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Many music teachers' default folk song for use in the classroom is What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor? The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) is keen to introduce teachers to a wider range of folk songs and instrumental music – there's so much more relevant, diverse and enjoyable material out there!

To help make this possible, we are sharing many resources via the EFDSS Resource Bank so that teachers, music educators, community choir leaders, community musicians, young musicians and adult learners have inspiring and easy-to-access folk material at their finger-tips.

The Resource Bank, originally created as part of EFDSS's national project, The Full English, contains a wealth of freely downloadable folk music resources available for use by educators at all Key Stages in schools as well as in informal music-making settings. Resources include teachers' notes, song words, orchestral scores, choral arrangements for choirs, audio files and video clips – all created by leading folk musician-educators in close collaboration with teachers and other cultural partners.

The Full English, Primrose Hill Primary School, London. Photo credit: EFDSS – Roswitha Chesher

The Resource Bank is updated on an ongoing basis with materials from our learning programmes. Below are examples of the wide range of materials now available:

Sea songs and shanties

As demonstrated by the popularity of Drunken Sailor, shanties can be fun and motivating to sing. As work songs that were sung by sailors on large merchant sailing ships, they're great for reluctant singers with their rousing call and response format which enables easy participation.

Our Sea Songs and Shanties pack was created in partnership with Bristol Plays Music and has been used with great success by schools across the city as well as community choirs. Along with shanties such as the evocatively named Yeave Ho, it contains songs telling tales of seafaring life, including The Bold Pirate.

Local history and curricula

There are a number of song packs that support links to local areas and local identity. For example, Singing Histories: London includes a wide variety of songs from the jaunty Hopping Down in Kent, about the joys of hop-picking during working summers, to the rumbustious chorus song, Up to the Rigs, made popular by folk super band, Bellowhead.


Folk provides great scope for creative work across the curriculum and for schools there are a range of teachers' packs. Although aimed at particular Key Stages, the content is often very applicable and easily adaptable for other learners.

To gain a sense of how diverse and successful folk music can be in schools, have a look at our film, Folk music in schools (below), which shares examples from The Full English learning programme of music in action at all Key Stages.

This film, produced by the English Folk Dance and Song Society in March 2015, shows The Full English learning programme that took place in the 2013-2014 academic year, focussing on how folk music was used in schools across England

Primary education

Our pack, An Acre of Land: Key Stages 1 and 2, is a suite of resources to help use this fun, lilting song, with its intriguing riddle, in a variety of ways across the Primary curriculum. Developed with Primary song specialist, Sue Nicholls, and Camden Music Service, there are arrangements for instruments, lyric sheets and extensive teaching notes covering music, dance and cross-curricular activities.


The Full English, Allens Croft, mini melodeons. Photo credit: EFDSS – Roswitha Chesher

Coal Mining with Folk Arts and Poetry is a substantial pack developed with the National Coal Mining Museum for England, delving into the rich world of mining heritage and some of the many brilliant folk songs which shed a light on this.

Secondary education

There is currently a lack of appropriate and inspiring folk materials for Secondary music lessons so this is something we have started to address on the Resource Bank.

The aim of the pack, Using Folk Song in Secondary Schools, is to explore ways of introducing and using folk music at Key Stage 3. Using a creative songwriting approach, this resource is based on two appealing and contrasting songs – the shanty, Santianna, and the ballad, The Wild and Wicked Youth!.

The Full English, Durham Johnston School Strings. Photo credit: EFDSS – Roswitha Chesher

Another useful pack, Folk Music: A resource for creative music-making, explores what folk music is and presents some songs and tunes to help teachers and young musicians get started at Key Stages 3 and 4.

Learners with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Our dedicated, comprehensive resource, Using Folk Music to Enhance Inclusive Learning, was produced by artists from Wren Music with staff at Pathfield School, a school for children with severe, profound and complex needs including autism.

This beautiful short film shows clearly how folk material with links to Barnstaple, the school's location in North Devon, was used in an imaginative and engaging way with the students.

Choral arrangements

Many of the songs in our resources are arranged for harmony singing, suitable for a range of ages and abilities. We have a number of choral arrangements made for more experienced Secondary school, youth or adult community choirs. These include Brother Tradesmen (Hard Times of Old England), with pertinent austerity-era lyrics, arranged for SATB.

There are two contrasting arrangements of the haunting song, Three Ravens: one an accessible version for three voice parts by Kathryn Davidson of Sage Gateshead, seen in the film below, and the other a fully scored version for SATB arranged by Ian Stephenson for the Opera North Community Chorus in Leeds.


We have a number of resources with arrangements of appealing folk tunes suitable for players from First Access instrumental programmes to experienced youth orchestras.

The Buttered Peas pack contains 13 parts for this lively ceilidh/country dance tune for a range of instruments – woodwind, brass, strings and keyboard – created by Sheena Masson of Camden Music Service.

The Summer's Morning (see film below), Down the Wagon Way and Winlaton Calling On Song are arrangements for school orchestra and wind band, based on original manuscripts of traditional tunes and songs from the North East of England which can be found in The Full English Digital Archive – along with more than 58,000 other archival items!

Further information

We have made these resources freely available as we really want people to USE them!

So please do drop us a line to let us know when and how you’ve used them. Give us your feedback or request future new resources. We’d love to hear from you!

Header photo: The Full English, Allens Croft School. Photo credit: EFDSS – Roswitha Chesher