Since I began working for Drake in 2005, I can’t remember a period of time where the musical needs of SEN/disabled students was so firmly on the agenda. We seem to have reached a ‘tipping point’ of sorts whereby conversations at every level around the future of music education feature this group as a matter of course. Now, this doesn’t mean that overnight provision will be transformed, joined up and shared nicely across the UK, but it certainly feels like the ‘beginning of the end’ for the historical shortfall in opportunities for these students (particularly in terms of formal music education and accredited outcomes)
It seems likely that the crucibles of this ‘tipping point’ will be the new music hubs. In his excellent article in the current edition of ‘Music Teacher’ magazine, David Ashworth looks at the current state of SEN provision for music in the UK. In it, he references Joanna Winster of Artforms, Leeds; she would like to see every hub include an SEN/disability specialist and this seems an excellent benchmark to establish as hubs begin to draw up strategy in their particular area.
In a recent forum discussion on the ‘Teaching Music’ website, I touched upon a possible model for how an ‘SEN/disability specialist’ might work. Every client school, college etc could be allocated a certain amount of hours of a SEN/disability specialist time e.g. training, classroom support, delivering accredited courses – within every academic year. This would encourage each setting to think carefully about how they wanted to use this time and to identify the existing strengths and training they already have ‘in house’ – leaving the SEN/disability specialist to ‘fill in the gaps’ (with some flexibility built in to address pressing needs/ concerns at short-notice)
It’s only one idea (and not necessarily the best one!) But it raises the bigger issue that we have a ‘clean slate’ of sorts whereby the models of delivery for music and SEN/ disabled students can be re-thought afresh along with a hefty dose of that old favourite ‘blue sky thinking’; I really believe the sector is committed to doing this.