What does good music education look like for SEN/Disabled children?


Drake Music has been asking the question “what does good music education look like for SEN/Disabled children?” and inviting people to share short video clips through the Experiences resource bank:http://bit.ly/1jF6F9P Numerous wonderful videos have now been shared, so please do browse the resource bank, leave comments, share further, and continue to post more videos!

In particular, this project focuses on assessment and accreditation for SEN/Disabled children and young people, as part of Drake Music’s DM Education initiative, which seeks to redress the historic lack of accessible pathways in this area. The project has been made possible thanks to ‘Spotlighting’ funding from Youth Music.

One of my current favourite videos shared on the Experiences resource bank is this simple singing activity from Stephen Hawking School in London, where the children’s music making is being assessed against the Sounds of Intent framework:

Through this project we’re keen to encourage people to share ‘everyday’ examples of grass-roots SEND music education. The videos don’t need to have glossy high-production values. Short clips filmed on iPads or camera phones can be much more honest and informative. Similarly, the examples don’t need to show elaborate ‘razzmatazz’ performances. Instead, it’s important to share examples of every-day activities that may seem obvious to some teachers and music educators, but might be a revelation to others, such as the video from Stephen Hawking school above. However, we have taken the opportunity to share a short film about the success of the Drake Music Introduction to Music course at Treloar School, featuring Classic FM ‘SEN music teacher of the year’ Jocelyn Watkins. Although it’s been edited and includes subtitles, this video hardly boasts high-production values, having been filmed on a Flipcam and put together in iMovie:

One of the standout successes of SEND musical assessment in the last year has been the launch of the Sounds of Intent framework, which makes it possible to assess musical activity with even the most profoundly disabled children. 10 video clips of good practice using Sounds of Intent have now been shared through the Experiences resource bank. Of course, the Sounds of Intent framework itself is a testament to the value of video. It was developed partly through analysing many hours of video footage of SEND music making, some of which is also available to view through the Sounds of Intent website.

Why create a resource bank to share video examples of good practice in SEND music education? There are two main reasons:

1. Help teachers & music educators inspire and inform each other. Teachers & music educators of SEN/Disabled children work in many different and wonderful ways. But they are often geographically isolated and disconnected from one another, so it can be difficult to share good practice. Consequently, as one teacher in Stratford Upon Avon put it: “There are far too many teachers wasting valuable time reinventing the wheel. To improve teaching and learning in SEND music education, there needs to be a way in which ideas, resources and lessons can be shared between schools and organisations…”

2. Raise expectations. Despite the good practice that we know is out there, we also know from Drake Music’s consultation into Disabling barriers to music education that many people still have low expectations of what SEND pupils can achieve. So there’s an awareness-raising job to be done through sharing video examples of good practice, especially in terms of assessment and accreditation, which is inherently geared to raise expectations through objectively charting development and progression.

But, this project has been really hard! It’s been extremely challenging to get people to share short video clips of their work. Why should this be so, when we live in an age where pupil’s activities are now regularly filmed for internal evidence, and when there is (in my opinion) so clearly a need to share examples of good practice? Of course, we might not have ‘marketed’ the idea in the right way to the schools, Music Hubs, ACE Bridge organisations, individuals and other organisations that we approached. But other reasons we’ve encountered are:

  • Problems obtaining consent to use video of pupils
  • An assumption that videos need high production values, which will make them costly and time consuming to produce
  • Personal anxieties about sharing practice; for some music educators their work is deeply personal; for others they might worry it’s not good enough to share publicly
  • Concerns about internet safety
  • Difficulties accessing the internet within schools (especially video sites & social networks) and, for some, technical challenges in sharing video online
  • That this project might be ‘ahead of the curve’ in terms of SEND assessment and accreditation
  • Lack of time for teachers & music educators to share video
  • 8 of the 10 Arts Council Bridge Organisations that we repeatedly contacted don’t yet seem to be performing the role required of them by ACE to ‘support music education hubs and the rest of the arts education sector through networking and best practice sharing opportunities’. Only 2 provided useful info to support to this project.

I would really appreciate any comments on this or any of the other issues I’ve raised here. And please do help if you can to share more videos of good practice in SEN/Disabled music education via theExperiences resource bank: http://bit.ly/1jF6F9P The more we share, the better we can all understand the barriers, opportunities and ways forward.

This blog has post has also been shared on the Youth Music Network

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