School League Tables: Classes Alive to Sound of Music; Classical Education: Pupils Learn Accompanied by Bach and Beethoven

The Birmingham Post (England), November 8, 2000 | Go to article overview

School League Tables: Classes Alive to Sound of Music; Classical Education: Pupils Learn Accompanied by Bach and Beethoven


Byline: Jonathan Walker Education Correspondent

The Birmingham school with the greatest improvement in this year's exam results said its success was partly due to Bach in the classroom.

Pupils at Cardinal Wiseman RC School, in Kingstanding, listen to classical music during English lessons to stimulate their brains.

Staff say the unorthodox technique is one of the reasons results of shot up, with 36 per cent of youngsters gaining five or more grades A to C in their GCSEs, compared to 16 per cent least year.

This 20 per cent increase is the biggest in the city this year. However, the school says it is even more proud of another statistic - that for the first time every single child of GCSE age was entered into an exam, and every one achieved a result.

It also points out that the school pays special attention to every pupil including high-fliers. One pupil this year achieved 12 A and B grades, including 5 A stars.

Headteacher Jane Byrne said: 'This shows youngsters of all abilities are helped to succeed, including the really able who are stretched so they reach their full potential.'

Cardinal Wiseman attracts pupils from a wide area, as the only Roman Catholic secondary in the north of the city.

Catholic children gain first preference, but it is also popular with parents of other denominations and religions who believe a school with a religious ethos offers a better education.

Many youngsters come from the inner city and the proportion of youngsters on free school meals is above the city average at 58 per cent.

The school sought advice from education psychologist Dr Roy Paget, who came in to school and taught pupils techniques such as speed reading, and how to improve their memories.

Following his advice, the school introduced background music into some lessons. It is believed classical music can stimulate the the creative side of the brain.

Parents were asked to come in to school for a session where they were also advised on ways they could help youngsters with their homework. This included encouraging them to listen to Baroque composers while they are revising, rather than rap or rock music. These could include Vivaldi, Purcell, Bach or even Handel's Messiah.

Parents were bought in to school for personal interviews where staff told them what grades their child was capable of achieving and what they were on course to actually get, if this was lower.

One result of this was that parents got behind the school's drive to reduce truancy levels.

Youngsters were also divided into groups according to performance for the first time. These were more sophisticated than traditional sets, as one group was specifically for youngsters with low attendance records while another included pupils who were motivated by had difficulties with some basic skills such as reading.

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