New research provides powerful evidence that every child should have the right to access music

The recently launched ‘Sounds of Intent in the Early Years’ research report reveals that targeted music sessions for children in the early years and in areas of high deprivation can improve their capacity to manage their feelings and behaviour, boost their self-confidence, and heighten their ability to listen and pay attention, enabling them to ‘close the gap’ in terms of meeting their age-related expectations.

The report is based on a three-year (2015-18) England-wide project undertaken by Soundabout, in partnership with the University of Roehampton and funded by Youth Music. It provides powerful evidence that every child should have the right to access music.

The 10-week music programme, ‘Sounds of Intent (Sol-EY)’, ran from 27 children’s centres across England and other ‘local hubs’ specialising in provision for children with complex needs. A total of 216 children accessed the sessions, 16 per cent of which had complex needs such as profound and multiple learning difficulties.

The key findings were that:

• The musical development of children in the early years growing up in areas of high social deprivation may well be significantly delayed, but this can be ameliorated with targeted musical activities that last at least four months.
• The capacity of children with complex needs in the early years to engage with music is likely to be profoundly delayed, in line with their other areas of development, but appropriate music programmes can increase their rate of musical development, and appear to have a greater impact than comparable interventions undertaken when the children are older.
• Targeted interventions that consistently link functional, everyday language with simple melodies can have a positive impact on the speech of young children that is delayed.
• Targeted interventions that help families and practitioners to engage through music with children in the early years who experience social deprivation, including those with complex needs, can improve children’s capacity to listen and attend more generally, and can have a positive impact on their self-confidence and self-awareness and their capacity to make relationships and manage their feelings and behaviour.
• It is not necessary for early years practitioners to be music specialists to understand how children develop musically, and to be able to support such development.

The findings will be of importance to those responsible for providing music to young children, both with and without special educational needs and disabilities, whether researchers, policy makers, managers or practitioners.

Article originally published for; April 5th, 2018