Transforming Communities

South Yorkshire SEN Schools Programme

Live Music Now’s North East branch has a thriving programme of work with SEN schools in Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. This year, our musicians will deliver over 80 sessions and reach more than 1,000 young people who attend a wide range of non-mainstream schools, from specialist settings for children with cerebral palsy to hospital and residential schools in the region. All the pupils who are engaged with the project have very few opportunities to experience high quality live music outside of LMN visits.

“The regular support of the Mayfield Valley Arts Trust and The Whitaker Trust has allowed us to develop a sustained programme of work which involves all of South Yorkshire’s special schools” said branch director Helen Mahoney, “Having a regular programme means that schools can plan ahead and use our visits to enhance their curriculum, and we can ensure that we offer schools a wide range of different musical experiences. We are also now working in partnership with the South Yorkshire music education hubs, delivering a joined up approach which broadens the musical offer available to these schools. ”

Each SEN school is offered at least two opportunities per year to host an interactive concert or workshop from one of our ensembles. Teachers often report how LMN musicians are able to engage all pupils through music, regardless of differing ages and abilities, providing a valuable shared experience that the whole school can enjoy together:

 They encouraged the children to participate by singing along, dancing, moving freely in the hall and finally were keen and open to the children touching and enquiring about their instruments. Their musicianship was incredible and within their performance they created a number of soundscapes that fascinated the children. The children responded appropriately without the need for verbal instructions, their responses were solely guided by the power of music and the skill of this trio of musicians. Staff also commented and loved the trio. They are already brilliant and flexible enough to meet our school and children’s needs. – Rowan School, Sheffield

In keeping with Live Music Now’s mission, the project benefits both pupils and musicians. As we have developed a relationship with the schools over many years, they provide a supportive environment for our newer musicians to develop their skills and build up experience of working in SEN settings. Folk group The Alias Trio delivered some of their first concerts for LMN in Sheffield and Doncaster earlier this year:

"Since joining Live Music Now, we have received first class training and wonderful opportunities to play in venues, and to audiences, which we would otherwise not have had. The whole process has been incredibly enriching to our performance practices, and has significantly improved the way we approach and enjoy the way we present our music. We particularly enjoyed the schools tour, which has been some of the most exciting, rewarding and enjoyable work we've done."

Each year, the North East branch offers three schools an Embedded Training Residency. This involves three musicians visiting the same school over 5 days to work closely with small groups of pupils. The focus is on creative music making which often culminates in a performance or recording of the pupils’ work. Each residency is led by one of our most experienced artists, alongside two of our newer musicians. Working in this way enables the new musicians to ‘learn on the job’, planning and delivering each session as a team and developing their skills as workshop leaders in SEN settings:

“I think my light bulb moment was realising how gently I have to use my percussion when approaching children. I remember in the first week quite a lot of the non-verbal children were quite scared by my percussion. However, they came again in week 4 and I was making them giggle, join in, or even ‘look’. I think I learnt to sense how long to spend with a child, and I have a lot of tactics and intuition about which instruments to use for which child and how to use them. Now I would never begin by approaching certain children with a loud drum!” Delia Stevens, Project Jam Sandwich

Additionally the lead artists have the opportunity to hone their mentoring and leadership skills, an important part of their own professional development. This model of embedded training is proving to be a key part of the LMN musicians’ journey, and one which is now being replicated in other parts of the UK. 

It provided much more time and focused musical activity than the pupils would normally get. One pupil held a rainmaker when he is normally tactile defensive.  Some pupils improved their drumming skills/willingness to drum….the musicians were excellent and pitched the sessions perfectly for our pupils. It exceeded our expectations. -Teacher, Heatherwood School

A group of people in a recording studio, singing and clapping hands

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