Reaching families at home with disabled children during Covid-19 pandemic

Wednesday 29th April 2020

When Yehudi Menuhin and Ian Stoutzker created Live Music Now, their vision was to bring live music to people who needed it the most and support young professional musicians at the start of their careers.

Forty-three years later, as the world adapts to the Covid19 pandemic, the need for human connection through music is greater than ever.

Normally, Live Music Now provides more than 1,500 music sessions in special schools across the country delivered by our specially trained musicians.   For many young people, participating in music-making is hugely beneficial for wellbeing, engagement in learning, communication skills and confidence.

With schools now closed to most pupils, staff are working hard to adapt provision for students.  The challenges for special schools and their families are particularly acute.  As reported recently in The Guardian, families with disabled children are a “vulnerable group – not just to the virus itself, but to the social and economic consequences of the pandemic”.

In a survey to special schools that we’ve worked with across the UK, we asked what musical input would be helpful at the moment.  Options included:

  • Live online sessions for individual pupils and their families;
  • Live online sessions for pupils remaining in school;
  • Live streamed concerts;
  • Recorded music sessions and concerts including songs and activities;
  • Materials for staff and parents. 

 

Our students would hugely benefit from pre-recorded videos of musicians that would include music being played but also interactive activities that the students could join in with.” SEND school survey response

 

The most popular option was recorded music sessions bespoke for special school audiences:  We are currently commissioning Live Music Now musicians across all our branches to record sessions for students and their families to enjoy at home.  Our new guidelines are helping them to adapt their previous experience of working in special schools and whilst the technical side of recording and editing is a steep learning curve for some, it is a valuable skill to develop.

 

LMN SW musician, Sadie Fleming, has recorded a session for her partner school to encourage singing.

 

Ideas which we could share with our parents on the website - need to be simple as resources will be scarce.” SEND School survey response

 

77% of the schools requested videos and materials to support staff and parents to deliver musical activities.  We know from a previous LMN schools survey that less than 50% of special schools have a music specialist on their team and most classroom musical activity is led by classroom staff, many of whom lack confidence around music-making.  We have commissioned our most experienced musicians, currently delivering year-long residencies as part of our SEND Inspire programme, to create new resources for schools.  They are consulting with staff to create bespoke materials for the classes they were working with and those for wider use too.  

 

LMN North East musician, Rosie Hood, creating resources for her partner school, Tweendykes in Hull.  

Paul Exton-McGuinness and Nicola Lyons made resources for the schools where they are Musicians in Residence.

Interactive session is fantastic idea and possible with right technology for interactive video set up." SEND School survey response

 

In the survey we asked if online with individual pupils and their families at home would be of interest. For many schools, facilitating online learning is a tricky area and the logistics of communicating with families is a challenge at the moment. However, a number of schools responded positively.

Kingfisher School in Oldham jumped at the opportunity to pilot a series of online music sessions for individual pupils led by their Manchester-based Live Music Now musician, Ben Sayah, using the Zoom platform.  Parents, carers and siblings will be able to join in the sessions too and have fun creating music with Ben. In the meantime, Ben has been recording some of the pupils' favourite songs - the school has been sending them to the students at home. 

In Wales, recent funding from Moondance Foundation and Awards for All has enabled us to launch of a brand new programme of online music sessions for children with additional needs and their families. Eighteen families have already signed up for sessions with musicians from LMN Wales.  As this is the first time that LMN has engaged with individual families, we ran a musicians’ training session and have written new guidelines to help musicians and families get the most out of the sessions. 

If you would like more information about our Live Music Now at Home sessions, please email SEND@livemusicnow.org.uk

 

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