Ready for School is a programme which aims to develop music and speech and language skills for children transitioning to reception from pre-school.
It takes place in East Sussex schools with attached nurseries/pre-schools between February 2017 and February 2018. 15 children identified as having difficulties with some aspect of speech and language from each pre-school. These groups of children had 15 workshops from February to July and have just started another set of 15 music sessions with their whole classes in reception.
We started looking into Early Years after East Sussex Music Hub conducted a gap survey of the county’s music provision. From this it was clear that early years providers wanted more input but that they didn’t really know what form this should take. So we took the research further and attended early years forums. Reception teachers in particular were quite clear that speech and language was the area where children seem to be lacking skills but again, they weren’t clear whether it was speech or language.
We decided to take this further and discovered that many schools were using the Elklan speech and language training – many of them were quite evangelical about the effect it was having. It was therefore important that at least one of our lead practitioners should undergo the 3-day training course.
Hampshire have a similar project which also addresses transition so we went to visit them. We’ve taken some of the elements from their project but added a very clear focus on speech and language development as well as using Sounds of Intent in the Early Years (SoI-EY) as a way of tracking musical progress.
An important part of the project was to have the parents as involved as possible in the workshops. We found that most who could did attend initially. There was some reluctance to come and some who didn’t want to leave. It was useful having them there to explain the songs and how children develop musically especially when they questioned the ‘simplicity’ of some of the songs. Many believed that their children were singing along to Adele in the car but we all know it’s not going to be in tune or in time necessarily. We were also able to chat about musical aspirations and what other opportunities they’d have for attending Young Music Makers classes or starting to learn an instrument.
Training and planning
We started with 2 training days for teachers which we opened up to any interested parties. These were popular and attended by people from all walks of early years provision. From community musicians and private nurseries to instrumental teachers and child minders.
An important element for us was that planning should be focussed on SoI-Ey and speech and language outcomes. We wrote a comprehensive scheme of work and individual lesson plans. This took us quite a lot longer than we anticipated but we’re pleased with the outcome.
Assessment is a major part of the project both musical and speech.
Speech therapy assessments were carried out on a sample of 5 children from each of the schools. They will be assessed again at the end of the project.
Pre-school teachers assessed all of the children using our own speech and language development checklist at the start and end of the phase. The children will be assessed again by their reception teachers at the end of the second phase.
Musical assessment is ongoing with practitioners using the SoI-EY framework to plot the children’s development. The practitioners found the musical assessment challenging and we had to have several meetings to explain how the planning process helped to focus on particular areas of assessment. In the second phase it was difficult to assess all 30 children in each setting with no time for meetings after the sessions as we’d had in the first phase.
As well as Elklan and SoI-EY we used the Voices Foundation Inside Music resource. This was a great find and stopped us from re-inventing the wheel by sourcing our own songs and making recordings. This was a change to our original project and although it took some time to set up agreements, we’re delighted to be able to use the resource for parents as well.
Parents were given a book we put together of the songs to use at home which they could also access from the Martlets Music website. This was very popular – so much so that we even had complaints that the CD was constantly on in the car. Parents have enjoyed singing the songs at home particularly ‘chop chop chopetty chop’ when they were cooking together.
Our teachers had a wheely bag full of lovely musical resources which included different shapes, sizes and colours to link in with the Elklan for such exercises as using questions with 3 to 5 information carrying words…. ‘Put the big, yellow drum under your chair’….
We’re using Survey Monkey extensively to evaluate every aspect. We’re asking parents, teachers and practitioners at the start and end of the process as well as using it to collate the speech and language results.
Progress so far
We’re really pleased that some of the schools have reported excellent progress with some EAL children achieving 7 levels of progress in their speech and language.
Musically, the children are now singing out and joining in more rhythmically. They’ve not made leaps and bounds musically but have done in their self-confidence. It was particularly heart-warming to see some children who had been clinging and unresponsive desperate to sing a solo so they could open the musical box to see it’s surprise.
This week they’ve all had their first music sessions with their reception classes and the practitioners are reporting that they seem so grown up and interacting with such confidence because they know their music teachers.
Project Manager, Ready for School