
But he added: “Sadly, music courses are under great pressure because the level of government funding allocated to schools is totally inadequate. The result is that many schools have had to cut back on their music provision. Every pupil should have access to the creative arts, and it is essential that the government provides the level of funding that is necessary to deliver this entitlement.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “We are currently working with music groups and practitioners to refresh the national plan for music education and develop a high-quality model music curriculum.”
They added: “We want all pupils to have the opportunity to study music at school – that’s why it is compulsory in the National Curriculum from the age of five up to 14.”