by Author Anna Batson

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Tailored Music Training with Plymouth Music Zone: Feedback from an SEN/D class teacher

As part of Plymouth Music Zone’s “Tuning into Transitions” Fund B project, we delivered a number of ‘music booster’ training sessions in special schools and settings. At Woodlands School, Plymouth, Claire Harrison-Poole, one of the teachers who received bespoke training shares her thoughts about the impact of it on her practice. 

Impact on confidence and wider sharing…

“We’ve had training input from Plymouth Music Zone in really tailored sessions. The main thing I’d say this has given me is confidence, and being able to enthuse others.

I didn’t expect this, but it has been much more useful than other training I’ve had, because it has been building on my enthusiasm. It’s exceeded what I had hoped it would be. I feel confident to do this kind of thing and then tailor sessions in other groups in the school. I was only expecting a bit more confidence in the bit I do in the classroom, but it’s become much wider than that.”

What was the training like?  What did you do?

“We started out by working on ideas first – planning and growing ideas around what we needed to get done in school anyway. This really tapped into my enthusiasm straight away.

We did an audit of the school music resources, but focusing on me and my skills at the same time. So…having tried things on Guitar, I then discovered that I was actually getting a lot further with Ukulele. This was more accessible and easy to move around when working with the kids.

So, I had a chunk of training input, then we left it for a while and I got on with making and doing and using the ideas. I started to bring music more regularly into practice."

Additional outcomes…

"A lot of the really important sensory stuff that we need to cover in our school can get overlooked with the formality of other things that we also need to do. The sensory things are absolutely vital with the children we work with. Somehow this (music) really helps to bring both into the same space / activity in ways that it’s not always possible to do."

Getting other people on-board…shifting thinking about engaging with music…

“Having other supportive staff was really important, so it’s really great that the teaching assistants are really getting into it now. I don’t mind being silly in front of the kids and the other staff, but they’re now into it too.”

Impact on the pupils…

“We’ve also got children instigating play related to music, and they are anticipating music activities. One of them even goes off to get my Ukulele out for me, points to it and makes sounds, indicating he wants to do music with me. This is unusual because he has never tried instigating anything with us before.  This is an example of some really new and direct connections made with some of the children that have happened as a result of introducing the things I’ve learnt. It’s like – when the kids realise they have something in common with you – you’re onto a winner then!

….this also helps with transitions – like towards the end of the summer term, or moving between rooms at school…all sorts. I feel that it’s really helping to open up ‘windows’ through to some children. I can make it a soothing activity or use it to open up new interest in other interactions.”

Resources, planning and delivery…

“I found resources like song-sheets really useful and things we could revisit like little video clips we made to learn how the songs worked with the chords. We really got so much out of the songs. All of this was tailored to the topics (like ‘Weather and Oceans’) and we developed lots of multisensory additional ideas alongside the music that all added into planning. Really we got a lot of mileage out of the material and it was relevant to the children’s needs.

We’ve also had a music leader from PMZ delivering sessions at the school. I know that other teachers find this useful to observe and take part in alongside the children. I wasn’t in the classes with these sessions, but the training and all of these things add up to making me a more musical teacher.”