‘Sing your heart out’ and ‘Raise the roof’ vocals – coming soon to a school near you

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Making sure that every pupil is singing regularly and has access to choirs and vocal groups is one of Make Music Gloucestershire’s four core roles, and an important requirement of the National Plan for Music Education. This month’s piece is a guest blog from Liz Terry of Gloucestershire Music Makers, the partner organisation responsible for the hub’s vocals strategy (as well as inclusion – see previous blog).

As a vocal tutor, music mentor, and ex-Sing Up area leader, you may expect me to say that I’ve seen the difference that singing can make to individual young people, and to whole schools, again and again.

Yet I’m aware that, when schools are being forced to focus on STEM subjects, test results, and managing new ways of working as academies, it’s likely to become ever more difficult to make the case for singing.

Testing the theory – Sing into Spring, our pilot vocals programme

Our pilot vocals programme was a way for us to test this theory, and to find out what sort of approaches work best for schools now, and what teachers and teaching assistants are interested in developing.

It was incredible that central government invested in a national singing programe, Sing Up, that gave Primary Schools access to free training and free on line resources. And those resources are now available through their membership scheme.

Continuing with the success of Sing Up, the pilot is part of a vocal strategy for the county that will advocate singing in schools from KS1-4, and support staff to develop and sustain opportunities within and outside of the curriculuum.

So far, the programme has proved that teachers and pupils want to continue to develop singing in their schools, and take part in local events. Heads and teachers have been prepared to be creative in finding ways to manage their timetables, budgets, and other commitments to make sure that they grasp these opportunities for their pupils.

What’s been happening?

Overview: 23 schools, 500 + Key Stage 2 pupils, 5 sharing events around the county.

Pupils: Key stage 2, either whole class, existing choirs or new groups/vocals squads created during the programme. Groups ranged in size from 30-60 pupils per school.

Schools: Schools across the county were invited to attend CPD twilights and get involved with the end of programme cluster sharing singing event. The first school listed in each case here became the ‘host’ for concert:

  • Gloucester: Milestone (a special school), Kingsholm, St Peters, Linden, Elmbridge Junior
  • Forest of Dean:  Lydney Primary, St Briavels, Soudley, Ayleburton
  • Cheltenham: Bishop’s Cleeve, Gotherington, Holy Apostles, Winchcombe, Tirlebrook
  • Stroud: St Matthews, Whiteshill, Nailsworth, Rodborough,
  • North Cotswolds: Northleach, Sutherup, Cold Aston

The process:

Cluster-grouped twilight CPD events – two teachers from each school (ideally one classroom/non-music-specialist, and one music co-ordinator) attended to learn the songs as well as signing, beat-boxing and rapping and pick up a resource pack. One of the team from Gloucestershire Music came along, and you can read her story, ‘Confessions of a non-singer’ [http://www.gloucestershiremusic.co.uk/Default.aspx?page=4068].

A visit to each school by one of our vocal tutors – to help with the learning of the songs by pupils, but most importantly, to develop teachers’ skills through observation of another vocal leader.

Sharing concerts for each cluster – working alongside the schools, we organised a concert for parents, family and friends, at one school in each cluster.

The outcomes of the pilot:

•    Schools better able to meet the requirements of the National Curriculum.

•    Embedded learning – music co-ordinators and non-music-specialist teachers have learned new repertoire and techniques – particularly in inclusive vocals and encouraging boys – and have developed theirs and their pupils’ confidence in singing.

•    More boys enjoying singing – helped by the wider repertoire including rap and beat-boxing

•    Pupils gaining all the benefits that singing can bring. For more about the benefits of singing, see this Sing Up research.

•    Opportunities for schools to perform together and to join together in collaboration rather than competition.

•    A cluster-based network of support for teachers

What next?

We now need to spread the message wider, to encourage teachers to advocate to other teachers, and heads to other heads, the difference singing can make to pupils’ personal and educational development, their health and wellbeing, and their school culture.

We’re now making our vocal programmes available to all schools in the county including special schools.

Primary and secondary schools programmes

Following the pilot, our primaries programme, Sing your heart out! is now on offer to all schools in the county. Our secondaries programme, Raise the Roof vocals is also now available to all schools, following a period of consultation with eight secondaries who we identified as offering few vocal opportunities for pupils. Both programmes are heavily subsidised and likely to be in demand so do contact us soon to secure your place.

KS1 pilot programme

This is just starting, and includes cluster CPD events and action research with pupils. We’ll be developing our ideas from a recent funded project in a Children’s Centre by consulting with Key Stage 1 teachers, including songs to link to EYFS/KS1 topics, singing and signing, using Child Initiated Music Play methodology, learning singing games for the playground and in the class, songs to support daily routines and assembly singing. Contact us if you’d like to be involved.

Gloucestershire Youth Choir

In addition to this in-school activity, the new Gloucestershire Youth Choir, run by Gloucestershire Music, will be continuing to develop, offering progression route for young singers, and the singing groups at some of Gloucestershire Music’s music centres (Five Valleys Stroud, and Tewkesbury) will offer opportunities for those in the early stages of their singing development (see the Find a group page on the website).

We want to embed singing in every school so that it can continue beyond the life of these programmes, and ultimately to bring the benefits of singing to as many young people in Gloucestershire as we can.

If you’re a teacher, get in touch, and if you’re an interested parent, please ask your school about the singing opportunities available for your child through school. Some schools are now running Community Choirs involving parents; it is a great way to strengthen connections between school and the wider community.

All the best,

Liz Terry
Vocal Leader, Trainer and Mentor
Programme Leader- Hub Vocals Strategy

01453 750040
Web: glosmm.org.uk

Gloucestershire Music Makers
Charity no. 1106979 Company no. 5195345
Registered office:
Worcester House, 20 North Rd.
Coleford, Glos. GL16 7DR


Posted on May 18, 2013, in Music Education and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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