Beyond the Sound – ES

Socialising through music at school

I. Abstract 2

II. Introduction.. 3

III. The Example. 4

IV. Commentary. 6

V. Contact 8

I. Abstract

This model describes ways in which a particular secondary school uses music as a part of the compulsory curriculum to socialise and educate difficult pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Video about the project was shot by the pupils themselves under guidance from the technology teacher; the making of this video was an integral part of the project and played an important role within the educational concept of the project.

II. Introduction

The Secondary School I.E.S. Fernando de los Ríos is in a village near Granada in the south of Spain with following characteristics:

·      age range: 12-16,

·      ethnic minorities (20 to 35% of gypsies),

·      absenteeism from school (20% in origin),

·      family breakdown,

·      7% of pupils show aggressive behaviour,

·      60% of pupils enter secondary school with attainment below the expected level,

·      14% drop out rate before end of compulsory schooling,

·      a wide ability range.

The impetus for the practice was the interest of a group of teachers who wanted to find an approach which would be more successful in a very difficult environment and with a lot of difficult pupils. They were convinced that working in music and the arts is a very effective way to motivate pupils in both educational and social dimensions.

The main educational focus is the issue of diversity. The teachers organised and implemented a project that has developed over a decade.

Music and arts are seen as two important subjects, which contribute to the self-confidence of pupils most of whom come from very poor backgrounds and do not believe in the possibilities school can offer them. It is not only about learning music but about acquiring basic habits in a democratic society, such as respect for the laws and for the others; compliance with time limits (for gipsy people time elapses in a different way to how it is experienced by non-gipsy people, and this has implications for the way they perceive not only music but their whole life); respect and care for one’s own and other’s belongings; group work (cooperation between different ethnic groups has to be learned); expressing emotions (without being ashamed) but also being quiet when necessary (to learn to listen to and to pay attention)…

This example is an innovative and unique practice in the Spanish context that supports and promotes:

·      the inclusion of different ways and contexts for learning,

·      opportunities for reflective practice in evaluation and assessment and

·      opportunities to innovate and to become critical.

By the end of the four compulsory years pupils come to realise the importance of knowledge and of the need for some basic life skills in order to become a full member of a democratic society.

III. The Example

From an interview with the French teacher, 11/02/08:

“The most important thing the teachers in this school have learnt is that music is a very special subject and the music teacher can make it really special; so special, that the most difficult pupils are just the most integrated in the musical activities”

Most of the teachers at this school have understood that the best way to help their pupils is not by planning and teaching each subject separately but by bringing them together (where possible) and considering the most socialising subjects (music, arts, sport) as a reference point for a lot of activities that are included as a normal part of their curriculum. The whole Project is based on the following five points:

·      practical class music lessons including e.g. singing, playing instruments, dancing;

·      regular workshops in cooperation with the art teacher including (e.g.) painting in response to musical composition, making hand puppets for a musical show or costumes for an opera;

·      choir (non-auditioned, optional) singing a wide range of repertoire including pop songs, and songs from other cultures;

·      complementary activities inside and outside the school i.e. going to concerts, visiting exhibitions, meeting musicians); and

·      posters and background music constantly presented in the whole building related to current musical events and issues (e.g. Mozart’s anniversary, Pavarotti’s death).

The four main aims in the school plan are:

·      to use music as a methodological approach to educate for sensibility, self-control and the values of peace and non-violence in difficult social contexts;

·      to learn to use the sources of information (musical, historical, graphical, journalistic) for their own musical and artistic creation;

·      to participate in musical activities both individually and in groups, with an open, interested and respectful attitude; and

·      to promote team-work not only among the pupils, but also through interdepartmental work among the teachers of different subjects in order to benefit cooperative work which is based on values of collaboration and solidarity.

This aims are developed in a number of ways during the course through:

·      use of Edgard Willems’ method (solmisation, vocal training, aural training);

·      introduction to the guitar and to the key-board for all pupils in order to make music actively;

·      participation at school choir (optional);

·      activities focus on important values such as peace and non-violence culture, cooperation, solidarity, sexual identity, gender;

·      wherever possible skills are taught through practical workshops with pupils working in different kinds of grouping, and sometimes with the participation of other teachers and parents;

·      musicians as guests at the school interacting with pupils; and

·      cooperation with the “Orquesta Ciudad de Granada” (Orchestra of the City of Granada).

The school adopts a flexible approach to the use of spaces, time, groupings and the deployment of the teaching staff. The accompanying Documentary Beyond the sound  shows some aspects of the project.

Interview with the Technology teacher, 11/02/08:

“The thing that impressed me the most the first time I came to this school for a teaching practice was the music sounding in the corridors and that fact gripped me. I was quite sure that I wanted to work later in this centre as a teacher”

Interview with a pupil of the 10th class, 18/03/08:

“Here in this school the music is sounding all the time, since we come until we leave. […] This helps us to feel us much better”

IV. Commentary

In the words of the French teacher, 08/04/08:

“All the teachers in this school bend over backwards to help both the music and the art teacher because we see how they manage to transform the things. They have transformed the school, they have transformed the pupils thanks a project to attention to diversity […] We all have understood that music is something that all people carry it inside of them and it have to be taken out”

Results are:

·      All teaching staff works actively for this model of education.

·      The whole community accept music as an important subject.

·      There has been a decrease in the numbers and severity of conflict situations.

·      There has been a decrease in student failure rates from 60% to 16%.

·      Absenteeism rates have dropped from 18% to 14%.

·      The drop-out rate has reduced slightly.

·      Students display a more positive attitude and sensitivity towards listening (not only to music but also to other people).

Interview with the Art teacher, 14/02/08:

“It is evident how pupils love what they listen to here in the school. […] Some of them have even changed their behaviour thanks to their participation in the choir […] because the music comes in their lives in a way it didn’t do before”

Current Innovation and Curricular Development Projects in the school related to music:

·      Attention to diversity through music,

·      Do we know emotions? A proposal to develop emotional education at secondary school in order to improve coexistence through cooperative work.

This school has obtained many awards in the last years. Here are some of them:

·      Mister Manuel Zafra Jiménez, former director of this school and main responsible person of the project, obtained the Gold Medal in the year 2004 by the Ministry of Education of the Autonomous Community of Andalusia.

·      Santillana Award to the best educative experience in secondary school (included Spain and Latin America).

·      “Marta Mata” Award 2007 to the quality of the educative centers (2nd Prize).

·      National Award for Compensatory Education by the Ministry of Education and Science (2007) (3rd Prize).

A pupil 10th class” (16/04/08).to her music teacher:

“What you have managed! After my experience with you, I thank you for all the music you have made me listen to, you have made me read, you have made me sing… Because you, with your heart, with your soul always plenty of sounds, you have made of this school a place for the music, a different place located in this village of the great poet García-Lorca, a village of poetry… and music. Thank you very much for making us feel and live all that. Many little kisses, Eva.”

For the school the main key challenges now are to work with others schools which are in a similar situation and to cooperate closely with the University of Granada participating in the music teacher training courses in order to let his work be known to the future music teachers. With special thanks to Inmaculada Ramos del Amo, Head of Music in this school and one of the initiators of the project.

V. Contact

Author and Contact Person:


Documentary Beyond the Sound