Singing in schools is being pushed back up the agenda, thanks to a £10 million package of funding from the Government. Education reporter Haydn Lewis looks at why music matters for York schools.

MUSIC and singing in the nation's schools are set for a £10 million boost.

Among the measures mannounced by Education Secretary Alan Johnson, as he pushes forward the next stage of his Music Manifesto, is the introduction of an all-new role - a national singing champion.

Mr Johnson has named composer and broadcaster Howard Goodall - who has written scores for Blackadder and the Vicar Of Dibley - as the Singing Ambassador, leading the Government's new singing campaign.

"As well as being a worthwhile activity for its own sake, music is a powerful learning tool which can build children's confidence, teamwork and language skills," said Mr Johnson. "A better musical education for pupils can also help them hit the right note in their studies."

As part of a wider response to the Making Every Child's Music Matter recommendations, Mr Johnson has announced:

* An extra £10 million to boost music education, especially school singing, both in and out of school hours.

* The extra cash will also fund a major national singing campaign for primary schools led by Howard Goodall, and a 21st century songbook to provide a top 30 song list for whole school and class singing.

* Singing teachers and children will be invited to nominate and then bid for their favourite material.

The national songbook will have a full range of genre of music, from classical to traditional folk to pop.

The move has been broadly welcomed by York teachers and music academics.

Helen Rodbourn, head teacher at Wheldrake with Thorganby CE School, has run a singing group for six years as an after-school club.

Mrs Rodbourn said: "I think singing is very important for youngsters, and we have got a very strong tradition of singing in schools in the city.

"I recently watched The Choir TV programme, and was totally amazed by the older secondary school kids on that from London who don't sing at all in school.

"What the Government needs to understand though is that it's not about a lack of material to sing.

"That isn't the problem. It's finding time for music in an already busy curriculum."

Last year, York had its first city-wide choral festival at the University of York, with 1,000 pupils from 20 schools taking part. The event is back this year, with two dates set one for primaries on February 23, and the other for secondaries on March 2.

Mrs Rodbourn will be entering her 39-strong school singing club.

The competition is being run this year by 22-year-old music student Anna Wilson.

She said: "Giving singing a boost on the curriculum is long overdue. I believe that a good music education can be beneficial to other subjects, as singing is a useful learning tool.

"I feel it is important that teachers receive a confidence boost, as well as visiting music professionals.

"Sometimes the expertise of a specialist can demotivate teachers. Providing schools and children with encouraging opportunities is a better long-term solution to music education."

The project, called the York Carnival Choir Competition, will see each school learning two songs of their choice. The children will come to the university after school, and be supervised by the university's Music Education Group, volunteers and any accompanying teachers.

During this time, they will all be given the chance to warm up and practice in the concert hall space.

They will also learn a "green" carnival song - this is the carnival's theme - which will be performed together by all the choirs in the competition.

The competition will take place as an evening concert, at 6.30pm in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall.

It will be open to members of the public and parents, and will be judged by singing professionals.

The winners of both the primary and secondary competitions will get the chance to sing at the York Carnival main stage on Sunday, May 6.