Youth Music: Exchanging Notes


Martin Fautley, Professor of Education

Victoria Kinsella, Research Fellow in Education (Creativity)

Phil Taylor, MA Education and Masters in Teaching and Learning Course Director

Jane O’Connor, Reader in Childhood Studies


The National Foundation for Youth Music has awarded grants to support 10 Exchanging Notes projects across England. Each project (a partnership between a school and specialist music provider) works with young people at risk of low attainment, disengagement, or educational exclusion to see how participation in regular music-making activities can enable achievement of musical, educational and wider outcomes. Researchers in the School of Education are supporting the project over a four-year period through the evaluation of the educational and musical outcomes of these new models.

Aim of research

This project aims to:

  • See how participation in regular music-making activities can enable achievement of musical, educational and wider outcomes
  • Explore these benefits across a variety of different musical approaches and styles
  • Stimulate fresh thinking and support the aspirations set out in the National Plan for Music Education.
Method of research

The 10 Exchanging Notes projects comprise a wide range of educational contexts, all developing innovative approaches and working with a variety of different musical approaches and styles. These include: music technology, learning an instrument, singing, group percussion, song-writing, music mentoring, production, performance and musical communication.

In order to evaluate the individual projects, Birmingham City University has been using an adapted form of Youth Music's quality framework, Do, Review, Improve. The framework uses evidence from projects supported by Youth Music over the years to set out key ingredients of a successful music-making session. One aim of the Exchanging Notes evaluation was to test the validity of the framework as a tool for increasing educational engagement of young people. Overall, Do, Review, Improve has been found to be a useful evaluation and planning tool, a helpful guide to focus music leaders and teachers on pedagogy and practice, and a catalyst to generate critical understanding of teaching and learning.


The results from the first year of the programme indicate that the multi-agency approach has improved the quality and standards of music delivery. The improvements in achievement and engagement have also been encouraged by music leaders building trusting and collaborative environments together with students. These environments have additionally impacted positively on students' self-confidence and behaviour, expanded their musical repertoire and enabled them to become more creative musicians. The report suggests that teachers and music leaders have also noted an increase in social development and emotional wellbeing among the young people involved, although the authors note that more analysis needs to be done in this area over the next three years of Exchanging Notes.

The research identified some key areas of successful practice linked to the Quality Framework. It found that young people are offered the opportunity to work with a range of materials and equipment and that the duration of contact time and depth of engagement are appropriately matched to the needs of the young people.

Read the full interim report