Manchester Metropolitan University


Music education makes a big difference to at risk young people, research reveals

New book suggests introducing DJ decks and urban music to classrooms

Music education can make a big difference to young people’s lives – but many students are not engaging with the subject because it is “out of touch” with contemporary music tastes, a new book reveals.

Introducing urban music and increasing the variety of instruments available can re-engage vulnerable pupils or “disaffected learners” at risk of slipping through the education system.

Engaging Students with Music Education by Dr Pete Dale, a Senior Lecturer in Popular Music at Manchester Metropolitan University, explores how for struggling individuals, the implications of a shift in the music curriculum could be especially positive.

Dr Dale said: “Schools need to wake up to the variety of music-making that exists today - much of the curriculum is too traditional. Current music education programmes are failing to attract certain students because there is a mismatch between the music-making which some of our most disaffected young people are enculturated in and what schools teach.”

DJ Decks

Dr Dale proposes using alternative instruments and music-making methods in the classroom, such as vinyl DJ decks, MC rapping and various forms of Electronic Dance Music.

He said: “By using equipment like DJ decks, children can learn about beats and bars, about melody and harmony, about musical structure and the importance of timbre and so forth. The learners will often find the work much more relevant if the timbres and structures are of the musical style with which they are familiar.

“Instead of school feeling like an alien and alienating environment, it can suddenly feel as though it is a place which respects the learner's culture.

“Current music education programmes very often fail to attract the marginal 'at risk' students because the music is foreign to them. The solution to that is to broaden the curriculum and thereby foster mutual respect in the classroom.”

Re-engage the disaffected

Dr Dale added: “I was working as a secondary school music teacher from 2003 until 2012 at a school with a high level of socio-economic deprivation. It was during that time I started to use these new methods as part of my teaching but it was as a response to demand from learners.

“Following that, I went into youth clubs, liaised with Pupil Referral Units and held workshops. I also did teacher training for 'Teach First' music-specialist teachers, encouraging them to use DJ decks and urban music in their teaching – and found that many schools already had DJ decks but did not use them.

“The benefits of introducing new methods of music education were clear: pupils had greater motivation in music classes and there was often a positive influence upon those 'at risk' - of disaffection, of exclusion, of death from drugs and so on. Learner's overall attitude to their learning more generally was also improved.

“I certainly think traditional modes of music-teaching can and should be complementary to the more ground-breaking modes I propose in my research.”



‘Engaging Students with Music Education: DJ decks, urban music and child-centred learning’ By Dr Pete Dale is available now:  

For further information or to speak to Dr Pete Dale, please contact:
Maryam Ahmed in the Manchester Metropolitan University press office on 0161 247 2181 or

Thursday, 30th March 2017