SEND music online with Pear Tree School
Posted by Darren Leadsom on 10 February 2021
During the pandemic, More Music has successfully moved a large number of our in-house sessions online, maintaining connections with our participants and providing opportunities to be creative and socialise. This has been harder with our schools sessions, which is understandable given the pressures and uncertainty they have faced over the last year. Many have wanted to wait until in person sessions can happen again, rather than try online music sessions.
However, we have had some success utilising online methods with schools, notably with SEND pupils from Pear Tree School in Kirkham. Our music leaders Ash Murphy and Bill Roberts have been working with a group of non-verbal PMLD students at Pear Tree for a number of years in person. The session is a mixture of percussion work over well-known songs and vocalisation exercises.
When Covid first struck, we initially paused the sessions and provided Pear Tree with some video content instead. When Autumn term came around, we were booked in to return to school but the second lockdown prevented this from happening. We suggested trying the session via Zoom and the school were keen to give it a go, interested to see how it could work. After a successful trial session, we successfully delivered five sessions after Autumn half term and plan to continue in the second half of the Spring term.
Bill explains “It’s a classic zoom call, which I think we’re all familiar with now! Ash and I do a session very close to what we would do in person – what is different is that it is harder to give personal attention and any 1:1 physical interaction. What we do have though is a team of enthusiastic teachers, TAs and carers who are there to do this on our behalf.”
Ash says “The sessions work as similar to the project in person as possible. This has been key in bringing familiarity to it even though the setup is different. The music leaders take turns being at the front with the digital camera and try to use zoom on the lens to give focus for the students in the room.”
Mentioning pupils by name works well to engage them via Zoom. Bill adds: “You can see the joy in students’ faces when it becomes clear we are interacting with them and not just performing at them or on a YouTube clip. A highlight has been that the kids recognise it’s us, are pleased to see us and actually engage with what we are doing in such a surreal virtual format.”
Ash said “A surprise has been the reaction and focus to us being on screen which we thought may be difficult for participants. We often see a reaction to hearing instruments used in sessions such as guitars and accordions.”
Alexandra Haley, Assistant Headteacher at Pear Tree, has been very pleased with how the sessions have worked at the school. She said: “It has been a fantastic opportunity to push creative boundaries on Zoom with our students and they are so enjoying the “new normal” that you are providing with your sessions”
Both music leaders recommend that SEND schools should give online music delivery a try, if they haven’t done so already.
Bill said: “Give it a go, you might be surprised how well it works, I know I was! It works best with a decent ratio of adults to students, and a bit of care and practice with both using Zoom and getting the best out of the equipment you’re using.”
Ash adds: “It would be worth trying it as it can be more performance based than expected from the leaders.”
To find out more about online music sessions at your school, email firstname.lastname@example.org.