Hitting the right notes – music at Paradigm
In a world where we are surrounded by music every day, Music lessons help pupils understand and appreciate it in some way, whether that’s by learning an instrument, connecting on an emotional level or even using it as a method of self-regulation.
It’s also a subject which has many benefits that reach far beyond learning an instrument or improving children’s musicality, and Paradigm Trust has put the measures in place to help its pupils flourish.
To give pupils at the six Paradigm schools the best music education, the Trust employs a team of specialist teachers to take music lessons at all stages, from nursery right up to Key Stage Four.
By using staff who have trained as music teachers, the Trust benefits from their expertise at all levels. It allows Paradigm to build its own bespoke curriculum based on real subject knowledge, and as its teachers have more regular, consistent contact with the children they are able to tailor lessons to the needs of the students. It also ensures its music teachers are fully aligned with the Trust’s values and vision.
To ensure it is possible to deliver an effective music curriculum, sufficient time and resources must be given to the subject. Paradigm Trust has recently allocated more space in the timetable to the teaching of music, so now every primary school child has one music lesson a week of around forty minutes, throughout the year. At Key Stage 3, rather than being on a carousel rotation, music is a regular part of the curriculum so all students in year 7, 8 and 9 receive an hour’s music lesson every week, all year round. All schools in the Trust have specific music rooms which are equipped with all the resources teachers need to be able to conduct lessons effectively.
In addition to regular music lessons in school time, the Trust provides peripatetic tuition across eight instruments, taught by specialist tutors. This is available to all students from Year 2 upwards. The primary schools have similar opportunities, offering after school activities which include ukulele club, guitar club, choir and musical theatre.
It is also important for students’ development to experience performing away from their schools and the music staff take students to events such as Young Voices in London, and to Snape Maltings, the world-famous music venue on the Suffolk coast.
The current music curriculum was developed by Paradigm Trust three years ago and has two main focuses. The first is on the skills and musical knowledge that it aims to teach the pupils. This is unashamedly aspirational – EYFS children are taught musical terminology, and are expected to be able to understand dynamics, describing the tempo of a pulse as fast or slow, and being able to tell whether a piece is loud or soft. Similar standards are applied to later years, so by the time pupils reach Key Stage 4 they have the foundations to achieve with music, should they decide to take their studies further.
As well as improving their musicality, students are also building interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in their lessons. Teachers ensure there is always a practical aspect to every lesson with group work and performance prominent. These activities build confidence and self-esteem, and grow skills such as team-building and working with others. Learning to play a musical instrument also teaches resilience and patience, as there is no shortcut to competence, just perseverance. Inclusion is always important at Paradigm, and music is no different. Teachers aim to make sure each session is enjoyable and accessible; no pupil should go into a lesson feeling they are not going to be able to achieve.
A good example of what music can teach is apparent in a unit that is taught at secondary school called ‘Find Your Voice’, which is built into the Year 7 curriculum. On one level this is about singing and body percussion, but it is also there to help deal with the performance anxiety many Year 7s have, especially as they are starting a new school. The goal is for them to recognise that music is a subject where there are high expectations, and even though their worries are understandable, they are still encouraged to perform. The quality of the singing is important, and so is building the learner’s confidence, so in future units of study and elsewhere in their life they are better able to cope with similar situations.
Our music curriculum also centres on the cultural capital aspect of music. As children learn about different genres of music, they also study the context and diversity of the genres; the place where it was born, the people who created it and the time period. For instance, when studying funk, soul and blues the children also learn about slavery and segregation. In this way Paradigm makes music a cross-curricular subject, linking pupils’ learning to many other areas on the timetable.