Youth Music: Exchanging Notes

Can getting young people involved in musical activities help those at risk of low attainment or exclusion? The Exchanging Notes project set out to find this out, and look at how the quality of music teaching could be improved to make it more effective.


Exchanging Notes is a four-year research programme, pioneering new partnerships between schools and music education providers. The programme, funded by Youth Music, began in September 2014. Seven projects have been funded over the four years with grants totaling £1,195,308.

Each partnership works with young people at risk of low attainment, disengagement or educational exclusion to see whether participation in regular music-making activities can enable achievement of musical, educational and wider outcomes. Researchers in the School of Education supporting the project over a four-year period through the evaluation of the educational and musical outcomes of these new models. 

Aim of research

The central aim of the research is to ensure that young people at risk of low attainment, disengagement or educational exclusion achieve the best musical, educational and wider outcomes through participation in a pioneering music education project, and to develop new models of effective partnership-working between schools and out-of-school music providers.

With this in mind the project had some intended outcomes: 

  • To improve the quality and standards of music delivery for children and young people.         
  • To embed learning and effective practice in host and share practice beyond the project.     
  • To improve young people’s educational and wider developmental outcomes.
  •  To develop the creative, expressive and musical ability of young people.

Method of research

Over the four the researchers have gathered a range of data to explore the aims of the project. This includes in-depth qualitative research with music leaders, teachers young people through interviews and observations, as well as quantitative data collection in the form of engagement scales and perception surveys. We have also collated the young people’s school assessment and attainment data to track progress and progression over the four years.


Research and evaluation of Exchanging Notes show that there is a great need for the exploration of partnership work currently in English schools: partnership working is important for supporting young people at risk of educational exclusion and there are musical, educational and social benefits. But likewise, there is also a need for more value to be placed on music in schools, with greater exploration of its social impact and the measurements of success.

The final evaluation report is due January 2019. This will focus on the overall outcomes of Exchanging Notes, drawing together findings from multiple qualitative and quantitative datasets.