NYMAZ works through a range of delivery partners to deliver musically-inclusive activities with children in challenging circumstances across rural North Yorkshire. Our music leader workforce can often be working on different projects, on behalf of different partner organisations, with participant groups with very different characteristics and needs in disparate parts of this huge county. So how do we aim to reduce workforce isolation and create a shared understanding amongst music leaders of what constitutes high quality musically-inclusive practice?
Our delivery partners and music leaders came together to write a series of Principles for Musically Inclusive Practice back in September 2015 (available here: http://www.nymaz.org.uk/news/post/principles-for-musically-inclusive-working) which all those working on NYMAZ projects are asked to commit to. We also support music leaders financially to participate in practice-sharing and networking events, which to date have been focused on themes including improvisation, accreditation and participant recruitment. CPD bursaries are offered to enable music leaders to take advantage of external training in areas relevant to their interest/s and professional development.
We’ve also provided opportunities for music leaders to observe each other’s work, by visiting music workshops delivered as part of different projects under NYMAZ’s Youth Music programme for North Yorkshire. Music leaders are paid a fee to cover their time and travel expenses in doing this. We felt that Youth Music’s Quality Framework Do, Review, Improve (http://network.youthmusic.org.uk/resources/do-review-improve-quality-framework-music-education) provided a useful and rigorous framework for music leaders to structure their observations of each other’s work and to identify ingredients of quality delivery.
However, we found to begin with that uptake of these peer observation sessions by music leaders was low. We sensed that the language we were using around the peer observations sounded too much like an OFSTED inspection and not enough like the mutually supportive reflective process between professional music leaders that we were intending! So we created a simple observation form, pulling out key criteria from Do, Review, Improve for music leaders to consider when observing music sessions, and asking them to reflect on how this might impact on their own practice. Music leaders are simply asked:
- What happened in the session?
- What positives stood out to you?
- Do you have any suggestions or ideas for development?
- What will you take away that will inform your own practice?
Under each heading, we suggest that music leaders consider the following areas (taken from Do, Review, Improve) in relation to the quality of the session:
- Young people-centred: participants’ individual contexts recognized, no discrimination, achievements celebrated, additional needs are identified
- Session content: engaging activities, supportive atmosphere
- Environment: physical space, materials and equipment, appropriate duration and depth of engagement
- Music Leader practice: musical skill and knowledge, understanding of the young people’s abilities, self-reflection and adaptability
We’ve now had had a number of peer observations completed with others planned – including an early years practitioner observing a half-term percussion workshop for primary-aged children, and a vocal leader working with a singing & signing group observing a large scale singing project.
Those who have participated in the observations have felt bolstered by the positive feedback received from their peers (‘Strong clear leadership of the group. Great songs, young person-centred - responding to individuals) alongside helpful suggestions for improvement, whilst the observing music leaders have identified elements including repertoire and workshop techniques to bring to their own practice:
‘Observed some useful warm-ups and “crowd control” methods which I will use!’
‘Useful ideas for providing for the quiet times, and giving children, with or without parents, time to be creative and show work.’
We’re going to be continuing this approach in the coming year, and would be interested to hear how others are using the Do, Review, Improve in youth music activities.