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Music and teaching assistants

Since September last year, five primary headteachers in Bury, Greater Manchester, have been working together to provide more music in their schools by using the arrangements for PPA time. With the support of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the schools are employing, over a two-year period, a specialist music teacher to spend one day a week in each school.

Musician and teacher Katie Geelan works with the children and, crucially, provides on-the-job training for the teachers and teaching assistants. The aim is to enable the school staff to continue the work once her two-year project comes to an end.

The work is already transforming the amount and quality of music provision in the schools. It is also raising the levels of enjoyment and confidence of pupils and staff.

The project is highlighting the importance of support staff, such as teaching assistants and HLTAs, feeling confident enough to get involved in school music provision through their existing skills and interests, or through developing suitable skills through professional development. The Music Manifesto has now become interested in the project, and recognises the need to increase the opportunities for support staff to train for, take part in and lead music activities.

However, there is little information about the extent of such opportunities across the country. So the Foundation is trying to find out how much, and in what ways, teaching assistants are involved in supporting music-making and singing in primary schools – and we need your help to do this.

Please let us know what happens with music in your school – and how far support staff are involving in music-making and learning with the pupils. For example, it would be useful to know:

About music in your school:

  • Does your school have a music coordinator?
  • How much music provision do the pupils have in a week (hours/minutes)?
  • Do you have a choir or put on musical events with the pupils?
  • Do the teachers have CPD opportunities in music?

About your teaching assistants:

  • How many teaching assistants does your school employ?
  • Are they involved in the school’s music provision? If ‘Yes’, in what ways?
  • How many have knowledge, skills and/or qualifications in music?
  • What sort of skills/qualifications do they have?
  • Do they receive any training to help with music activities?

About your school:

  • What type of school are you?
  • Number of teachers?
  • Number of pupils?
  • Age range of the pupils?
  • Inner city, urban, suburban, rural?
  • Are you part of a consortium with other local schools?

The main thing, though, is to just tell us about how teaching assistants are involved in music activities at school! Please email your response to: artsrick@aol.com. Many thanks for your help.

Rick Rogers

Rick Rogers is a writer and journalist specialising in the arts and education. He is evaluating the Bury Project for the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

NAPTA, 1-2 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge CB2 8BB — tel 01223 224930 — email info@napta.org.uk