The Headteacher Column with Pocklington School’s Mark Ronan

The Sixth Form led Musical Theatre Society members with head of music Martin Kettlewell.
The Sixth Form led Musical Theatre Society members with head of music Martin Kettlewell.

Lent term began and ended on a high note at Pocklington School, with the musical talents of our pupils taking centre stage in, respectively, the House Music Festival and the Musical Theatre Society’s Musical Extravaganza.

The joy on the faces of those taking part was a delight to see. The audiences, too, were swept along by the energy, rhythm and enthusiasm flowing from the stage.

Mark Ronan, headmaster at Pocklington School.

Mark Ronan, headmaster at Pocklington School.

You don’t have to be a musician – or even musical – to feel the benefits of music; it has a wonderful knack of uniting and uplifting, wherever you hear it.

Surveys report it makes us feel happier, more relaxed, reduces anxiety and makes us feel more fulfilled. Also, different musical features activate every part of the brain, so it benefits from an all-round stimulus from one source.

Singing in groups increases our sense of social attachment and wellbeing.

Choir members, for example, experience the thrill of and sense of achievement that performance brings, but still have the security of people around them.

My own decision to take singing lessons was a welcome and refreshing pick-me-up.

I’ll never be more than an enthusiastic amateur, but I value it as the chance to put aside the responsibilities of the day and do something completely different. I certainly leave my lesson refreshed.

I was saddened by the Director of the Royal College of Music’s recent observation that music provision in state schools is in “steady decline” due to budget cuts.

At Pocklington School I’m delighted to say our music provision continues to go from strength to strength, right through from Pre-Prep to the Sixth Form.

That’s because we believe that, whatever your age, music is beneficial, both in terms of mental health and as a tool for learning.

Researchers recently concluded that children who learn how to play a musical instrument have improved academic results, simply because they develop a more positive mindset.

They found that teenagers who put in the effort and did well at music were more likely to think that you can learn to be clever, which had a positive impact on their schoolwork.

Pupils who took fewer music lessons or none at all were more likely to have a defeatist attitude, known as a fixed mindset, and made slower academic progress.

In our Pre Prep School, teachers use music to help children get off to the best possible start with a positive attitude to school and learning. It helps them feel involved, relaxed, and to cope with the transitions between sessions. Simple chants and songs help them learn new vocabulary, improve pronunciation and aid understanding of how words fit into language.

Children are given every opportunity to explore music throughout Pocklington School.

Individual talent is nurtured, and we have many choirs, orchestras and clubs which welcome pupils of all abilities.

Joint performances also enhance teamwork and discipline; everyone must attend rehearsals and practise together as they work towards a common goal.

I am firmly of the belief that not only should music be accessible to all, but that it’s a vital tool in education and pastoral care.

Music, and indeed the arts in general, should happily co-exist with other subjects as part of a broad, balanced curriculum which not only prepares and inspires pupils for life, but also nurtures their sense of wellbeing.