Good music teaching can support children’s literacy

Empowering teachers with the skills to use music in the classroom can boost not only music skills in children, but also helps to improve aspects of literacy, particularly reading.

Children taking part in the New London Orchestra’s (NLO) Literacy through Music project significantly improved their reading abilities compared to those in control groups.

There was an average reading age improvement across the seven NLO programme classes of 8.4 months (from a minimum 4.8 months to a maximum of 13.2 months). This compares with an average reading age improvement in the two control classes of 1.8 months. The NLO programme children also made a significant improvement in their singing ability and sustained their perceived sense of being socially included. The NLO impacts were equally beneficial for children of both sexes.

Sessions involved the teaching of music and literacy activities and took place in 30 primary schools in the London Borough of Newham, involving around 650 teachers, during 2011.

A central part of the scheme was focused on improving primary school teachers’ confidence and skills in using music in the classroom, and providing them with methods and activities that they could use to support literacy development. By the end of the programme, two-thirds of teachers had used music-based activities to support other aspects of learning, including literacy, and said they would now them use them on a daily basis.


A Research Evaluation of the New London Orchestra “Literacy through Music” Programme, Teacher Inset provision by Jo Saunders, Graham Welch and Evangelos Himonides

Download the report from iMerc, the International Music Education Research Centre:


BENEFIT: Language development
TARGET GROUP: Young people
AGE: 6-7 years
TYPE OF STUDY: Academic research
NOs INVOLVED: 268 (207 participants, 61 in control groups)
DATE: 2011
PLACE: United Kingdom

The Power of Music – research report

The Power of MusicA new research review (Jan 2015) by internationally renowned Professor Susan Hallam MBE, UCL Institute of Education, outlines compelling evidence for the benefits of music education.

Commissioned by the Music Education Council (MEC) and published by the International Music Education Research Centre (iMerc), The Power of Music – a research synthesis of the impact of actively making music on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people brings together the vast amount of quality research evidence that has built up over recent years.

It provides the basis for the argument that every child and young person should have access to quality music making opportunities and supports calls for schools to ensure that all pupils receive a thorough, broad and high quality music education.


Download  The Power of Music – executive summary

Download The Power of Music – full report

Visit the MEC website to find out how to buy the printed version, and for more information

International Music Education Research Centre


The International Music Education Research Centre (iMerc),is a team-based world-renowned centre for interdisciplinary research in music and the social sciences.

It is directed by Professor Graham Welch and Dr Evangelos Himonides, with Professor Lucy Green and Professor Susan Hallam.

Visit the International Music Education Research Centre (iMerc) site

See the list of iMerc research on the site.