Across school Sounds of Intent curriculum and policy.

Reynalds Cross School | Music: communication beyond words

Whole school 'Sounds of Intent' Curriculum and Policy and effective music practice

What is the context of the work?

This case describes an on-going programme of work that involves 90 students aged 3 – 19. It is part of a whole school curriculum and policy, developed over the past four years and based on the school ethos – 'Every Child really does matter', underpinned by the Sounds of Intent framework [ http://soundsofintent.org ]. The work is led by Sophie Gray Music coordinator.

Reynalds Cross values music highly as a communication tool, as well as an art form to be celebrated in its own right. There are many musical events throughout the year. These include trips to the CBSO Centre, Bamboozle theatre visits, termly music assemblies, choir performances in and out of school, and an end-of-year music day where each class performs a song and gifted and talented individuals, and groups, show others their talents.

What is the content of the work?

Musical, personal – The curriculum and provision of music across the school is catered, as far as is possible, to the group and individuals within that group. Within classes, the individual musical abilities, mapped through assessing with the Sounds of Intent (SoI) framework, are taken into consideration, alongside social, emotional and behavioural issues. Musical achievement is celebrated in termly performance assemblies and an end-of-year concert. One-to-one instrumental learning opportunities, as well as more therapeutic sessions, are allocated to those with a particular interest in music, those with complex needs and/or behavioural problems and/or those who have shown no progress in other areas.

Social, Personal –Through planning and the provision of more effective music sessions, children and young people are better able to achieve musically. They are also likely to enhance their social, communication skills and feel, sometimes for the first time, that they have a voice.

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

The curriculum and policy are both underpinned by school ethos and Sounds of Intent (SoI). The use of SoI has enabled relevant, music-based mid-term and lesson plans to be developed, as well as ensuring a valid, musical assessment for every child in the school. The use of SoI in planning also enables those class teachers who are not music specialists to teach more confidently as the framework maps out musical development clearly and the website provides ideas/resources as to how to promote progression.
As well as using SoI, the main ethos of the school is 'every individual does matter' and teaching and learning is individualised (as far as is possible) in all subjects (including music). Some group music sessions will be focused on learning specific songs/tunes, others may be exploring composition, multisensory environment, and/or be more child-led.
These can be instrumental or vocal lessons, the aim being to progress through the SoI framework and eventually teach/learn specific whole tunes/songs. The approach can be a mix of child-led and teacher-led, depending upon the student and aim. As mentioned earlier, communication skills as well as musical skills, and well-being/behaviour aims can be the reason for the one-to-one allocation. But all of these are often reached through an effective music session.

How is the work being reviewed?

The Music Curriculum and Policy are reviewed twice yearly by Music co-ordinator(s). The mid-term plans are used by the music co-ordinator and also class teachers and Learning Support Assistants (LSAs), including non-specialists across the school who fill in these reviews. There is a termly action plan also, and a Music SIP (subject improvement group) who are responsible for inputting SoI levels for all pupils (on behalf of teachers). Pupils' musical progress (for KS2 and 3) is recorded onto the SoI website at least once termly and for older, 14 – 19yo, less frequently, but all students in school have a SoI profile. Student progress is reviewed by the deputy head also.

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?

  • Children/young people have the opportunity to access, engage with and express themselves through music sessions provided by music specialists, and some non-specialists.
  • Children/young people are given opportunities and targets appropriate for them; their natural musicality is nurtured as far as possible to ensure that musical achievement and creativity is celebrated.

This range of opportunities can have many positives outcomes for learners. Sometimes the music input gives the young people an outlet to express their emotions – they may have anxieties that they are unable to express in other ways. A successful musical interaction or performance can boost self-esteem. These musical opportunities can allow young people the ability to communicate with another person/people; sometimes music is the only way to do this – to feel a connection with the world outside of themselves. The pupils have the confidence of knowing that they have achieved something, of experiencing the joy of music making is a positive outcome in itself.

The positive outcomes are identified by staff watching/recording behaviour and reaction, or those pupils, who are able to, can express why they enjoy music. Assessment of musical achievement is done though Sounds of Intent (which for some pupils is in itself a record of communication). Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are known to all those who teach music also, so that any general targets met through music can be recorded.

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

Some music sessions are delivered by music specialists and some by non-specialists. Through the use of SoI, teachers have a better understanding and knowledge of musical development and how this happens stage by stage – even at the lowest levels of ability/need.

The music specialist uses a range of techniques and approaches to ensure that all children have the appropriate input for them. For example, this might be a one-to-one piano session or a multisensory group session, a drum circle, or purely vocal interaction. The sessions can be child-led or a mix of child-led and teacher-led, again depending upon the profile and needs of the individual or group learner(s).

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

The school does their best to make instruments/sounds/music accessible for every child. This is through the use of iPad, the Wowee, eye gaze, resonance boards, and amplification, plus adapting percussion instruments or using them in different ways in order to enable even those with severe physical disabilities the opportunity to make sound/music.

Differences in approach also enable better outcomes, such as, for example, in multisensory work using lights/ fabrics/smells for those with profound learning difficulties or sensory impairments.

One-to-one sessions are offered for those with either a particular interest in music, or severe behaviour or communication issues, and sometimes those not showing progress in any other area.

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

Outside provision boosts the musical life of the school. Children, young people and staff are given opportunities, as a school as well in class groups and one-to-one sessions, to access live music and singing and interactive drama sessions that are provided/performed by outside organisations, such as the CBSO, Open Theatre Company, and Ex-Cathedra.

There is also a school choir who perform in and out of school regularly, with termly concerts for those who enjoy performing and whose particular musical abilities are to be celebrated, as well as music assemblies, where work can be shown on video for those who do not enjoy performing in front of others.

How replicable or adaptable is it?

The use of Sounds of Intent (at any, or all levels; planning, curriculum, policy, assessment etc.) makes this example case quite easily replicable. SoI is easy to access and free to use. Free training can be provided by the music charity 'Soundabout' for class teachers/music specialist and/or LSAs. Knowledge and use of SoI should enable more effective music sessions as well as provide a valid assessment tool (particularly where the Performance Scales 'P Levels' are inadequate). The SoI website gives many resource and teaching ideas and the knowledge of the six SoI stages of development alone could improve the effectiveness of music across school(s), as well as in other contexts, such as children's centres, residential trips, and community projects.

In terms of the school context, support at senior leadership team level is vital to begin change and instil a commitment to music. Once this is established, through the curriculum and policy, allied to successes in and through music, a more embedded commitment to music should emerge through school(s). This legacy should then continue even if the music coordinator or other specific member of staff leaves.

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