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soundLINCS Early Years Briefing Paper

Early childhood music at soundLlNCS

(a not-for-profit community music organisation)

Lincolnshire, the third largest county in England, with 600 maintained and PVI settings.

soundLINCS, funded by the National Foundation for Youth Music, as part of the Lincolnshire Youth Music Action Zone, was actively developing early childhood music programmes in the largely rural county of Lincolnshire and environs from 2003 until the funding formula was changed to a modular format in 2012.

Youth Music took the view that all children and young people should have access to music opportunities with a particular emphasis of those ‘at risk’, which included targeting known areas of social and economic need, providing music-making opportunities to children and young people who are socially marginalised or have educational or behavioural problems. Three additional YM priorities comprised Early Years, Singing, and Workforce Development.

A key principle of sound52 (Lincs YMAZ) was to develop unique relationships with many Lincolnshire Early Years funders and partners. The emphasis was on nurturing mutual partnerships rather than a simple provider/client exchange. https://www.soundlincs.org/project/sound52/

Partners included: – LCC Early Years Support Service, Lincs EYDCP (Early Years Development & Childcare Partnership), Lincs Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA), the National Childminding Association (NCMA), Lincs Birth to Five Service as well as Early Years maintained & non-maintained settings from the Private, Voluntary & Independent (PVI) sector.

Workforce training and development was a key element of the soundLINCS early years music programmes. Initiatives include mentoring (First Notes, Root Notes) and accredited training opportunities for childminders (NCMA Gold Star Awards) in Music Sounds Inclusive. The innovative ‘Arts in the park: I could do that’ project (2014), in collaboration with Nottinghamshire County Council Arts Service, provided a successful solution to the reported ever increasing constraints to accessing CPD. EY practitioners were invited to bring along the children in their care, as well as parents / carers (300 in total), to actively engage in creative art and music workshops for a day in Rufford Abbey Country Park. The dual purpose of this creative learning opportunity was to inspire and enthuse participants, as well as model ways of working for practitioners, with a view to replicating and developing arts practices on their return to their settings. For more information https://www.soundlincs.org/project/arts-in-the-park/

soundLINCS has developed a range of programmes including: – First Notes; Music Sounds Inclusive; Early Ears; Early Ears +; My Musical Day and Root Notes (more detail can be found overleaf or online @ http:// www. soundlincs.org/). Each bespoke programme was targeted for a specific participant group such as EY practitioners, children, as well as parents/carers in PVI settings: childminders with/out their charges; for staff training, mother and baby sessions, careers of disabled children or for children with EAL in children’s centres; Resource packs were also devised and disseminated free of charge. In 2016 the First Notes music resource app (free on iOS or Android) was launched, for use in Early Years settings or by parents and carers. https://www.soundlincs.org/2016/06/first-notes-app-share-special/

‘soundBEGINNINGS: ten years of early years development` (2003-2013), was a research study funded by Youth Music. Professor Chris Atkin and Dr Pat Beckley from Bishop Grosseteste University were commissioned to report on the music programmes. The dual purpose of the research study was to evaluate the impact of 10 years of early childhood music development in Lincolnshire and to present a series of good practice case studies. 14 diverse settings were identified, (large, small, maintained, PVI, Children’s Centres), across a range of localities (urban, rural, county wide) and programmes (First Notes, Early Ears, Root Notes). Mixed Methods was the methodological approach used to triangulate the instruments of questionnaires and interviews with the relevant documentation e.g. Ofsted reports. Data was collected, analysed and findings thematically grouped under five headings: The role of the child; The role of the practitioner; The creative environment; The external environment; Impact of soundLINCS resources. Findings indicated impacts of both strategic change at sector/setting level, as well as personal change for practitioners, childminders and children. Staff turnover was found to be a limitation, impacting upon the quality and frequency of music provision within the setting.

An overview of soundLINCS EY music projects

Table 1 illustrating numbers involved in the projects

First notes Music Sounds Inclusive Early Ears My Musical Day Root Notes Total
Commencing 2003 2011 2009 2012 2011
No. of residencies 1,696 33 125 10 72 1936
No. of sessions 12,160 99 1,786 46 648 14,739
No. of children 31,419 495 3,718 138 1,313 37,083
No. of Parents/carers 3,540 20 1,568 68 31 5,227
No. of Practitioners 5,218 N/A 425 36 284 5,963
No. of childminders N/A 396 N/A N/A N/A 396
No. of individual settings 600+ 33 48 10 72 763

Good practice indicators

  • The number and wide range of working partners e.g. Lincs. Birth to five. LCC etc.
  • Extent of outreach to nurseries, pre-school, childminders, parents and carers, children’s centres, PVI settings.
  • Accreditation for childminder`s professional development
  • Impact on large numbers of practitioners, parents/carers, children.
  • Reaching children from social/disadvantaged backgrounds, EAL, SEN, at risk, physically impaired.
  • Recognising and acting on the knowledge that children are unique, individual, musical and creative.
  • Provision of and continued access to resource packs and instrument kits e.g. Toy library.
  • Diverse range of bespoke programmes developed to meet local and individual needs.
  • Musical activities of composing, improvising, playing encouraged, exploring the musical elements/ingredients, sometimes within creative multi arts contexts.
  • Using music making to support other areas of learning and development such as communication and language, social, physical, sensory, confidence, as well as gross & fine motor control.
  • Workforce professional development.
  • Emphasis on mentoring and empowering practitioners to develop and practise their music making with the children in a safe and comfortable environment.
  • Identifying and incorporating time for action planning and reflective praxis before and after sessions as an essential prerequisite to effective practice.
  • Recognising and actively promoting the relationship with leaders and managers as central to the projects’ success. Encouraging ownership, by developing good lines of communication and opportunities to be involved.
  • Practitioners need a working knowledge of child development.
  • Legacy of resources, kits, tools, packs, programmes, as well as soundLINCs EY ‘musical footprint’.
  • Regular updating of packs and resources including the technological innovation of an IOS and Android app. The First Notes resource pack was developed in 2003/4 as a set of cards stored in a durable plastic wallet. It underwent 2 revisions mirroring the changes in the EYFS, before it was launched as a music resource app in 2016. 

soundLINCS early years music programmes

First Notes was developed in collaboration with Lincs Pre-school Learning Alliance.  Residencies initially comprised eight weekly sessions of two hours duration, reducing to six weeks, to align with school term times. Led by a Music Facilitator, each session was divided into three 40 minute blocks of music making experiences and opportunities for three distinct audiences; children, practitioners and parents/carers. Training and development aims ranged from confidence building to lead music and singing activities; acquiring playing skills and building repertoire with tuned and untuned percussion. A core musical skill or experience would be explored through musical games, songs and rhymes, musical instruments and composition. An instrument Kit was used for the duration of the residency with an identical kit provided to Lincolnshire Toy Library for loan. The 600 Maintained and PVI settings visited received a free printed First Notes resource pack containing 120 EYFS musical activities.

 Music Sounds Inclusive evolved in partnership with the National Childminding Association (NCMA) and offered accredited training for childminders as part of the NCMA Gold Star Awards. Hosted in a variety of venues around the county for up to 12 childminders and their early years children to attend and led by two EY Music Facilitators, the groups (childminders and children) participated in two structured daytime music workshops of one hour duration, usually a week apart. These were separated by an evening training session of two hours duration solely for the childminder. A small set of instruments was given to each participating childminder, in addition to a music CD featuring songs written, sung and recorded by them.

Early Ears created in 2009, in partnership with LCC and the local school improvement service (CfBT). The `Every Child Matters` initiative was a catalyst for the programme designed for Children’s Centres working with disadvantaged families. Some centres opted to focus on mother and baby sessions; staff training; supporting carers of disabled children or children with EAL. An experienced Early Years Music Facilitator worked with each Children’s Centre, providing 24 x two hour sessions, divided into four blocks of six scheduled for the same day and time each week. A comprehensive kit of musical instruments was gifted to each participating Children`s centre by LCC, along with the soundLINCS Early Ears resource pack.

My Musical Day (2012/2013) developed alongside the UK Government’s initiative ‘Every Child a Talker’, with the aim of engaging children in music making to stimulate and encourage verbal communication with their parents, carers, practitioners and peers. Collaborating with the local Birth to Five service the project was hosted in Children’s Centres and Early Years PVI settings. Aimed at children of 0-5 years, particularly for those children at elevated risk and/or social and economic disadvantage; those with Special Education Needs and those children for whom English was not their primary language (EAL).

Root Notes, created in 2011, developed from First Notes in partnership with the Lincolnshire Birth to Five Service (until 2016). The purpose was to provide a tailored programme of professional development for early years practitioners that increases the relevance and impact of creative music making for children, practitioners and the setting. With a primary focus of working the practitioners rather than the children, the aim was to gradually hand over responsibility for planning and leading the sessions to the setting practitioner. Each residency comprised nine one hour sessions arranged over 18 weeks, with an alternating pattern of the music facilitator leading a session and then the following week it would be led by the setting practitioner. Thus, the goal was to enable practitioners to develop the confidence, skills, knowledge and experience to independently lead music activities with children in their EY setting. Two additional initiatives to support the practitioner, included in the accompanying resource pack, were a diary style journal to log ideas, successful activities and reflections for development. Furthermore, a `Root Notes` tree poster was presented and displayed in the setting at the beginning of their residency and used as a prominent visual record to display the achievements and progress made.