The positive impact of music education on young children is recognised across the globe – music inspired creativity, improves concentration, and is proven to have significant benefits upon all learning.
Despite this, the role of music in the education of young children has been slowly eroding over generations.
In association with the Australian Youth Orchestra, the late Richard Gill AO established the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program with the aim of turning things around. The program offers a unique opportunity for primary teachers to receive professional mentorship in their classrooms from a highly experienced music educator; thereby providing access to quality music education for all Australian primary school students.
The program pairs experienced music educators with generalist classroom teachers to build their skills and confidence in teaching music. Over 445 primary school teachers have received one-on-one mentorship, which has resulted in an improved level of music education for more than 26,000 students nationwide. Furthermore, those mentored are able to record their hours of professional learning with formal recognition by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards Proficient Teacher Accreditation.
National Teacher Mentoring Training conferences also provide essential training for new and returning mentors, and have seen increasing numbers of teachers from across the nation coming together to share their strategies, practices and resources for engaging students in quality music education.
The program has been readily embraced by teachers, particularly those with no musical background at all. At the end of the mentoring experience, one such teacher declared: “This is achievable, I can do this, and it is great fun!”
Since its inception in 2015 the program has continued to grow and adapt, and its efficacy has been supported by research undertaken by the University of Queensland. The evidence-based research led by Professor Margaret Barrett and her colleagues at The Creative Collaboratorium, the University of Queensland, has outlined key improvements felt across the board as a result of the program.
“Previously, I did not feel comfortable singing in front of my students, now I cannot be stopped!”
– Participating primary school teacher
“I think being mentored by somebody you’re connected to, who you can build a relationship with, is much more powerful than going to an external PD.”
– School Principal
For students, the improvements were evident in several areas. The introduction of music in the classroom led to better participation in all classroom activities, and also helped teachers implement more effective classroom management. The mentoring program significantly improved children’s rated singing ability, with children in the control group showing no improvement. The children’s overall attitude towards music also improved as a result of the program. It was noted that effective music lessons instil joy in children and have a positive effect on their mental health.
“Singing outside where it is quiet and peaceful makes me happy and good”
– Year K student
“Music makes me feel happy and good.”
– Year 1/2 student
Supporting musical development in early childhood has the potential to instil a lifelong love of music and increase the value of music for generations to come.
The National Music Teacher Mentoring Program continues to lay the groundwork for a vital boost to the quality of music education in Australia and envisions an exciting future for our country’s musical culture as a whole.