Today is International Day of Friendship, so I could hardly have picked a more appropriate time to open my review copy of a book of songs for spiritual, moral, social and cultural learning.
Musician Andy Silver has written Singing Out!, a collection of twenty ‘exciting new pop songs’ that teach topics such as trust, peace, forgiveness, friendship and justice.
The songs come in all sorts of styles: pop, jazz, dance, ballad et cetera. A book contains the lyrics with piano notation and an accompanying DVD has backing tracks, on-screen lyrics and downloadable mp3s. The book begins with teaching notes: each song has an SMSC teaching point that it seeks to reinforce.
Of course, citizenship education (which is what interests us most at the Citizenship Foundation) is about understanding and challenging viewpoints – dialogue for pluralistic progress – rather than reinforcing given values. But could music such as this be a good starting-point? It’s an interesting question.
Certainly, singing plays an important part in our Go-Givers celebrations. Go-Givers is our cross-curricular citizenship programme for primary schools. As well as producing resources and training teachers, Go-Givers encourages primary school children to engage in social action and holds local award ceremonies for those involved.
And Go-Givers has its own song, recorded by singer and former CBeebies presenter Nataylia Roni, which the children all seem to know by heart and often sing at the end of the ceremonies. It brings them together, gives them something in common and helps keep the importance of their activity alive in their young minds.
But it doesn’t just work for children. A colleague told me of his horror at being asked to sing at the end of a very serious conference session in Europe – and of his subsequent surprise that it actually helped to regroup people and bring an intense debate to a grounded finish.
It’s an area worthy of further exploration. If you’ve used music as part of citizenship education, I’d be interested to hear how you got on.
Go-Givers produces resources especially for primary school citizenship, PSHE and SMSC. The teams also provides training for primary schools, on issues such as SMSC and British values.
For more about SMSC itself, go to doingSMSC.org.uk where we explain what it all means.