Sara Curran

Former doctoral researcher (2016)

Sara Curran

Research Topic

“Why aren’t we doing more with music?” An exploration of the outcomes and possible viability of secondary mainstream-special school collaborative links using music and the performing arts.

Research Summary

Through two comparative case studies of mainstream and special school pupils working together on a performing arts project, I explore some wider educational and social applications of secondary school curricular music and performing arts. Here, these are used ‘as a tool’ to facilitate the development of social interaction in special school pupils with severe learning difficulties, and an understanding and awareness of learning difficulty in mainstream pupils. The research contributes to debates about the nature of ‘inclusion’ in mainstream schools and how curriculum and pedagogy may enhance or undermine it. It also explores the ways in which specific subjects may be seen as vehicles for diverse educational and social goals, and offers additional insights and ideas concerning the curriculum and teaching of music. Most adolescents enjoy listening to and often performing music outside school, yet all too often, many of them find school music curricula uninteresting and inauthentic. This research may offer constructive ideas for an additional approach to secondary school music encompassing a social justice theme. 

Research Interests

  • secondary school music education 
  • sociology of music education
  • inclusion in and through music education
  • mainstream and special school collaborations using music and the performing arts
  • music in special education 
  • informal music learning

Research Supervisors

Professor Ann Lewis and Dr Kerstin Wittemeyer

External advisor

Dr Felicity Laurence, School of Arts and Cultures, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.


ESRC 1+3 scholarship

Membership of Research and Professional Organisations

  • National Association of Music Educators (NAME)
  • Musicians’ Union


Book reviews

Curran, S. (2013) What's so important about music education? Educational Research and Evaluation, 19:1, 98-99 DOI:10.1080/13803611.2012.748249

Curran, S. (2011) Researching education: data, methods and theory in educational enquiry. Evaluation & Research in Education, 24:3, 218-219 DOI: 10.1080/09500790.2011.577963


Curran, S. (2011) ‘It got good in the end’: reflections on relationships in music teaching in a north Surrey secondary school. National Association of Music Educators’ Conference University of Cambridge.

Curran, S. (2011) Working towards inclusion in and through music: what’s the point, when music as a subject is struggling to hold its place in the secondary school curriculum? 10th School of Education Research Conference University of Birmingham.