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teachers with an interest in music as enrichment - your thoughts please

(12 Posts)
lingle Sun 07-Oct-12 18:04:39

I've been leading a new kind of KS2 orchestra/band for while in my own kids' school. I started as a volunteer but now I'm paid because it's become embedded in our music curriculum. I enjoy it so much (and it kind of feels like what I was born to do) I'm wondering about seeing if I could start a second one (as I would learn so much about different schools, different requirements, etc).

I suspect the money I'm paid with doesn't come out of our tiny music budget... but I don't actually know where it does come from... any guidance or pointers would be appreciated... I don't know anything about primary school funding and it's a bit silly to ask someone else to pay me without any idea of where the money would come from.

the nature of the orchestra is that any KS2 child can join using any instrument or none. So in a small school, I could offer to have the whole of KS2 in my orchestra from day one. So you can turn up with your Eflat alto sax, violin or recorder, and no matter what limitations you have in technique I will have everyone playing with everyone else on the beat and producing something recognisable (this is a bit of a USP as this would usually be regarded as impossible). Written parts are optional (as traditional notation isn't part of the KS2 national curriculum anyway and the children often play more creatively and musically by ear ) and if they are used they are always bespoke. Cellos and violins are treated like tambourines - anyone can use them. I'll use music from any genre and am building up a bank of tunes you can do using everyone's safe and easy notes. Basically the idea is to teach musicianship and hope to inspire the acquisition of technique rather than vice versa. We've achieved some notable successes on the inclusion front - I suspect that's a lot of the reason why my work has been embraced by the school.

So my question to teachers is - does this sound barking mad or like something that could tie in with another school's aims/mission/plans? And if it just might tie in, what do you think a school would hope to achieve by having such an orchestra in your school and what would they want from the person delivering it?

thanks.

Littlefish Sun 07-Oct-12 19:35:13

It sounds absolutely wonderful!

We use the county music service to provide class music teaching in ks1 and lower ks2 (years 3 and 4) in a rotation with French, while teachers have their PPA time. Classes of 30 at a time are taught recorder, or singing, depending on what term it is. We also have quite a few children who learn instruments outside school or with peripatetic teachers in school but this tends to be from year 3.

I can easily see how the KS2 sessions could be replaced with an orchestral session like you've described.

Re. Budget - ours comes out of the main school budget as it's core teaching cover for PPA time. I don't know what the legalities would be of getting the PTA of a school to provide funding for curriculum enrichment.... The head teacher at your current school might know.

sittinginthesun Sun 07-Oct-12 19:37:58

Sounds fantastic. I'm going to watch this with interest, as it is a topic which has recently been discussed a governors meetings at our school.

Littlefish Sun 07-Oct-12 19:39:01

Just looked at your questions at the end.

In terms of what we would want from someone providing it....

Someone who could deliver this without the class teacher being present. Our TAs stay with the class, however. We would also want someone who would be willing to work with the orchestra towards performances at the Christmas fair, summer concert etc, and be willing to come along to these performances to lead the orchestra. It would be good to have someone who could work alongside our music co-ordinator to make sure that the orchestral work is reflected accurately in the music policy/scheme of work etc.

lingle Sun 07-Oct-12 20:54:47

that's really helpful Littlefish. All of those requirements match what we do at our school.

may I ask what you do with years 5 and 6?

I think liaison with the music coordinator would be critical. The best song we've done was one that the children had already sung - they had an aural memory of it so progress was accelerated. So ideally the orchestra "sits on top of" singing work that has already been done.

TA presence would be critical too. At first adult helpers are reluctant to join in/model the instruments - but when they see a child confused by instructions they themselves understand, they lose those inhibitions.

Littlefish Sun 07-Oct-12 23:08:54

Off to bed now but will come back tomorrow to answer your question re. Yr 5 and 6.

Limelight Sun 07-Oct-12 23:32:09

It sounds great - good for you. My advice is to do lots of research and work out if you have a sustainable business model.

I'd look into the sort of work being delivered by your local Music Hub (Music Services are funded in a different way now via the arts council, and are in many cases working in direct partnership with music/arts delivery orgs).

Your approach has synergies with a lot of the improvisory / first access ensembles favoured by arts orgs including the big orchestras, venues, conservatoires etc. so I'd research what's going on locally from these guys too (if anything). Some schools will be having this sort of stuff thrown at them (depends on the area). I did know for example of a very similar ensemble which was delivering to a group of primary schools in East London.

Also have a look at In Harmony which follows the el sistema approach. It's happening in 6 locations this year, and one of them might be local to you.

I would advise caution when it comes to the idea of your activity replacing whole class tuition offered by the music service/hub, or any individual/small group tuition. What you can't do (and schools certainly won't do) is provide an instrument loan or hire scheme which is fundamental to enabling kids to access music learning. What you're doing is absolutely an enrichment activity, and a very valid one at that.

Look into CPD for yourself too! There are tonnes of opportunities out there from a variety of agencies and it would be useful for you to network and to look for opps to work with and share challenges/ideas etc with other practitioners.

I'm always a bit saddened when schools use this sort of work as an opportunity to cover PPA time. I'm generally much happier when teaching staff (and senior management) see it as enrichment and training for the adults too. But hey, I guess that's the way of things.

I hope that's helpful and good luck. Sounds fab!

Limelight Sun 07-Oct-12 23:37:11

Incidentally, make sure you're charging enough. Have a look at MU rates etc. again networking with other practitioners will help.

lingle Mon 08-Oct-12 12:33:27

thank you so much limelight, I really appreciate that advice.

networking with the new hub - tick. I went to introduce myself over the summer holidays and am on their training/networking lists. The whole hub thing is great for me because the hub leader can now fulfill its brief by including people it might previously have seen as a competitor.

synergies with other improvisory/first access emsembles... fascinating! Do you happen to recall the name of that south east London ensemble? Noted re schools having things thrown at them. I think my mission has to be to gather enough information about the school to fit with their vision, not impose mine.

In Harmony - yes, the one due to launch in January is local to me and I will ask permission to attend and observe once they are established. What are your feelings about In Harmony?

Instrument access: for us this wasn't a problem, we had a cupboard full of neglected violins and money to buy stuff seems much easier to come by than money to buy teachers (a local charity gave us £1000 without batting an eyelid). My little town is quite prosperous though.....

CPD: I am very much hoping to do the new music educator qualification when the first course starts in May. I have no paper qualifications unless you count grade 7 violin smile. Oh and GCSE and grade 5 piano.

Re PPA time, it just shows I musn't tell schools what to do but instead ask for their vision, as they will all have different views. I think my next step will be to attend all the local open days (as this is the only time of year when heads are timetabled to be available to chat to random strangers!) and do some factfinding, and to ask to attend other ensembles and learn from them.

lingle Mon 08-Oct-12 18:25:56

bumping for littlefish smile

Littlefish Mon 08-Oct-12 19:55:48

Hi Lingle smile

Not a very interesting reply I'm afraid, but basically our year 5s and 6s do a rotation with one class doing music with an ex teacher of ours who does lots of song composition related to the current topic, plus listening and researching lots of different music styles, recording using audacity etc. I can't remember what the other two rotations are (my excuse is that I'm in nursery and I don't share any playtimes or lunchtimes with the upper ks2 staff - actually, that's still a crap excuse, so I'll find out and get back to you!)

lingle Mon 08-Oct-12 20:11:38

that's very kind - it is interesting to someone in my position. In fact I could start a very dull-for-everyone-except- thread entitled "what music education do your kids get in primary?"

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