Christchurch (C.I.W) Voluntary Aided Primary School, Swansea, uses music therapy to help children with emotional and behavioural problems. Staff use music to engage children in order to structure their social and emotional development and help them progress.
Number of pupils: 140
Age range: 3 - 11 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2014
Context and background to sector-leading practice
Christchurch (C.I.W) Voluntary Aided Primary School serves the central area of Swansea. Of the 140 pupils on roll, 67% are live in areas of high social deprivation), 12% are entitled to free school meals, 22% speak English as an Additional Language and around 27% have Additional Learning Needs.
In Christchurch School we strive to meet the needs of all pupils and enable them to reach their full potential intellectually, socially, spiritually, emotionally and physically. With 27% of children identified as having Additional Learning Needs including emotional and social difficulties, we introduced an innovative approach to address the underlying influences that affect pupils’ behaviour and sometimes limit their ability to reach their potential.
Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice
Music and Music Therapy are used to counteract two major barriers to learning: emotional turmoil and the associated inappropriate behaviour. Music is the medium through which the children are engaged. It is used to structure their social and emotional development and in turn, their progression. This process involves four main stages.
- Developing a relationship through improvisational music therapy.
- Talking about emotions and exploring difficulties.
- Starting to learn as a group through music.
Pupils receiving music therapy are identified by the class teacher in communication with the SENCo, a qualified music therapist and the headteacher. Sessions take place individually, in pairs or small groups depending on the needs of the child. The pupils find a safe place through the music to explore their feelings and to learn strategies for managing their own behaviour.
Pupils receiving music therapy also perform in the ‘Bell Group’. This group work helps pupils improve concentration, develop relationship skills and experience how rules are made in a group. In addition, it builds self-esteem and gives the opportunity for performance and achievement.
Impact on provision and learners’ standards
Pupils are assessed at the beginning of the therapy under four development headings; cognitive, emotional, social and musicality. After just six months of music therapy all pupils showed a significant inprovement from their baseline scores. This was evident in their day to day behaviour in school. We noted a heightened sense of justice, increased empathy for others and improved ability to trust others whilst allowing others to rely on them. In turn, we noted that their behaviour in the classroom was improved, with better concentration being the major benefit.
Pupils themselves feel that they have made progress and they look forward to the sessions.
Below are a few quotes from the pupils themselves.
‘It calms your brain down so you can think more’. - Year 6 pupil
‘The music pushes the worries out of my head and my head feels full of music’. - Year 5 pupil
‘It helps me to calm down, sometimes I feel upset about things and the sessions help me to deal with things’. - Year 6 pupil
‘We are better at working as a team’. - Year 5 pupil
Both research and practice have demonstrated music therapy to be an effective means of reducing the anxieties and associated behaviours that result from emotional turmoil. This has been evident in the progress made by the children at Christchurch who were identified as having social and emotional difficulties. We have seen improvements in the classroom and at play time and believe that targeting the root of the problem is a more effective and longer term solution than managing the symptoms with more traditional discipline.