Developing character = raising achievement

From time to time the "bleeding obvious" hits you in the eye as it did for me yesterday when I attended the Y7 presentation on the music instrumental scheme that we have been running for a number of years. To be honest, the thought of listening to 50 beginners playing their instruments doesn’t, at first thought, fill me with excitement. How wrong can you be?

To explain briefly, all our Y7 pupils are required to play an instrument for which they receive small group tuition from specialist teachers; brass, strings, woodwind, guitar, percussion, piano. Most join us with limited, negative or no experience of playing. The idea is that they will not only learn to see music in a different light but that they will also understand how it helps to develop some life-changing attitudes and behaviours. That’s the theory!

During the last ten months or so I have dropped in to listen to screeching violins, booming trombones, ear splitting drums and the like. Last night, alongside their parents, I witnessed a transformation; something special and quite moving. Who would have thought at the start of the year that all of Y7 could be playing an orchestral piece together as well as various solo pieces and ensembles?

The event demonstrated extremely well the impact of motivational teaching on the personal development and achievement of pupils. On show was teamwork, empathy, confidence, compassion, spirituality, resilience, pleasure, pride and humour amongst other characteristics. Every pupil, irrespective of their starting point was able to make music and to sing together well and with passion. Importantly, no one had placed a ceiling on their achievement.

Coincidentally, it exactly reflects the findings in the recently published Demos report Character Nation which emphasises that successful schools in this regard have a commitment to the development of the whole child. This is at the heart of HMC schools.

If ever I needed evidence about how developing character directly benefits achievement then this is it.

By Mike Buchanan, Ashford School