For children with complex needs, music is a powerful means of self-expression and communication; however, these pupils remain disadvantaged in relation to their peers with inconsistent access to regular, high-quality music learning opportunities. While music leaders and music therapists facilitate excellent music-making sessions in some special schools, access to expert provision across special schools in England is not widespread and where such provision does exist, frequency and reach may be limited. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has further disadvantaged learners with the most complex needs both in terms of adaptations to the way that music learning takes place and visiting music leaders being less likely to be able to come into schools. Meanwhile, non-music-specialist school staff have the opportunity to facilitate meaningful music learning activities with their pupils with complex needs as part of their daily activities (increasingly so in light of the ongoing pandemic), but often lack the necessary music facilitation skills or confidence to take advantage of these opportunities.

The research

In collaboration with Professor Adam Ockelford (University of Roehampton) and Live Music Now and funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and SEMPRE, this project seeks to address the current equality gap in music provision for children with complex needs through empowering non-music-specialist staff. Working closely with special school staff and music leaders, we will develop a pedagogical approach and a prototype for a new video-based online resource to support non-music-specialist teachers in acquiring the skills and confidence to facilitate meaningful music learning activities with their pupils. This research will also make an important contribution to our understanding of the motivations and barriers that non-music-specialist teachers in special schools experience in relation to facilitating music learning activities with their pupils. This project is exciting in its potential to effect significant positive change regarding the provision of music in special schools for learners with complex needs. 

Featured researcher

Caroline Waddington-Jones

Dr Waddington-Jones's research interests span music psychology and music education.

View profile