Bradford Early Years SEND Project

“[The practitioner you provided] has been brilliant with the children and we have seen some great improvements…”

In 2015, Yorkshire Youth & Music finished a year-long project in Bradford making music with 3 and 4 year old children with SEND in Children’s Centres. We wanted to improve the quality and availability of good quality music-making in the children’s settings, to train staff, and to measure the effectiveness of musical activity using the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (national standards for child development), and Sounds of Intent.

The children participating in the project had a wide range of special needs, and for the Children’s Centres, music activities played a role in helping to identify and anticipate what their educational needs might be, and respond in the right way.

Assessment, anticipation and the provision of appropriate support in Early Years is considered key to unlocking a child’s full future potential. In one session, for example, a 3 year old made vocal sounds for the first time, responding to a staff member’s persistent and regular 1:1 singing interactions.

Sessions were conducted in small groups, with 3 or 4 children at a time, and the range of activities was wide. With sessions running over ten weeks or more, our musicians really understood what was needed to engage each individual child. In addition to singing (using Kodaly principles of establishing pulse, rhythm and pitch-matching), small hand percussion and instruments, we used iPads (Bloom HD, Thumbjam, instruments on Garageband), Ableton via the Numark Orbit controller, and Beamz. You can see the Orbit Controller, Beamz and an ocean drum in use on the photos.

We began the project with training and briefing sessions for staff working in the six settings – to outline what we were planning to dotalk about the principles behind good quality music practicelearn about existing music activities where there were any, and learn about identified needs – children with hearing impairments, those thought to be on the autistic spectrum – and children’s preferences and enthusiasms. Notable examples were a 3 year old with complex needs who removed his hearing aids whenever a song he did not like began (and he was consistent, removing them each time for the same song), or a 4 year old who was very sensitive to loud sounds and needed to be able to control the volume level on an iPad to feel comfortable and participate.

“He [the project facilitator] has been brilliant with the children and we have seen some great improvements that we have documented…”

Partnership working with the staff was vital; key workers were able to interpret responses until the music leaders got to know the children, and they were able to observe when the children were doing something new:

  • Staff were unsure about one boy joining in as he was difficult to engage in anything and had a very short attention span. He was fascinated by the guitar on first meeting, however, and spent as long playing it as he could
  • One girl was reluctant to speak, but delighted in singing ‘hello’ into a microphone with heavy reverb
  • One boy showed awareness of others by taking a microphone from the music leader and going round the group holding it whilst they sang into it
  • One girl generally did not leave the classroom for any reason at all, but was willing to do so for music sessions
  • Several children learned to listen attentively to a music leader’s performance of a song, showing an increased tolerance for unfamiliar sounds or activities

Staff were also able to spot an increased level of skill (for example, using fine motor skills to pluck a real guitar string, or a single string on the iPad guitar and a child remembering what she had done in a session two weeks previously – showing long memory previously not observed). Staff involvement also meant they were able to get to grips with why what we said was good practice WAS good practice (the pitch of children’s voices, choosing a song thoughtfully, choosing the next one as a progression).

As a result of the Bradford project, YYM will be working with the ITT provider in Bradford this year on developing trainee teacher’s music skills based on the results of the Bradford project.

We’ve written a handy guide

Our ‘Getting the Best’ guide, specifically for teachers, teaching assistants and other members of staff in early years settings, gives you tips and tools to make the most of a visiting musician and the project they are coming to deliver for you.

Getting the Best PDF

Early Years
settings (PDF) >