Helping children tune into learning through music

Lucie Parkes, formal learning manager at the Historic Royal Palaces highlights the impact of music  for boosting self-confidence and  learning across the curriculum.  

As a former teacher, I know not every pupil arrives at school ready to learn. However, it’s a magical moment when you find something that sparks a student’s interest.  At Historic Royal Palaces (the charity that cares for the Tower of London) we see our role in education being very much about igniting that spark of interest and enjoyment in finding out more. Our approach to learning draws heavily on drama and story-telling and student participation in this is key. Using this method helps us to provide opportunities for learning that appeal to the broadest, most diverse range of young people and perhaps one of the most powerful tools for impactful engagement is music. 

The benefits of music

Used in the right way, music speaks to students regardless of their interests or academic ability.  Music has the power to  motivate and ignite interest in new subjects; it has the power to emotionally move students creating personal connections to subjects, time periods and places. Participation in music builds confidence and a sense of well-being and belonging which are so crucial to a learning environment.  At HRP, we believe music is a great way to bring history to life and make it relevant to today’s young people. Once a year, HRP partners with  the music charity, Water City Music to metaphorically take down the Tower’s walls and invite 60 schools to perform at the Music at the Tower festival.

During this week, the Tower  is filled with young people performing in choirs,  bands and orchestras and transforming the atmosphere. Students perform pieces that have a connection to the Tower’s history with other schools, musicians and in front of thousands of tourists.  

Bringing history to life

Despite living not far from the Tower, many of the students would never have the chance to visit it and this Helping children tune into learning through musicevent helps connect them to their local history and community.  As well as, boosting their confidence in performance.  
In the weeks leading up to the event, pupils learn songs linked to the theme of ‘Palace, Prison, Fortress’. This enables them to experience new music  as well as to practise and develop skills for performing in front of a crowd.  Performing schools are offered free visits to the Tower where students can learn more about this iconic location which builds up their sense of excitement and motivation.

It also gives teachers the opportunity to draw parallels with the Tower’s history and current news events through the stories of famous historical prisoners who were persecuted for their values and beliefs. This is a great way to engage the youngest generation of Londoners with the significance of the Tower.
Increasing motivation 

This is an inclusive event where children can take part  regardless of their age or ability and the impact on them is significant. In 2018, 85% of students reported an increase in confidence and 82% were more motivated to practise, a large majority said they felt more connected to the past and 88% wanted to return to the Tower. In 2017 we carried out a long term impact study and found the effects to be long-lasting. A year after taking part, students could remember many facts about the Tower’s history and many had done further research on it. Teachers observed that the Tower had become more accessible to their students who felt more ownership of it. …Teachers tell us that they notice a lasting impact on the children who perform at the festival, with an increase in motivation and achievement in the classroom. 

As one teacher described…“Going to such a venue and knowing they were going to perform there was great. It’s just a stone’s throw away from school but now it’s more accessible, not just somewhere they walk past on the way to school; they know they can go inside and feel more ownership of it”

With funding cuts and a narrowing of the curriculum, there is currently less emphasis being placed on music and the arts. The aim of this event is to support teachers to continue to motivate and inspire school children whilst giving them lifelong memories they can be proud of. 

Let’s take music off pause in schools and press play!
For more information on the Music at the Tower event visit: