Using extra-curricular activities to extend the curriculum.

You might think that the term ‘extra-curricular’ instantly means that the ensembles and activities you provide outside the classroom are nothing to do with the curriculum. However, there is a large body of evidence to suggest that children’s musical learning deepens, and their progress accelerates, if we try to make links between their curricular and extra-curricular activities, and indeed their informal music learning outside of the school environment.

When considering an extra-curricular programme for your school, it’s important therefore to both support and extend curricular learning – providing opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of the music they study in the classroom, and also opportunities to experience other music-making which is not directly represented within the curriculum.

In primary schools, one of the most obvious ways to make a link between the curriculum and extra-curricular activities is through whole class instrumental and then small-group continuation programmes. When delivered correctly, whole class instrumental will deliver the national curriculum for music through the medium of a particular instrument, or family of instruments. Children can then take their instrumental learning further through a continuation programme, which will embed and extend their skills. They can be encouraged to use these skills within curriculum lessons too, by using the new musical vocabulary that they have learnt to describe the music you listen to, their staff notation reading ability to write down the music you create (if this is a feature of learning that particular instrument), and their own instruments for performing and improvising activities.

In secondary schools, the learning of a musical instrument is even more inextricably linked into the curriculum, due to the performance component within KS4 and KS5 qualifications. While GCSEs and BTecs are designed so that the performance component could be delivered through the normal curriculum lesson, in reality it is obvious that having a separate instrumental lesson is going to be helpful! If pupils want to take their musical learning even further, it would be extremely difficult to progress to A level without this additional extra-curricular input. Organising for a range of instrumental and vocal lessons to be available at KS3 – or even, as a recent pilot project in the Channel Island has done, making an instrumental lesson mandatory for everyone in KS3 – means that pupils will be in a good position should they choose to take their music learning further in the future. In addition, having a range of ensemble provision available will allow pupils to pursue the musical interests that might fall outside of the curriculum, as well of course as embedding the ensemble playing and singing skills useful to all aspects of their musical learning.

If you’re interested in exploring extra-curricular music possibilities for your primary or secondary school, you can visit our instrumental teaching page here, our ensembles page here, or book an appointment with us here to discuss your needs.

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