Working with a visiting musician over an extended period on a contemporary music making project.

What are the goals of the work?

Hanham Abbots Junior School are running a scheme called Master Class Fridays. Every child in the school chooses a new subject/area to study for six months. For each project/area, the school has brought in a specialist teacher, or drawn on the expertise from within the existing staff team, thus ensuring high quality teaching. In this music-focused case study, 30 children use Charanga VIP Studio (http://vip.charanga.com) to explore and create the music that they love, using both traditional and contemporary musical styles.

masterclass Fridays music making

Working with a professional musician over a period of six months the children make beats, write lyrics and songs, then record and mix their work. The final stage of the process is to release and promote their work. At each stage, the project replicates the typical processes taken by professional musicians working in contemporary genres.

The approach also includes opportunities for professional development in the classroom use of music technology.

What is the context of the work?

  • Setting? Computer Room Hanham Junior School
  • Age of students? 7-11 years
  • No of students? 30
  • Does the example fit into longer term plan, or is it ‘stand-alone’? The programme will be repeated twice a year (i.e. two lots of six months). After the first year, the school will review the success and either repeat, or run whole staff development so that the music unit can be taught by class teachers.
  • Who is leading the work? The work is being led by an independent visiting specialist, Phil Heeley.
  • Any other relevant information? Hanham Abbots Junior School has become a Thrive School (https://www.thriveapproach.co.uk/about/) and prides itself on the high levels of inclusion that are promoted.

What is the content of the work?

The focus is on empowering pupils and giving them the freedom to discover their own way of creating the music that they love. The musical choice is very large, incorporating such diverse genres as Country, Electronica, Latin, Rock, World, Dub Hop Step, Old Skool Breaks, Grime Cutz, Urban Classical, Ghetto Ambient, Hot House and many more. Later in the project, the team will explore the possibilities of young people creating their own riffs and samples using the qwerty keyboard and virtual instruments.

What are the key features of the teaching and learning approach?

The key features of the teaching and learning approach embrace the following

  • Modelling a basic structure;
  • Encouraging diversity and happy accidents;
  • Promoting Personal motivation;
  • Playing and celebrating pupil’s music and achievements regularly; and
  • Creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment.

How is the work being reviewed?

The work is being reviewed by regular observation and discussion with students, looking for the following:

  • Pupils feed back on the relative success of their work;
  • Pupils’ level of enjoyment of the process and also the end results;
  • The degree of musical learning, musicality and also music technology learning;
  • The level of motivation evidenced in achieving results;
  • Expression and manifestation of a musical imagination;
  • The level of listening to instructions, as well as listening to the effects of musical layering;
  • Evidence of pupil expressiveness, aesthetic sensitivity and discrimination;
  • That the foci of sessions are understood and seen to be related to previous learning;
  • That the expectations of the music leader are clear to all participants;
  • Sessions generate enthusiasm, concentration and energy from participants;
  • Individuals know that they can make a valued individual contribution and response; and
  • Participants know that there will be opportunities to be spontaneous and to share ideas.


What are the positive outcomes for children/young people – are they some or all of musical, social, personal, educational - how and when can they be identified?

Observable outcomes for children, in addition to their musical behaviours, include evidence of the following:

  • Self- and co-regulation, with increasing self-reliance;
  • Originality and creativity;
  • Enjoyment, enthusiasm and interest; and
  • Positive mood regulation and support for personal and emotional well-being.

What are the key features of teacher/leader behaviour that are enabling those positive outcomes?

The focus for the music leader is on modelling, encouraging, showing passion and enthusiasm, professional integrity and a genuine interest and excitement in children’s learning and their musical products.

What are the key features of context, content and activities that are enabling those positive outcomes?

Positive outcomes are closely related to the quality of the children’s experiences. In particular, the music technology tools provide:

  • High quality sounds and samples;
  • Relevant and motivating genres;
  • High level of personal autonomy and freedom; and
  • Allow for participants to undertake personal responsibility for the musical outcomes.

What other factors in this case are contributing to those positive outcomes?

Other factors include the following:

  • Pupils’ observable high levels of interest in music and technology; and
  • The pupils’ need and desire to for success, acclaim, and recognition through self-expression, building towards a positive identity in and through music.

How replicable or adaptable is it?

The overall approach should be highly replicable and adaptable due to the universality of its online nature, resources for teachers, and video tutorials.

In addition, the approach supports recommendations in the National Plan for Music Education (DFE, 2011) for different ways of working with technology in classrooms, including using a more extensive range of software, applications and web-based activities to support the teaching of music. ‘These can provide pupils with access to a variety of formal and informal means of representing musical annotation; allow them to compose, record, layer and store tracks’ [DFE, 2011, para 112] The approach can also support the making use of online learning support to support working outside of school, especially those living in more remote rural locations [DFE, 2011, para 125]. Music technology can inspire and motivate pupils to engage with music who may not have done so previously, and can facilitate wider participation [DFE, 2011, para 121]. This approach offers an effective strategy for bringing music-making into Primary classrooms where there is little confidence or expertise in teaching music. It makes use of existing classroom technology resources, with an emphasis on practical music making as opposed to verbal and written analysis. It aligns well with pupils’ own
musical interests, skills and aspirations and effectively integrates music technology into school-based music, capitalising on pupils’ confidence and commonplace facility with technology.

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