by Author Heidi Johnson

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NYMAZ Musical Inclusion Case Study

Apprentice-led Singing & Signing Workshops, Breakthrough Activity, 2013-14

This project has seen NYMAZ collaborating with delivery partner Accessible Arts and Media (AAM) to introduce more accessible forms of music making, such as singing and signing to enhanced mainstream schools as well as disabled and non-disabled youth clubs. The project is focused on delivering high quality inclusive workshops that are led by one of AAM’s learning disabled apprentice leaders alongside professional leaders.

The aims of the project are to improve the lives of young people through participation and initiation of high quality music making; to raise awareness of difference; and to promote positive models of disability by creating a new workforce of disabled people. In the long term it is hoped this project will help change public perception of disabled people and what they can achieve.  NYMAZ will also use this project to develop inclusive models of good practice.

The first schools and groups to receive workshops included formal settings such as Welburn Hall Special School and Kirkbymoorside Primary School, as well as informal groups including Norton Youth Club, an inclusive group of young people, and InterActive Whitby, an inclusive Easter Play scheme. The children and young people taking part were aged from 5 to 16.

Sessions involve singing and signing as well as accessible technology. All participating schools and groups received accessible resources with the opportunity to continue their singing and signing after the session pending further funding. 

AAM’s experience has been vital to the success of this project. AAM has been training adults with learning difficulties and disabilities as workshop leaders for over 10 years now and through a strong partnership with NYMAZ have been delivering a range of workshops in North Yorkshire.

AAM is one of the first organisations in the UK where adults with learning difficulties and disabilities are trained to co-lead music workshops alongside a professional. Such a positive model of disability is vital in ensuring that disabled children attending one of AAM’s workshops can feel empowered to realise they too can work like the adult apprentices and the non-disabled children experience that disability is also made up of the word ‘ability’ and that learning disabled people can teach too.

Feedback from the participating schools and youth clubs has shown that there was a very positive, natural and encouraging atmosphere at each session. Members of staff from Norton Youth Club were thrilled to have the sign sheets and tracks to use after the session and the young people taking part in the session have been inspired to teach the songs to other members of their group.

As a result of the Welburn Hall and Kirkbymoorside session, the two schools are looking at establishing a joint choir using singing and signing. InterActive Whitby said that “our children with special needs particularly benefited from the calm and clear delivery of instructions ….when we all came together at the end to sing as a group, it was lovely to see our children with special needs participating fully alongside the mainstream children”.

Feedback from the apprentices shows the experience has increased their confidence in leading sessions: “It’s daunting on your own but the other leaders didn’t do any prompting”, “It’s great that I get paid to do it”. Their highlights being: “leading and signing”, “teaching – me going first and the seeing the children copy and learn”, and “seeing that the children have enjoyed it”.

The apprentices have also experienced the importance of being flexible and prepared by adapting to song changes at short notice: “I was supposed to do one song but only one volunteer knew it so we had to change to another…I was quite confident as I’d done it so many times before”.

The Apprentice Training Programme was started by members of the Hands & Voices committee, who wanted to share their skills with others.

By taking part in this unique programme, our members gain the skills necessary to co-lead on a number of creative workshops including communication, creative or online media. For the workshop participants, an apprentice-led workshop is a great way of learning to sing and sign and use accessible music technology, whilst at the same time seeing positive disabled role models in action.

NYMAZ:, Tel: 01904 543382

Accessible Arts & Media:, Tel: 01904 626965