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Wider Opportunities Priogramme at ks 2

Discussion in 'Music' started by thehawk, Nov 28, 2007.

  1. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    Did any school do it last year as I would be interested in knowing how you followed it up this year. This is becasue we are doing it this year and need to follow it up next year!
  2. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    Did any school do it last year as I would be interested in knowing how you followed it up this year. This is becasue we are doing it this year and need to follow it up next year!
  3. We tried it for two years. We did SoundStart - brass and woodwind instruments in a class setting with no individual work to back it up. At the end of the first year maybe up to 20 of our 52-strong cohort (taught in two groups) could have made good progress in a further year's work if they had applied themselves to practising. We could have had a nice wind ensemble at a real performing standard at the end of that time.

    So the decision was made that we would not just take away the instruments at that stage and say "right, that's yer lot", but invite them to stay on for a further year, while passing on the rest of the instruments to the children in the following cohort - a far smaller group, only 36 in the whole year.

    It would mean timetabling problems as we were offered two teacher/hours per week for that year, and the arrangement would be that I took y5 first for half an hour, doing general musicianship and having them set up and ready so that when the instrument teachers arrived they could get stuck in straight away and work for half an hour, after which y6 would come in and there would be a quick and quiet changeover, they would work with y6 for half an hour and then leave it to me to finish the session.

    Because of school timing problems, availability of instrument teachers, etc, this was going to mean y6 came in for the last 15 minutes of the afternoon and stayed after school.

    Uptake from y6?


    And not the "right" ten. Most of the promising ones opted not to carry on (mainly because of the after school element - it just doesn't go down at all well in our school for anything: lack of commitment is endemic in the community, unfortunately) and of those who did choose to stay, two were particularly inept. And they were constantly late, made a noise and a fuss getting in for their small session, and behaved so badly - ceaseless little niggles between them, sulking and refusing to play because one of the others had looked at them funny, yes, we dealt with it, but it didn't suddenly turn into all sweetness and light nevertheless, and the group dwindles, particularly with the advent of SATS.

    Meanwhile the y5 group suffered too. Again, some talented players. But for so many of them, I think the sessions were a waste of really valuable music time. They weren't making music, they were trying, often unsuccessfully, to make a decent sound on an instrument which they couldn't handle, and in spite of all sorts of methods to get them to practise, some of them made no progress at all to speak of. There were trumpet players among them who could blow or move their fingers but not both, and there just wasn't the time or space for us to remedy this in individual cases, so they fell by the wayside.

    (That year group, by the way, back in the classroom with me this year, has already covered range and key, semiquaver patterns, compound time notation and time-signatures, and played chordal and rhythmic accompaniments on Boomwhackers while singing, all since September, so they're not exactly useless at music!)

    So anyway, there we were with one group who only had half the specialist time they should have been allotted, while the rest of the time was effectively wasted. In the end, by general consensus of the head, myself and the music service, we decided that the scheme didn't work for our school. I felt for the children who had to drag in trombones and saxophones each week to make a grotty sound, which didn't improve much, trying to play material which, compared to what they had been experiencing over the past two years, was musically stultifying.

    The dilemma over what to do with the instruments was very generously solved on two fronts. We had received a grant, brokered by the music service, for one set of 26 instruments, and they were supplemented by a further set from the music service. The body that provided the grant have agreed that we could use the money from selling them to buy instruments for a different kind of ensemble, as long as we kept them informed, and the music service agreed to buy "our" set of instruments from us.

    So now, we don't have wider opps as such, not in the sense that the music service come in and provide specialist instrumental work. Year 5 work as a percussion band, with a lot of tuned instruments, and we've just found "our" sound (see below)

    So, we made mistakes in dealing with the follow-up to the first year. I can't see what else we could have done, but it didn't work. Year 5 were told they could carry on with their instruments at a small(ish) price by going to a local music centre nearby after school one day a week. And guess how many took it up? If you guessed "none" award yourself one point.

    The reason I am still working with y5 as a band is that when I got the past two cohorts back in "my" lessons after a year, they _were_ somehow sharper musically, maybe for the discipline of simply sitting in a band and trying to play together, for all that the musical result was uninspiring. Time will tell.

    As to the answer to the OP, I think a lot depends on what you've been doing for Wider Opps. Unless yours is a school where there's a lot of parental support for practising, and where commitment is a strong point, I wouldn't recommend going for something like SoundStart. Our w/w teacher for the second year was the person who had originally recommended it to us, and was considered the SoundStart "guru" in these parts, and took part in lots of demonstrations of the scheme, and even he is now saying that he thinks it doesn't work without a lot of other back-up in process.

    A nearby school which adopted the scheme had a decent percentage of its pupils choosing to carry on at a local centre and paying to rent or buy instruments of their own. We can't even begin to contemplate that here. But it seems to be the only route suggested by the music service.

    If you're using instruments that "live" in the school, like our tuned percussion, or that are so inexpensive to buy that you can have no qualms encouraging the children to buy their own - ocarinas, recorders - then you can carry on as an extracurricular activity. Otherwise you just pass the instruments on, tell them they can hire their own, capitalise on the experience they gained in year 5 with classroom work, and try and prepare them for a secondary course which with any luck will get them back into playing.

    Oh yes, "our" sound. We were very self-indulgent and bought a bass xylophone and a bass metallophone. Plus an alto of each, and extra sopranos, so that our tuned perc section now consists of mixed xylophones and metallophones in the proportion 2 bass, 3 alto, 4 soprano and 3 assorted glocks of different sizes. Sometimes two children to an instrument so that there are octaves. And playing in chords with the glocks on the top, it sounds like an organ with a sparkly top - rich, ringing and rather thrilling! (Still on very easy stuff as yet)
  4. Gizzy,

    As someone who is now moving more into teaching and writing materials and workshops for KS1, 2 and 3, I was very interested in your answer. I'm also a KS2 trainer for the Trinity / OU programme and wondered what the problems may be in delivering and sustaining a programme of music containing wind instruments.

    Can I ask:

    1. Could you describe a typical session of music-making that took place? I noted the timings of your description but where did the children start (ie. fingerings, embouchure, etc).
    2. What were the musical resources like? Did the kids have tutor books and materials along with CDs of practise exercises and backing tracks which they could take home to follow?
    3. Was the music service proactive and have say a server with videos that the kids could watch to enhance the learning? Or post things on You Tube?
    4. Was the music the kids were learning perceived as 'real music'? What I mean by this is, the type of music they might hear on CBBC or similar?
    5. Did the sessions containing any sessions around 'internalising' music from listening, to singing, to playing?

    I'd be interested to hear from anyone else that has thoughts on this issue and has had direct experience with a similar programme because I feel if we could nail what motivates a child individually to practise and also within the group to take ownership, we might figure out how to make this kind of thing work more successfully in the future.
  5. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    Thank you, wasn't expecting such a detailed answer, I will have to read it several times as my attention span obviously isn't that long!
  6. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    We're on our 2nd year of Wider Opps at my main school.
    Last year
    yr 5 - Samba Band (v good, playing in festivals, and at summer fetes, child led by the end)
    yr2 - Ocarina (great fun, just starting to follow staff notation but not read it)
    yr 3 - Keyboard (all able to play simple melodies from staff notation with chord accompaniment from partner or left hand)
    All done on a 3 week rota. 1 hour with me every 3 weeks, other 2 weeks with class teacher. Worked brilliantly.

    This year -
    F/yr1 - "music fun" singing and music games to give class teachers ideas for activities in class time.
    yr 2 - ocarinas (already playing london's burning in 3 part round)
    yr 3 - keyboard (just starting on chord buttons having learned how to play chords "properly" with 1,3,5 and how to make them.
    yr 4 - class ensemble (using keyboard skills from last year plus tuned percussion and own instruments)
    yr 5 - samba
    yr 6 - boomwhackers, tin whistles and belleplates (going down really well as I'm not using staff notation for tin whistles until the first keyboard lot make it through to yr 6).
    Works with 2 groups each week having lesson with me and other groups doing their own rehearsals, then rotating.
    We're not offering any of those instruments as a follow up but are encouraging children to take up orchestral instruments with cheapest lessons at £4. We have over 50 instrument pupils now.
    I'm a happy bunny.
  7. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    bod99 - are you employed by the school? My problem at the moment is that the lessons are taught by peripetetic teachers and so when the funds run out it will be left to me who has no musical expertise to teach anything (nor has anyone in my school - that is why it is left to me) to take up the ideafor next year. If I don't, nobody will. I'd love to, but reading what you have said would be:
    a) beyond me
    b) I would not have release time to teach anyone other than my class apart from as an extra-curricular
    activity. How come you get to teach all those year groups?
  8. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    I teach yr 5 classroom one day a week, wider opps on one afternoon, all curriculum music lessons on another day, and individual instrumental lessons on 2 mornings. The school has me on contract for all that. I also work at one other school and run 3 choirs and a composers club. It's hectic but all crammed into 4 days so I don't work Fridays (yay).
    I realise it's only possible as I can teach all those different instruments. Remember you don't HAVE to teach wider opps throughout the school - the aim is to offer all children one year of tuition. You could just do ocarina in one year group and that would count. We got a grant to fund instruments and some tuition for these first 2 years. After that, not sure! Am also reliant on a really really supportive headteacher - am never going to change schools again!
  9. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    Then I suppose the fact that we have nobody like you on staff would be our downfall. It would be very unlikely (about 0.01%) I would get the same class next year as this, so following up what my class are doing this year is fairly remote during curriculum time.
  10. Reply to post 3 - sorry it's so long:

    1. Well, there were two years with rather different formats. The first year we had a brass teacher who was also HOD at the nearest secondary school - he had said that bringing SoundStart into our school benefitted him because it fed him lots of potential brass and woodwind players for his own wind band, who would not have to start from scratch. Unfortunately, the very best of these would not choose to go to that school because it's considered by many to be the worst option out of three or four. And he was so often not available because of clashes of commitment. In addition we had a w/w teacher from the music service.

    Until the point when they were allocated their instruments (we didn't have them when the year first started) he took them through some elementary theory and they did rhythm games etc - one week he brought his supply of samba instruments over and did a session on those. But once the instruments were in and allocated, it was mainly to do with elementary technique - posture and embouchure and later fingering (adding maybe a note at a time).

    They had already done two years of musicianship in the classroom with me. They had had half a term of recorder in class when they were in year 3, and some had continued in recorder club. Some were already playing in the hand chime ensemble, some had been playing elementary keyboard for a couple of years. They'd all done lots of pitch and rhythm, both theory and practical, and lots and lots of singing. At the end of year 4 they had been learning about semiquaver groups with lots of nice activities - inevitably, some got it, or retained it, and some didn't. So that's where they were at before they ever started wind instruments.

    In the second year, when the instrument teachers used to turn up halfway through, I would do singing, literacy, clapping games, etc, just as I had in the classroom, and made sure they were in band formation by the time the teachers arrived.

    Embouchure in both years was the starting point of course, and the emphasis was on playing together from the beginning, so that they would play single notes with a piano accompaniment to practise counting and keeping together. One or two never grasped the notion of "fingering" at all, but that was only a few. So in theory they were involved in the playing of a "piece" from the start, however awful the sound was.

    2. SoundStart does include a complete book for each instrument, including the music for the pieces and pagers showing how to produce the first three, next two, next three notes, large-note flash cards for 4-beat rhythms and copiable CDs of extremely naff backing tracks for the pieces. It's very structured, with training sessions; it's a structured scheme of work including a few songs taken from other sources (rather African-based since the original author came here from South Africa). I would have been willing to follow the original or at least adapt, and that was what I had originally seen in action. However, in both years, the instrumental staff preferred to use their own material. How much this contributed to our not being very successful is almost impossible to say, but I did feel that had we tried to follow SS slavishly to the letter we wouldn't have been able to fit it in. My view was that it was well-intentioned but trying to be too many things. The reason was that learning to PLAY a brass or woodwind instrument is such a time-intensive exercise that there really isn't time to pay sufficient attention to the other things involved.

    3. No and no

    4. In the first term-and-a-half they played - inevitably - Suo Gan, Hot Cross Buns, Mary Had A Little Lamb, Grand Old Duke of York; but then, you play those almost whatever instrument you are starting. Later they played one, two, three-note "tunes" to a boogie backing on the piano, a version of Barbara-Ann to learn notes 4 and 5, and Oh When The Saints Go Marching In, which most of them found too difficult, so I arranged it as an accompaniment part instead. As to whether they saw it as "real" music, it's hard to say - does any classroom music come under that heading? I've done Buck's Fizz Making Your Mind Up with y6 playing the chord backing on Boomwhackers, and could now easily translate that into tuned percussion, but none of them could then have taken an instrument away and said to mum "listen to this mum, I can play Making Your Mind Up"

    5. Not the parts taken by the instrument teachers - there just wouldn't have been time. Certainly I did a fair amount of it myself when I was taking the first half of the session. I'm already acutely aware of making sure I don't let this side of it slip now that I'm working with the percussion.

    The main advantage to the percussion orchestra is that there are no notes that are harder than others. Maybe harder movements from one to another, but there's so much more variety, and - very important - they can (nearly) all make a decent sound from the word go. Some of them may well still go on to learn, say, saxophones quickly with the musical experience under their belts, but I'm hoping that none of them will finish the year feeling they'd achieved nothing, as was certainly the case with last year's cohort.
  11. Post 7: I was just about to ask how on earth you managed to fit all those wider opps into one afternoon, then I re-read that you do it on a 3-week rotation. That makes a lot more sense to me now. It sounds like a really good scheme: all-round music education doesn't need instruments in every lesson, certainly not the same ones every time, but when you've got them out for a lesson you need to make enough use of them to justify getting them out (says she who has the whole panoply of percussion out every week for year 5)

    Does yours strictly count as Wider Opps, as you're not sent by the music service?
  12. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    it certainly does. The County Music Service (bites her tongue a lot here) seems to imply that you have to use them but you don't. It's up to each school how to run it. Having taught wider opps for the county I would say I'm doing a far better job working in my individual school. County had no resources/schemes/clue what to do. Hence leaving. The school I worked at through county was treating wider opps as PPA time for the class teacher. That most definitely is NOT wider opps and I'm very concerned that they got any funding, when others missed out at the grant stage.
  13. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    my problem is that in July the instruments get taken back and the funding for peripetetics stop. I (not very musical) should really try to put something in place for the following year, otherwise it wouldn't really have acheived its point, above and beyond giving the children a nice expericne. Some will buy into lessons next year (hopefully) but many won't. This is why I'm hoping for some useful ideas.
  14. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    are you using a County music service for individual instrumental lessons or private teachers? We've found it a lot cheaper going private. We got children to buy instruments through firstbrass.co.uk who were really helpful and do cheap but ok beginner instruments.
  15. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    we got them through the music service. The instruments are provided free for the year but have to be given back in July. I thought this was how it worked everywhere! The issue is who will be inspired to continue, and I am sure some will, but what will I do with them. Currently, it will just be them paying for lessons privately in or out of school, and buying an instrument, which will be fine for some, but others won't be able to do it. The school won't fund instrument buying or teacher-time.
  16. With my Y3/4 classes I do recorder. Out of 90 kids 86 of them have bought their own from school which I can supply for £2.90 each. This means they learn an octave worth of notes in that year and play lots of tunes; they can take the instruments home and no one will take them away from them nor will it cost them any money for lessons or repairs.

    It is not suitable for all children to be given an orchestral instrment but the vast majority can enjoy the recorder and classroom percussion and I don't understand why the powers that be won't look at this way of giving all children good, long term music provision rather than the gimmick of everyone having a violin for a term or a year. I know of schools who have done this and the kids were not allowed to take the instruments home, schools struggle to store them, maintain them, tune them and all of the music teachers involved in this I have spoken to don't feel it is in the longterm interests of the children.

    I think the money on wider opportunities would be much better spent on providing primary school teachers with training to help them teach classroom music and the beginner recorder. Wider opportunities is deskilling the general classroom teachers and as others have said they see music teachers as the baby sitters to give them time off.
  17. thehawk

    thehawk Occasional commenter

    "I think the money on wider opportunities would be much better spent on providing primary school teachers with training to help them teach classroom music and the beginner recorder. Wider opportunities is deskilling the general classroom teachers and as others have said they see music teachers as the baby sitters to give them time off. "

    Here here! all I want is some training but I can't find anywhere to get it!

  18. Thank you Hawk. I can show you a training program that works for both specialists and non specialists. Drop me an email at

    It has the support and backin of Trinity Colege London and Dame Evelyn Glennie.
  19. I seem to have my feet in both camps. I cover PPA time teaching music and am also involved in wider ops. Yes agree PPA can be seen as a case of 'babysitting'. The wider ops scheme is just for year 3 and involves range of orchestral instruments. Instruments go back at the end of the year unless children want to carry on with peri lessons. Personally I feel that Year 3 is too young. A good secure grounding in basic skills using classroom percussion + a term or even a year playing the recorder ( or similar) would be an excellent springboard for a wider ops say from late yr4. Children will be physically bigger / most teeth will have fallen out and grown again!! and if they have had the chance to hear the orchestral instruments through mini concerts the choice would be more informed and later take up higher.

    Jules would be really interested in the information about the training course. figrollsmailbox-tes@yahoo.co.uk
  20. Thanks for all that Gizzy, you've been really helpful.

    As someone who's dabbled in various instruments over the years, there are definitely multiple skills involved in learning any instrument. As most people find, once you've 'mastered' (grade 5 or 6) one instrument, you have already learned quite a bit about how music functions and can apply that knowledge to a new instrument. So I was a little surprised that with all the singing and playing of recorders that your kids had experienced, a tune like 'O When the saint's' seemed to much for them to crack. Any ideas what the hurdles were there? Could the kids have sung the tune no problem? If so, were any sessions organized to let them try and work the tune out, say in smaller groups?

    I agree with the couple of contributors that the recorder is a brilliant instrument for fulfilling the requirements of any music programme (cheap, portable, no tuning problems provided everyone has the same model) and I'm having some success with Year 3s at the moment. I'm four weeks into a 12 week contract (1hr a week), with probably another school starting after Xmas, so by Easter I hope to have a good idea which materials I've composed and written work the best.

    Given the massive range of abilities between the most able KS2 child and the least able and the limited time available for one to one guidance, I'm finding the most successful way of delivering the lessons seems to involve staying with one mode of delivery no longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a time.


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