A 6 month project update in our own words

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Term 1 update

  • What we have been calling ‘the inclusion project’ has now been running for nearly a term.

Some stats to get us started.

  • Funding is for 5 hoursof instrumental teacher time per week shared between songwriting/singing, drums and guitar
  • Further finding was found to inclue 90mins per week of cello tuition.
  • 30 students have so far accessed the initiative
  • Their individual needs range from SEND, Risk of Exclusion, Attendance, Free School Meals, lack of engagement in lessons
  • The school also funds students eligilble for Free School Meals to have instrumental lessons so we have moved some students from the inclusion project (as a form of supported training to get them used to having lessons) to this funding stream. However, a charge of £20 per term and the  need to fill in an online application form has proved prohibitive and the 2 students we have tried this with no longer access the lessons
  • 2 students have droped out of the programme. One moved to a new school following a period of exclusion. The second, with a history of poor attendance and despite intervention from external agencies has still not attended school and only managed 2 lessons this term.

Things we have learned

There needs to be a structure in place to get students along to lessons in the first place.

  • A conversation with parents, in our project, this was a phone call home from the Head of year or relevant staff member.
  • A note to students and if necessary going to collect them from lessons for as long as needed. In our project some students were given a fixed time each week. Where it was deemed necessary 2 students were given a full hour in the Student Support centre where they are allowed to practice for the time that they aren’t in their instrumental lesson
  • Acceptance that some students just won’be able to read the timetable and get themselves to lessons each week. Although time consuming, they need extra support and therefor need to be collected!
  • A session with a life coach on our staff and the school behaviour manager both really helped to focus the teachers and give them the confidence to work in new ways with their students

Financial commitment from parents is no incentive for students to attend.

  • The £20 per term charge for FSM children to access the scheme is now under review so that more students who are eligible can access instrumental tuition and the resulting coaching and mentoring from the teachers outside of the inclusion project. This will make it sustainable for as long as that funding stream remains open. The admin staff who support this will be briefed on suggestions for ensuring that parents and students are supported in getting students along to lessons.

We need more space and more teachers-if more students are to access the system, we need room to expand. There are currently 60 hours of instrumental tuition already happening in the department and this runs alongside a highly practical music curriculum in inadequate space. The school has responded and  by the end of the year we will have

  • installed glass in doors to practice rooms to recognise the need for safeguarding whilst working with vuberable children
  • installed bigger and more appropriate porta cabin space all designed around the need for safeguarding. these will have cameras, open corridors and phones installed so that teachers can contact staff as needed. Music staff have been consulted in the design of this space
  • purchased a harp and employed a harp teacher to expand the range of instruments on offer
  • included all 3 cello students in the school beginner string group

This could be the start of a whole new programme of access to music for students who traditionally may have never considered learning to play a musical instrument. The role of the instrumental teacher in this is key. Their relationships with their students lie at the heart of the success of theinstrumental system and the impact that this scheme could have on the students and the department as a whole.

Inclusion and the role of the instrumental teacher

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All blog posts are subject to regular editing as I think more about what I have written!

When GCSE results were announced last year, it was clear from ours that children from low income families (known in our school as FSM students) had underachieved in comparison with their peers, a situation that seems to be of national concern according to news reports, a couple of examples of which can be found HERE and HERE.

At Monk’s Walk the school responded in several ways. Firstly, across the school, teachers are now expected to demonstrate how they support our FSM students in every class as part of our ‘access to learning’ planning. Then to try to engage parents who may not always feel comfortable coming into school, they were invited with their children to social events held at the school hosted by teachers. And finally, funds were made available for departments to buy resources to support the learning of these students.

Our Music Service runs a remission of fees system for FSM children to access funded instrumental lessons and the head of music decided to try to encourage more students to take advantage of this. The school agreed to fund the purchase of instruments for them. However it soon became apparent that this isn’t as simple as it sounds!

There seems little point in investing in a scheme like this if the take up is low, there is a high drop out rate or if the students don’t attend or don’t practice. This made me think about whether the system as it currently runs in our school is suitable and adequate for these students and if not, what changes could be made that could benefit all students in the long run. In addition, are our instrumental staff equipped to work with these students and if not how could our Music Hub support them and our students and parents to address the issue? And finally could our team of visiting instrumental tutors play more of a part in mentoring and supporting students thus developing their role within the school.

We plan to expand the scheme to engage and support other targeted vulnerable students including those at Risk of Exclusion, CAMHS Service users/school refusers, BME and students with SEND working with our SEN and behaviour support teams.

In partnership with Herts Music Service, funded by Youth Music as one of the Breakthrough Projects that are part of HMS’s MusicNet East Musical Inclusion network, we will be running a pilot scheme this year with a view to exploring this further. We will share the outcomes and the changes we make to our instrumental provision as a result as we go along – we envisage this having a positive effect across our instrumental system as a whole! We are starting with 5 hours of instrumental teacher time and an iPad. Let’s see where this can take us!