Hackney’s musical youth set for a sound future


Students in a Year 4 primary school class are now all able to play a musical instrument thanks to a new programme being piloted in their school

The children at Whitmore primary school have become so adept at playing their instruments they are able to perform popular hits such as Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Halo’ by Beyoncé.

Four primary schools in Hackney: Whitmore, St Matthias, Morningside and Princess May, have been testing out Just Play, an initiative by Musical Futures, an organisation which aims to get all primary school children musically skilled on a range of instruments.

Gloria Diji in Year 4 said: "I absolutely love Just Play lessons. We work together and have become so musical as a class. Lessons are always fun and challenging too!.”

The pilot has been so successful in Hackney that Musical Futures are now rolling out Just Play across the UK and in Australia.

On 26 April Lord Mike Storey, along with representatives from the Department for Education and the Royal School of Music visited Whitmore Primary school, where they were treated to a concert and got to see a Just Play music lesson in action.

Music lessons with Musical Futures are based on evidence backed research into how children learn. The Just Play project engages students in practical learning that uses music which is modern and relevant to children’s own music interests.

The Hackney pilot revealed that children achieve better educationally after taking part in Musical Futures. With an interim report concluding that Just Play increased concentration and focus, improved attitude towards learning new things, and increased memory skills.

The children have only been having music lessons with their teacher since September but are able after such a short period to perform together as a band. The Year 4 class delighted guests with a fun-filled performance. Their band, made up of guitarists, drummers, keyboard players and singers, all performed in harmony.

The show included beatboxing, group drumming and a finale piece of the band doing chart hits from Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.

Sarah Jameel, music co-ordinator at Whitmore Primary School, said: “Since becoming part of The Musical Futures Just Play pilot, Whitmore’s music curriculum has transformed dramatically! We even have a new vibrant and dedicated music room which is used daily. Children and teachers alike now look forward to their weekly music lessons, where they get an opportunity to learn the guitar, keyboard, drums and bass guitar together in a ‘Just Play’ way. We have even learnt to beatbox!”

Parents and teachers have also noticed a positive change in children outside of the music room. Just Play has given children a confidence boost, with children participating in assemblies when they wouldn’t have done before. Some children have also set up their own bands at home, even getting their grandparents involved.

The Musical Futures, Just Play pilots, haven been funded in Hackney by the Mercers Company and are being delivered in partnership with Hackney Music Service part of Hackney Learning Trust. Hackney Music Service have played a big part in bringing Musical Futures to Hackney and continue with its ongoing development in the borough.

If your Secondary or Primary school is interested in getting involved with the project contact the Hackney Learning Trust Music Service on 020 7241 7407 or email musicservice@learningtrust.co.uk.