A high-quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement.
September 2014 saw the implementation within maintained schools of the new National Curriculum in England. Music as a compulsory subject is expected to be taught to and experienced by all children in Key Stages 1 and Key Stage 2.
The programmes of study set out the minimum requirements for music as a starting point for schools developing innovative provision to meet the needs of their pupils.
If taught well, music has the potential to make a significant contribution to children’s development: increasing confidence and self-esteem, developing leadership, team working, concentration and problem-solving skills, and developing identity and improving social cohesion within the school and wider community.
Music at St Mary's
Children have access to a variety of experiences in music, ranging from singing together, playing a range of instruments, creating their own compositions and moving to music. Provision is also made by the Oldham Music Centre and a local guitar/ukulele teacher for those children who show an interest in playing a musical instrument. However, this resource is limited and parents are asked to pay for this tuition. Currently, we have groups of children learning to play guitar, ukulele, keyboard and brass instruments. We also have a School Choir called ‘Spotlight’. Each year we have groups which participate in the Annual Oldham Schools’ Music Festival and the Rochdale Youth Festival as well as playing or singing for different audiences in school and within the local community. Year 4 pupils participate in ‘The Wider Opportunities Programme’ and receive a weekly hour-long lesson with brass instruments. Annually, they perform at The Bridgewater Hall with the Hallé Orchestra. Singing is high profile within school and is an important aspect of collective worship. School has recently been accredited with the Gold Award from SingUp! in recognition of the singing with takes place here.
The national curriculum for music aims to ensure that all pupils:
- perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions, including the works of the great composers and musicians
- learn to sing and to use their voices, to create and compose music on their own and with others, have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, use technology appropriately and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of musical excellence
- understand and explore how music is created, produced and communicated, including through the interrelated dimensions: pitch, duration, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture, structure and appropriate musical notations
We currently use the well respected Charanga scheme of learning for our music teaching throughout school. This is a well structured programme of learning that builds pupils knowledge, skills and understanding in music giving them time to study important pieces of music and also to learn how to create music. Alongside this programme we use the BBC Ten Pieces resources to teach our pupils about significant pieces of classical music.
Year 4 Whole Class Instrumental Tuition programme
Pupils from Year 4 take part in the Whole Class Instrumental Tuition programme which is delivered once a week during term time. The WCIT programme has two integrated threads, foundation activities in which general musicianship skills are explored, practised and developed, and specialist instrumental tuition in which the children are taught how to play the flute or clarinet leading to experiences of ensemble playing, improvisation and performance. These two strands complement each other so that the instrumental learning takes place in the context of other musical activities. This ensures a richer, holistic approach that leads to the acquisition of broader skills and understanding whilst offering children a taste of what is involved in learning to play an instrument. Through taking part in the WCIT Programme the children gain a nationally recognised award which is the Arts Award – Discover. To achieve Discover, the children discover the arts around them, find out about artists and their work and share their experiences with others, gaining a certificate at the end. Most lessons begin with warm-ups designed to prepare pupils for holding and playing the instruments and to link with other work, both to consolidate understanding and introduce new ideas.
During the first term pupils are expected to;
• understand slower, faster, louder, quieter, higher, lower, start, stop
• play singing games with actions to develop their sense of rhythm and pulse
• play rhythm games including imitating and improvising
• discuss expressive qualities and how music affects how they feel
• have experience of physical responses – tapping, clapping, moving to music
Naturally, all children develop at different rates and these areas should continue to be reinforced throughout the WCIT year.
During the WCIT programme the children should learn:
• to value the experience of playing an instrument in an ensemble and to develop independent learning skills and develop their social skills
• to develop aural discrimination and aural memory skills
• to develop an inner musical "thinking" voice
• to develop technical control of the voice and instrument
• to explore and play rhythmic and melodic patterns
• to create and develop musical ideas
• to play simple pieces, developing individual and ensemble skills and linking sound to visual signals/ written symbols
• to reflect on and evaluate their own performances and those of others
• how music reflects the time and place in which it is created and in particular the musical context of the instrument they are learning
• to develop an awareness of performance and non-performance situations, to rehearse and to perform
Sing Up Gold Award
We are extremely proud to have been awarded the Gold Sing Up Award, following the award of the Silver Sing Up accreditation two years ago. In order to achieve this, we have had to prove that singing is an integral part of our daily routine and our school curriculum, and that staff and children sing regularly. Staff have ensured that children sing within their daily lessons to enhance their learning, and within weekly collective worship sessions, as well as within their year teams. There are also extra curricular activities involving the Choir, to further enhance our singing and to provide extra opportunities for singing.
Research and experience have proved that singing can energise and motivate children, as well as improve self-confidence and self-esteem. Sing Up praised St Mary's for providing a wide and varied range of singing opportunities across the school. They commented "Singing is clearly at the heart of your school" and they have encouraged us to keep up the great work!