BrainCanDo featured in the Daily Mail

Posted: 28th November 2017 by braincando

On Monday 27 November BrainCanDo and its Founder, Julia Harrington, featured in the Daily Mail in an article entitled ‘Tell children the benefits of learning rather than reward results, parents urged’.

The subject of the discussion was motivation in the adolescent brain and whether by offering children treats or monetary rewards for achievement in academic studies, does this focus their learning and encourage long term interest in learning? Mrs Harrington explains that educators need to explain to children the long-term benefits of learning something like a musical instrument or a language. She argues the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and that parents should try and trigger their child’s interest in a topic.

“Children are naturally curious and if you trigger that curiosity and if they want to know, so they understand the thing that they really love, then that will help them.”

She would go on to say that parents should set high standards that motivate but that are not unattainable.

To read the full article, click here.

BrainCanDo featured in The Times newspaper

Posted: 23rd August 2017 by braincando

The ‘Letters to the Editor’ feature of The Times newspaper have featured the thoughts of Queen Anne’s Headmistress, Julia Harrington with a mention of the neurological processes involved with the BrainCanDo programme. The subject of discussion for this piece is ‘Mathematics for girls and the gender pay gap’.

See full inclusion below.

BrainCanDo, The Times

BrainCanDo & Queen Anne’s School feature in Absolutely Education

Posted: 24th March 2017 by braincando

BrainCanDo and Queen Anne’s School features in Absolutely Education in its Hong Kong and UK editions.

Mrs Harrington, founder of BrainCanDo,  was featured talking about the role of neuroscience in understanding teenage behaviour and how, at Queen Anne’s, we encourage our staff and girls to understand the teenage brain, how they work and why they behave in the way that they do.

She stressed the importance of the girls understanding their brain and giving them the knowledge of how best to boost their learning, manage stress and stay healthy.

Successful learning is about much more than concentrating or trying harder. If we understand how we get thought processes wrong then we can do more about putting them right.

Mrs Harrington also spoke about BrainCanDo’s current research project based on emotional contagion with Reading University which focuses on attitudes to learning and how behaviour in classrooms can become contagious.

Please click on the image below to view the full article.

BCD Absolutely Education Spring 2017

Dr Fancourt Responds to a Report that Music ‘Could Face Extinction’

Posted: 17th March 2017 by braincando
‘Music is a key to unlock a child’s potential in so many different areas that are vital to a successful and happy life; we must protect music provision within schools’

Dr Amy Fancourt, Head of Psychology at Queen Anne’s School and a leading member of the BrainCanDo team outlines her views as to why music provision in schools must be protected in her blog on the Independent Schools Council website in response to a BBC article.

Below is a just a few of the reasons Dr Fancourt gave to reinforce her view that music in schools is critical to a well-rounded education and that musical training ‘confers a number of advantages to other areas of life. To read the full blog, please click here .

“Musical training has been linked to improved emotional processing and to the ability to read the emotional tone in another’s voice. If we want to raise young people who are sensitive and socially intelligent then keeping music within the curriculum is a good start”

“Children who learn to play a musical instrument show more perseverance and resilience when faced with challenges. If we want our young people to leave school with the ‘soft skills’ that will help them succeed in life then begin this preparation through musical instruction”

“Learning to play a musical instrument sharpens the brain’s ability to track very small changes in sound. The ability to break down a stream of sound that constitutes words or syllables is an important skill for language learning. Children with musical training show a more robust capacity for tracking very fine-grained changes in sound and learning an instrument strengthens the auditory processing networks in the brain. If we want to improve language and literacy then musical training is one route to doing this”

These are just a few of the reasons according to Dr Fancourt for why music must be preserved in schools as it is so much more than a fun, extra activity outside of the more ‘academic’ subjects.

Queen Anne’s School & BrainCanDo Win TES Award for ‘Outstanding Post-16 Innovative Provision’ in a Secondary School

Posted: 25th January 2017 by braincando

Queen Anne’s School has won the 2016 TES Independent Schools Award for ‘outstanding post-16 innovative provision’ for its new sixth-form centre which was designed to fulfil the philosophy behind its BrainCanDo educational neuroscience project.

Mrs Harrington Collecting Award

Found by the judges to be ‘A superb project to help pupils bridge the gap between being a child and an adult’, the building, designed by Lewandowski Architects, provides an environment that enhances teaching and learning for the school’s sixth formers, liberating them from traditional classroom environments and helping them to prepare for life beyond school. The new sixth-form centre – ‘The Space’ – is a major step in the implementation of Queen Anne’s School’s research.

BrainCanDo is based on the principle that understanding the function and development of the brain, neuroplasticity and mindset is of the utmost importance in education. Queen Anne’s School currently works with three leading universities – Oxford, Goldsmiths and Reading – linking science and education by conducting neuroscientific and psychological research that delivers improved methods of learning.

Julia Harrington, Headmistress of Queen Anne’s School and the inspiration behind BrainCanDo, said:

‘BrainCanDo is now in its fourth year and has already reaped results in terms of the girls’ understanding of how their brains work, and helping them to prepare for exams and manage stress.’

‘Every learner is unique. Our new building gives students the opportunity to take control of their own learning and to use the technologies that best suit them. We asked Lewandowski Architects to look at furniture design, spatial planning and architectural design as well as new technologies, and also ran competitions within the school for the girls to come up with themes for the breakout centres.’


Alex Chapman of Lewandowski Architects, said:

‘We are passionate about the relationship between the built environment and its impact on education. We refurbished a teaching block at Eton College to produce The Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning but the opportunity and ambition at Queen Anne’s was on a much larger scale. We are thrilled not only that the teaching staff and the girls at the School are so happy with the result, but that this TES award recognises what we set out to do in creating a new and exciting learning environment.’

The  Space is equipped with an entirely digital library; breakout centres offering creative zones with different themes; large study pods providing enclosed workspaces where students can engage in seminars or group  work;  interactive screens allowing users to project and control media from computers and mobile devices;  walls coated with write-on projectable wallpapers; segmental tables which can be arranged in whatever patterns are required; and chairs that can be safely tilted forwards or backwards to straighten the pelvis and spine, improving circulation to the abdominal and back muscles.

BrainCanDo’s current research projects include: the effect of studying music on academic performance; encouraging self-affirmation and examining its impact on cognitive tests; how attitudes to learning and behaviour in the classroom can become contagious.


Performing Under Stress with Charlotte Tomlinson

Posted: 19th October 2016 by braincando

Queen Anne’s School L5 (Year 10)  Music GCSE students were given a wonderful opportunity recently to learn about performance under stress by professional pianist and performance coach Charlotte Tomlinson. They were introduced to a number of different topics, including information about nerves, how to manage them, how they show themselves, and how to understand how nerves affect them personally and some different tools on how to control them.

It was an interesting discussion that whilst being aimed at our musically inclined students, could be applied to a number of different areas and subjects. Not only do musicians prepare to perform at a high level, so do our athletes, drama performers, and academics. Our students are constantly finding themselves in situations in which they must perform to a high standard and nerves are bound to be flying.

“Charlotte Tomlinson taught me that I need to ‘own the stage’ so to speak. I know now from working with her that walking onto the stage confidently is just as important as how you play, as far as impressions on your audience go.” – Eleanor

Some of the ways that Charlotte Tomlinson discussed dealing with these nerves included, taking some time for yourself, breathing techniques, visualisation tools, and turning our “inner critic” into “the objective observer”. A tool that is only possible if we allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them. This idea is very similar to our current term’s main theme: promoting a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, students are more likely to use mistakes as a way to learn and grow.

“I learnt that it is important to remember to breathe, even though it seems like an obvious thing” – Lucy

The presentation concluded with some practical applications, as a number of students were asked to come up on stage and perform. Upon their first try, you could see the nerves start to appear, but with some guidance and coaching the girls were able to settle into their rhythm and give magnificent performances, while also learning about what helps them to conquer their nerves.

“I found this session very captivating, especially when Mrs. Tomlinson said that we should see performing as sharing rather than impressing and this has changed my view on all my musical, sports and academic performances.” – Hazelle 

With their nerves under wraps, a brave hand went up during the final few minutes and asked Charlotte if she could give the students a short performance. To the girl’s delight, she obliged and mesmerised the room with her playing.

“Mrs. Tomlinson then reminded us of the fact that we are our own worst critic and the audience wants us to do well.” – Marjolein

Students and faculty alike were able to leave the presentation with good information on handling nerves during performances and were left with this important quote: “Excellence is working towards your own personal best with flexibility and freedom.” A big thank you goes out to Charlotte Tomlinson from all those in attendance.

“Before future performances, not just in music, I will take deep breaths and do a few minutes of meditation to clear my mind of all worries that could give me a mind blank. Hopefully this will help my performances to be of the best standard that I can produce.” – Astrid

Why do pupils get the giggles? Emotional Contagion Explored by BrainCanDo

Posted: 21st June 2016 by braincando

On Monday 20 June, BrainCanDo appeared in The Times as the programme embarks on a three-year experiment, along with researchers from the University of Reading as well as pupils from Queen Anne’s School and Westminster City School, into social and emotional contagion.

The experiment comes as teachers have long been confused as to why some classes experience disruption including moments of laughter and other classes are the ideal class. The research, led by academics at the University of Reading is as a result of the thought that teenagers are more susceptible to their peers emotions.

Queen Anne’s School is very much at the forefront via the BrainCanDo programme and its founder, Mrs Julia Harrington, Headmistress at the school. Mrs Harrington said of the research:

“We want to learn how the brain works in adolescents. Some areas of the brain keep track of other people and their emotions and thoughts…So it will be interesting to know how we motivate teenagers’ brains in a social group.”

Pupils will undergo brain scans, be observed in the classroom and interviewed as part of the project with this only being possible via BrainCanDo’s connection with the University of Reading. Data will be collected over the three year period covering certain points when it is believed their brains are most effected by emotional contagion. Mrs Harrington added that the influences and dynamics of a friendship group were hugely fascinating and it was not always the perceived “stronger” characters that caused emotional contagion.

“It could be the person who is sitting there quietly but somehow influencing the group.”

To read the article in full, please click below:

BrainCanDo: Music is Instrumental Conference

Posted: 16th June 2016 by braincando

A Day Exploring Music and Learning

On Tuesday 14 June 2016, BrainCanDo hosted its second annual conference at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, a stunning venue in Central London. The day was targeted at Music and Psychology professionals as we explored music and learning, more specifically what happens to our brain when we create music.


It was a hugely inspiring day at the London venue where delegates were privileged to hear from world class speakers who posed enthralling questions such as ‘why does music make us move?’ and ‘why does music make us cry?’ There was also a rousing performance from Queen Anne’s School pupils, led by Paul Smith of VOCES8 fame and a highly engaging session from Conductor, Presenter and Education Ambassador, Dominic Peckham.

Speaking about the day, Mrs Julia Harrington, Founder of BrainCanDo and Headmistress at Queen Anne’s School said:

‘The day was a huge success. It was so professional, the venue was fantastic and our speakers were so engaging and insightful about the topic of music and the brain. I really do hope that our guests enjoyed themselves as much as I did and took lots away.’

Headmistress, Mrs Harrington, opened proceedings and in doing so raised further awareness of the BrainCanDo initiative to the delegates in attendance followed by Paul Smith, CEO and founder member of VOCES8. Paul introduced the revolutionary ‘VOCES8 Method,’ a teaching method proven to enhance development in numeracy, literacy and linguistics. He would display its effectiveness with the help of some Queen Anne’s pupils, for whom the method is firmly embedded in the ethos of their music education. They would spend the morning putting The Method into practice before returning to perform.


Familiar faces to the BrainCanDo initiative, Dr Amy Fancourt (Head of Psychology at Queen Anne’s School) and Daniel Mullensiefen (Director of the MSc Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths, University of London) informed the audience of their findings from their recent BrainCanDo research project about how intelligence is related to certain musical skills and the link between musical ability and intelligence. Throughout their speech they made it clear that the key point to take was that adolescence is a time for tremendous growth and potential.

Professor David Hargreaves (Professor of Education and Froebel Research Fellow – Roehampton University) then came to the stage to explore the psychological theories that try to explain our musical preferences. He ultimately concluded that we all have our own networks of association, our own musical fingerprints. David gave everyone some real food for thought during the morning break as delegates discussed their own musical tastes and the reasons that they thought may be behind this.


The vivacious Dominic Peckham, world renowned Conductor, Presenter and Education Ambassador then took to the stage. He started with the first 15 minutes by saying nothing and engaged the audience in some amazing and humorous crowd participation as he explored life through song. Dominic went on to speak about his industry and in particular his travelling where it was clear to him that song and music is one of the very few things that brings people together. He drew from his own difficult life experiences in order to underline the parallels between vocal expression and personal happiness concluding that the one thing that matters is learning to listen. Every member of the audience was with him and as he closed with another participatory session, those that had previously refused to partake were on their feet. We must take a moment to thank Dominic for taking time out of his busy schedule to come and spend the day with us. Thank you Dominic!


Everyone was left with the same thought, ‘follow that Victoria!’ And follow that Dr. Williamson did with her in-depth exploration of music and its use for our wellbeing challenges, emphasising that there is no skill required, we all have innate abilities to listen, play and make music. We all naturally prefer eudaimonic music as it engages our brains with a sense of meaning. Our musical preferences often relate to the flow of eudaimonic music whereby it can help you run faster, lift a heavier weight in the gym or help you study, that longer term life fulfilment that helps with a state of wellbeing.

Before lunch, Paul Smith (VOCES8) returned to the stage to demonstrate the benefit of the VOCES8 method with the young girls from Queen Anne’s School who he had been working with all morning. It was a simply amazing musical performance by the girls and was a true reflection of the effectiveness of the method in enhancing the development of the brain via the use of music as well as engaging our audience, adding to the interactive nature of the day’s activities.

The afternoon session at BAFTA began with a fascinating talk from Dr Jessica Grahn, (Associate Professor, Brain and Mind Institute, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, Canada) investigating how and why music makes us move. Jessica described how it was the rhythm and most importantly the beat that makes us move which is also the case with animals. A particular highlight was a video of Ronan the Sealion who is one of the first mammals to show signs of keeping a beat (there may be more, but the research has just begun). Jessica concluded that the brain finds music and moving to music more rewarding with others for example our social responses are improved as we become more helpful when in sync.


Dr Jonna Vuoskoski (Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Music Perception and Cognition) followed on, arguing that music may give an evolutionary advantage through its promotion of social bonding and group cohesion. Thus playing music with others involves empathy which brings with it several related processes including the coordination of actions and synchronization.

The day ended with riveting a talk from Professor Michael Trimble who discussed why music makes us cry and the significance of our responses. From his work and research, Professor Trimble concludes that only humans cry emotionally, brought on by external events. These tears act as a signal but they are different with age and gender. For infants, it is a way of communicating, pleading and nurturing where in contrast for adults, they are more controlled and only released by stimuli.

What’s in store for the BrainCanDo programme in the future was the main question asked of Founder and Chair, Mrs Harrington who commented:

‘Following the huge success of our day at BAFTA, we are looking to further the public prominence of the BrainCanDo programme through various events including conferences and seminars. With the backing of The Grey Coat Hospital Foundation we are able to engage in innovative research projects which will only serve to help the next generations of pupils through our school at Queen Anne’s and hopefully many others across the country.’

Humming Music Helps Girls Do Maths

Posted: 7th June 2016 by braincando

Another aspect of the work and research of BrainCanDo received recognition in The Sunday Times on 5 June 2016. Sian Griffiths, Education Editor, focused upon the use of music when revising by girls at Queen Anne’s School and whether or not it actually helps.

The pupils at Queen Anne’s, an independent boarding school, who are sitting their GCSEs and A Levels as we speak were asked to compile a playlist of their favourite revision songs and whether certain genres and types of song fitted certain subjects. The tracklist included Jasmine Thompson’s Let Myself Try and Jack Johnson’s Better Together.

The research being conducted, as part of the BrainCanDo programme, into how teenage brains work has already suggested that for example, the Star Wars theme tune, composed by John Williams was useful for Maths revision. Other compositions including The Blue Danube have been used in a similar capacity to help girls’ in exams by humming the music equating various notes to algebraic equations.

Mrs Julia Harrington, Headmistress at Queen Anne’s and founder of BrainCanDo commented:

“The research looks at how music can be used as a tool to make you a smart learner and regulate your emotions. Music can help girls revise effectively.’

This recognition in The Sunday Times follows on from other recent coverage regarding the management of stress levels during exam season, only highlighting the effectiveness of the BrainCanDo: Life and Learning Programme.

We focus on the effect of music on the brain at our annual conference, ‘Music is Instrumental’, on 14 June 2016 at BAFTA in London. To learn more book your ticket now or risk missing out: Click Here

To read the article in full, please click the link below.