First Thing Music

First Thing Music is inspired by the Kodály method, which offers a structured approach to music education. It is playful and physical, based on a carefully worked out sequential curriculum in which songs and musical games are used to teach the basics of music. It uses techniques such as signs, games, clapping, reading musical symbols and rhythmic notation, and most centrally, singing.

Teachers are trained to use the approach for 15 minutes every day (over three terms) with a whole class of pupils as a way of providing a structured start to the school day. Tees Valley Music Service (the lead partner in the Music Education Hub for Teesside) is leading this project in association with the British Kodály Academy.

Why are we funding it?

While arts education is important for its own sake, the EEF’s Arts Education literature review identified Kodály as an approach with some promise to also impact attainment outcomes, based on earlier studies. More broadly, the review also identified musical approaches with very young children as having similar potential. The EEF’s Early Years Teaching and Learning Toolkit indicates that aspects of the approach, such as the focus on communication and language, also have promise.

How are we evaluating it?

Teams from The Behavioural Insights Team and The Institute of Education (UCL) have been appointed to conduct the evaluation. The main trial will consist of a two-armed randomised controlled trial, with classes randomised to treatment or a business as usual control group from 60 schools.

The primary outcome will be reading as measured by a standardised test, as there is evidence that this type of daily music approach impacts children’s reading ability. A secondary outcome will measure pupils’ learning dispositions. There will also be a cultural measure of ideation (children’s ability to generate ideas and articulate them to others) spanning all five culture round trials.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2020.