Music at Welburn Hall: A Case Study

My name is Hazel Smith, I’m the Headteacher at Welburn Hall School. We’re an area special school, a North Yorkshire special school, for children and young people aged 8 to 19 with a wide variety of special educational needs. The value of music? Unquantifiable. I’ve seen – witnessed – what music gives to our young people, and in so many ways, how it brings out the best in our young people. My name’s Paul Aber, I’m the current chair of the governing body here at Welburn Hall School. And I’m also the parent of a child and he’s been here for some time. Music is a fundamental element of the school. It allows the children here to shine in all sorts of ways; It can help them with their physical development; and crucially, and we’re discovering this more and more, it can also be used to help them participate and access other areas of learning, which they might struggle to do otherwise. My name’s Julie Green, and I’m the Music Coordinator at Welburn Hall School. Never negative, it’s incredibly positive. For example, from our singing and signing sessions the whole school, including staff, go out very positive and very happy so pupils that have been anxious in the morning, we notice it just just raises their spirits. Here we have quite a lot of different things going on. In addition to the dedicated music lessons that I deliver each week to every class, we have a whole-school singing and signing session where we rehearse and practise and learn new songs, for our productions, or our church services, or whatever we’re working for. We have a music therapist comes in for one afternoon a week, and works with small groups of our PMLD pupils. At the moment we’ve got a musician in residence for a whole term, Tom, and he’s coming in from an organisation called Live Music Now. He’s working with groups of pupils and that’s going really well, the pupils are really enthusiastic about that. What’s your very favourite activity at Welburn? Music sessions with Tom. Do you look forward to Tom coming? Yes. What do you do with Tom? Play instruments. Music sessions with Tom. Why is that? Because we compose new music. Music has such power to energise, to motivate, to inspire. to excite, to lift the spirits, but also to calm, and to reflect, and to bring the mood back down again. I think it gives our pupils a sense of achievement, to such a point that they’ve come here and been so introvert and shy, and then within a few months they’ll sing a solo. I think it has enourmous benefits in developing communication and certainly we’ve witnessed the benefits of it with our iMuse programme. So iMuse, which we’ve recently introduced, is an interactive multi-sensory environment. We’ve set up a dedicated room. Children have one-to-one sessions and it’s mostly our children with more profound learning difficulties that we use it with. Music resonates with pupils regardless of ability and it seems to have the power to break down barriers to learning. Even with our pupils with more profound difficulties, they might at first have a passive response, just feeling vibrations on an instrument, but very soon we notice a very active response to music. I think music brings everybody together for a common purpose, a shared purpose. When we do a performance or just a singing session with everybody singing together, it lifts everyone, and it makes everybody proud to be a part of something so good. What’s your favourite activity, of all the things that you do here? Going on the stage and performing. Tell me what you did at Christmas. We did a Christmas play, and I was Curious Sheep with Eleanor. I felt a bit scared at first, because I’d never done it before. But afterwards I felt really proud of myself. This Christmas play I sang a solo. It was my first time doing a solo. We all have budgetary constraints in this day and age, every type of school, but I think music is too important. The benefits you can gain from music are too important to cut. I think if there are budgetary restrictions, and you want to do something specific, then go out and seek the funds. There are funds out there. There are also lots of opportunities to fundraise, and help yourself, but I think the benefits of music can’t be underestimated, and I think we’ve just go to really push and go for it.

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