Act, Sing, Play

Act, Sing, Play

Testing the link between music instruction and academic attainment.

Creative Futures UK is working with Local Authority music services to deliver small-group music tuition to primary school children over one school year. Children are either taught to sing using the “Kodaly” method – where pupils are first introduced to musical concepts through listening, singing, or movement before they learn notation – or to play a string instrument using the “Suzuki” method, which focuses on producing the perfect environment for learning music. Another group will participate in drama lessons. 

Why are we funding it?

Many schools already spend time and money on music lessons in the hope that they have a spill-over effect on academic achievement. The current evidence suggests that there is a correlation between learning a musical instrument and academic attainment, but the majority of studies have been observational rather than experimental so cannot indicate whether the relationship is causal. However, there is some evidence to suggest a causal link between music instruction and related outcomes, such as IQ. A recent study in Toronto found that a 36-week course of music tuition had a large impact on children’s IQ scores. This programme will build on this work by using a larger sample size, focusing on disadvantaged pupils, assessing long- as well as short-term effects, and measuring attainment as the primary outcome.

How are we evaluating it?

A team from NatCen, led by Amy Skipp and Stephen Morris, will evaluate this intervention using a randomised controlled trial with an active control group. Participating children in Year 2 from 19 schools will be assigned to one of three groups: the first will be taught to sing using the common ‘Kodaly’ method; the second will be taught to play a stringed instrument using the Suzuki method; the third will be an active control group that participates in drama lessons. This design will allow us to measure the overall impact of music tuition (independent of any Hawthorne effects) and the effectiveness of two different pedagogies.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in January 2015.