Discovery: The Shalvey Sounds Group hits the right note. Photo: Marco Del Grande
For students playing drums and didgeridoos at Shalvey Public School in western Sydney, there is much more to the lessons than learning to play an instrument.
''We have kids with behavioural issues and anxiety and we see a really great improvement in their general behaviour,'' principal Tanya Rose said. ''[It's] because [they] are engaged and that's what it's all about.''
The Group is a continuation of the Song Room program, in which professional musicians work with teachers for two years.
But Mrs Rose said the magic came from the flow-on benefits for the students involved.
Because the children achieve something at such a high level it proves to them that they could also do greater things in their lives, she said.
Song Room is a not-for-profit organisation that provides music and arts programs in disadvantaged schools. In 2010 international research company Educational Transformations evaluated the program and found students who participated improved their NAPLAN reading scores by the equivalent of an extra year at school. The evaluation, conducted in 10 schools in especially disadvantaged areas in western Sydney, also found 65 per cent less absenteeism, higher grades, including in science and technology, increased confidence and decreased levels of depression.
''The findings were stunning. I have been engaged in educational research for nearly four decades and I have not seen anything like it,'' lead researcher Professor Brian Caldwell said.
Education Minister Bill Shorten said federal Labor was determined to address the fact that 63 per cent of primary schools now offered no classroom music.
Mr Shorten said the government would invest $1.25 million in music education programs, including $600,000 for the Song Room to help it expand its school workshop program, develop its website and provide resources for the national arts curriculum.
It has also allocated $450,000 to the Music Council of Australia's Music: Count Us In program, which helps teachers develop song-writing skills, and $200,000 to complete digitisation of Australian musical scores, manuscripts and recordings for use in classrooms. The funding is already included in the budget.