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Music for mental health: School singing ban needs a rethink, urges Peter Corry

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Workshops: Tina McVeigh, managing director and Peter Corry, artistic director at BSPA, with Brenda Shankey (on screen), performance and mindset coach

Workshops: Tina McVeigh, managing director and Peter Corry, artistic director at BSPA, with Brenda Shankey (on screen), performance and mindset coach

Workshops: Tina McVeigh, managing director and Peter Corry, artistic director at BSPA, with Brenda Shankey (on screen), performance and mindset coach

Renowned Belfast performer Peter Corry is urging the Executive to reconsider the ban on singing in schools, saying "young people's mental health depends on it".

The current instruction from Education Minister Peter Weir prohibits pupils singing individually or in choirs.

Mr Weir said the decision was taken on the advice of the chief medical officer and the Public Health Agency (PHA).

The playing of brass and wind instruments is also currently banned indoors.

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School choirs in Northern Ireland were previously permitted to sing indoors from last September to December as long as social distancing and good ventilation were in place.

In order to highlight the importance of dancing, acting and singing on the mental health of young people, The Belfast School of Performing Arts (BSPA), conducted a survey on the dramatic impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on performing arts students in Northern Ireland.

The survey of 166 parents and 102 students, found that 100% of students said dancing, acting or singing made them happy, while 98% felt that taking part in those activities also made them feel confident.

Meanwhile, 55% of parents surveyed believed that their child had lost confidence in themselves with 43% saying their child was harder to motivate and had lost interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Mr Corry, a well-known musical director, told the Belfast Telegraph: "The decision to ban singing in schools is baffling whenever everywhere else in the UK is opening up and returning to normality and the fact it was permitted only a few months ago. Much like sport, dancing, singing and acting have a huge impact on the general well-being and happiness of our young people.

"It's the most brilliant tool for them in terms of their self-confidence and belief going forward in life and also in so many different careers," he said.

"The ability to stand up in front of others and communicate your case all comes from performing and that follows in so many different forms of life."

Mr Corry added: "I would urge the Executive to reconsider their decision and reinstate all forms of performing arts for students that will allow our young people to feel the pleasure and joy they so badly deserve. If it's done safely, I don't see why it can't happen."

As a result of the survey, the BSPA have initiated a series of workshops, which will initially take place via Zoom, with leading performance mindset coach, Brenda Shankey.

"Many students will have lost confidence in themselves, perhaps lost interest in some of the things they once loved, these workshops aim to start to rebuild the performing arts child from the ground up," she said.

Tina McVeigh, BSPA managing director, said the survey results were startling and highlighted the important role dance and drama plays in the lives of many young people.

"Like the general population, many of our students are struggling, during the last year we have been open just nine weeks for face to face classes and have had to take our classes online. Both our students and teachers have embraced these changes as best they can but we believe it has had a detrimental effect on our students," she said.

The Executive Office did not respond to a request for comment when contacted on Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph


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