By Dan Walton | Director of Music

The British Journal of Music Education recently published a study by Dr Sue Hallam (Institute of Education) and Kevin Rogers (Hampshire Music Hub) on the impact of instrumental learning on attainment at KS4 (GCSE). Discussions between the Hampshire Music Hub and local secondary schools identified growing concerns about students missing academic lessons for instrumental/vocal lessons. In order to investigate whether these concerns were valid, existing data from KS2 (Year 6 SATS) and KS4 (GCSE results) was analysed to compare progress and attainment in core subjects between those students taking music lessons and those who did not.
After a rigorous academic study, it was found that students who took music lessons on average made more progress in core subjects than their peers (even though they would have probably missed some academic lessons to accommodate their music lessons). Here are two key points from the summary of the study,
‘a) whatever the debate surrounding whether music can make you ‘smarter’ or ‘better at’ English and Mathematics, the data show quite clearly that the music students made more progress in their learning than their peers. This is significant: the data says that irrespective of their starting points, progress in learning was better for the students taking instrumental / vocal lessons.
b) the impact was stronger the longer students had their additional lessons:… students who learnt for four or five years showed better results in all areas than students who learnt for two or three years. This is significant: it suggests again that the progress that can be made in core subject learning increases the longer one has instrumental / vocal lessons. This again implies that the background of the students, and their social background, is not the defining factor: it is the musical learning that makes the difference.’
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