Guest Blog by Kent Music: The Challenges of Recruiting SEN/D Music Specialists


Kent Music logoAfter more than six months of planning, in June 2017 Kent Music began looking for a new manager to focus on developing a new strategy for SEN/D music in the county. They haven’t yet found the right person for the role.

In this guest blog Karen Self (Head of Partnerships & Development for Kent Music) talks about the challenges of recruiting for such a specialist position, and working with Drake Music as consultants on this process. Hear more about this by joining us and Peter Bolton, Chief Executive of Kent Music, for our Drake Music panel discussion at Music Mark later this month.

I joined Kent Music in Summer 2016 at a time when ‘inclusion’ was already high on the agenda but with no real direction or strategy attached to the concept. We began developing the business and activity plans for 2017-20 and it was clear there was a knowledge gap within the organisation that needed to be plugged.

We wanted to apply a more holistic notion to the development of musical opportunities for children and young people with SEN/D: not just within schools, but across all of our programmes, for example accessibility to groups, to music lessons, our central operations, concerts, music centres and, essentially, progression.

We wanted to embed inclusion and accessibility across the organisation, not just as an add-on. But we didn’t have the skills to take this forward.

We could have commissioned an outside agency to deliver on SEN/D, but decided this was not sustainable long term and would not embed change within the organisation, so instead we approached Drake Music to help us develop a job profile for a role within the team.

In March 2017, we began working with Drake Music’s John Kelly, Jonathan Westrup and Douglas Noble, who posed challenging questions to help us define and develop the idea of the role.

Using their experience, and information gleaned from our Area Leaders, teachers and other partners such as Skillnet Group and Sheppey Matters, we finalised the job specification and then began to look at how we could make the role accessible. We identified and allocated funds from the hub grant to employ a manager, and also to support delivery of their strategy.

The Job Profile

The areas covered by the role included:

  • Devising a strategy for SEN/D music provision across the county, in and out of schools
  • Develop initiatives to increase the number of SEN/D children and young people learning instruments and joining groups
  • Build relationships with schools and giving guidance on resources and equipment
  • Develop teacher training, including training current teaching and admin staff
  • Review communications and marketing, looking at any barriers to engagement
  • Advise, represent and engage nationally and regionally with partners and other hubs on SEN/D

Positive Discrimination?

With Drake Music, we considered our role as employers and how we might be able to support the development of disabled musician/educationalist in the organisation.

We looked at whether positive discrimination was an option, but were advised by our HR consultants that the profile wasn’t specific enough to recruit through positive the discrimination route.

However, a full review of our recruitment practice did identify changes that should be made to our job profiles and adverts to make them more accessible, not just for the new role but for everything.

We reviewed our office space, accessibility at head office and the necessity to drive and added ‘we would welcome applications from applicants with disabilities’.

Whilst we hope that this role will positively impact upon the practice of Kent Music as an organisation, our ambition is to ensure that our practice improves our offer to partners, schools, musicians and ultimately children and young people.

Young children in casual dress play instruments together
Kent Music’s Orchestra ONE project

We want to work with partners and schools to develop new and existing activities for children and young people that are both accessible and challenging. Partners, schools and musicians teaching in Kent will have access to our evolving CPD programme and we would like to see a significant increase in opportunities for aspiring musicians as they progress into adulthood.

Still Hopeful

Despite a long recruitment period over the summer, we had just four applications, which we didn’t feel gave us a big enough pool to be able to consider interviewing at this stage. But we won’t be put off.

It’s going to take time to find the right person for the role and we feel we need to broaden our search, because the role is so integral to our future business plan and we genuinely want to improve inclusion and accessibility for ALL children and young people.

The role is now being advertised again, closing date 1st Dec. If you know anyone who we might like to speak to, please email me at

More Info

Visit the Kent Music website for full details about the vacancy

Arts Council England funding logo

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