KS2 - KS3 musical liaison
This section of the site is the result of a Curriculum Development Initiative, investigating how musical liaison between KS2 and KS3 could be improved. It explores some basic principles, and then charts a range of successful strategies used by teachers across Hampshire.
Although no school could possibly use all these strategies, it is hoped that most schools will find at least one new idea here that will help the musical continuity experienced by pupils as they transfer from KS2 to KS3.
- About Curriculum Development 2
Improving musical liaison between KS2 and KS3
This has been a significant Curriculum Development Initiative, building upon the previous work on KS2 / 3 developments throughout Hampshire. Most notably, the 'Across the Sound Barrier' materials and training programme.
The information found here provides:
- notes on the background to the Initiative
- a summary of previously existing documentation and materials for KS2/3 developments
- ideas about how to start the process
- a range of strategies which have been found to be effective in promoting musical liaison between KS2/3
No one of these ideas will guarantee effective development of pupils' musical understanding and skills as they move from KS2 to KS3. However, each in their own way has made some impact on the progress of some pupils. We hope that schools will be able to build their own patchwork of strategies from these ideas in a way which will make an appropriate impact in their locality.
The project was designed to look at the process from the Secondary school's perspective: what has been the impact of 'Across the Sound Barrier' on their own work, and how might it be expanded further? The process is only going to work effectively if it is a genuine partnership between Primary and Secondary colleagues. Primary teachers reading this should understand that, if there is a Secondary bias in the writing, it is not intended to denigrate the role of the Primary sector. It is simply an outcome of the Initiative's starting point.
Rationale for Curriculum Development 2
A series of Curriculum Development Initiatives in Hampshire is investigating significant issues facing Secondary schools. This particular Initiative was designed to explore two ideas:
- to see what lessons could be learnt from the implementation of the 'Across The Sound Barrier' project
- to see what further strategies could be put in place to effectively improve pupils' musical development across the Key Stage 2/3 divide
It was hoped that a variety of models of effective practice could be established, so that secondary departments could find the best way forward for their own situation.
In this way, the curricular focus of the 'Across The Sound Barrier' materials could be retained at the heart of Hampshire's advice and support for cross phase musical liaison. At the same time, a wider range of strategies could be explored to develop the most effective liaison possible.
As with all the Curriculum Development Initiatives, teachers met first to discuss the issues, to share findings, and to establish possible ways forward. Over the following term, a number of strategies were investigated and acted upon, with some support from the Music Service. A follow-up meeting was held, allowing further debate on new evidence, and final agreement on new advice for other schools.
Previous cross-phase project: Across the Sound Barrier
These materials were specifically designed to support musical liaison and development between the primary and secondary sector: see ‘Previous Hampshire Music Service cross-phase project: Across the Sound Barrier’ for more information about what it includes.
The notion of materials specifically designed to address curriculum continuity across the two phases is not new, of course. It goes back to the fundamental issue of KS2 / KS3 liaison – the desire to improve pupils’ progress by developing materials for the start of Year 7 which will build upon experience, but which will also take pupils further, extending and improving their achievements. Schools which have used the materials, at both primary and secondary level, have additionally commented that:
- The materials are useful for Year 6 classes in their own right. They provide a good unit of work, and set appropriate expectations for teachers and pupils to work towards
- It is possible for the secondary teachers to identify quite quickly which pupils have experienced the primary unit of work and which have not. Both in simple terms such as which pupils know the songs, and in more complex ways such as which pupils showed more detailed understanding of the musical concepts, and expertise in particular skills. This shows how important it is to focus on curriculum development in liaison activities. When it goes well, the pupils' work does improve!
- At the same time, there are some issues about using the materials in Year 7 where there is a great variety and number of schools which ‘feed’ the secondary school. In particular, the issue of what games and songs are known or not known by which pupils can create difficulties. However, it is possible to be creative about this: one school identified the learning from the Year 6 unit of work, and built it in to a first module for Year 7 pupils on Shanties – see 'Using learning from Across the Sound Barrier'. Quite apart from the clear focus on learning this provides, it allows secondary schools to build upon previous experiences without having to change their preferred sequence of modules (ie some schools prefer to use Blues later in the Key Stage, or to build it into more general work on Jazz)
- Background information
What is the curriculum like? How is it planned and delivered? What are the standards for overall musical understanding, and for the different aspects of the subject, that can be expected of pupils in Year 6, and in Year 7? Clearly, the National Curriculum is supposed to provide many of the answers. However, it is only a framework, and open to interpretation. An important issue, therefore, is for teachers to understand how different schools implement the Orders, and to ensure as great a continuity as possible for the pupils. In Hampshire, the advice regarding planning for both KS2 and KS3 is virtually identical: the relevant documentation can be found on the Curriculum pages of the Hampshire Music Service web site. If both Primary and Secondary schools within a given ‘cluster’ use this advice, including both the planning frameworks and the developing advice on expectations, a significant step forward will have been taken.
At the same time, schools must always acknowledge the issue of teacher expertise. While many Primary music coordinators and their colleagues are confident about teaching music, it is always the case that others are less confident. In this situation, a range of strategies can be put in place to support a programme of teacher development. There are many county-wide initiatives organised by the Hampshire Music Service; but local developments are always of great benefit – particularly when sensitive support from Secondary colleagues is built into the programme.
It is also true that local developments can initiate useful and relevant resources. These can be tailor-made to the area, using the pupils’ experience, local themes and issues, and teacher expertise in specific areas.
The prime aim of all these developments, clearly, is to improve pupils’ standards of work – and to encourage enjoyment of the subject! By focusing on a shared design and delivery of the curriculum, developing all teachers’ expertise, and providing relevant, practical resources, local liaison can add a significant dimension to the overarching support offered by the National Curriculum.
The extended curriculum
This is often the easiest route into cross-phase development, providing significant musical opportunities to pupils. In nearly all cases, the benefits are two – way: younger pupils gain from the experience of singing and playing with more experienced performers, while the older pupils benefit from developing leadership skills – both musically and socially. The end result is often improved standards, for both the Primary and Secondary pupils, and the benefits to the core curriculum can be significant. For instance, areas which run area singing festivals find that the Year 6 pupils involved will show more enthusiasm for singing in Year 7 class music than those who have not been involved in this way. Equally, Year 6 pupils can have a great sense of anticipation and expectation, after working through the Primary School to the pinnacle of a shared event which allows them to show what they can do.
Equally important, however, from the pupils’ point of view, is the sense of a shared experience, and of continuity in their musical development. Music does not stop at the end of Primary school, and start again as something different in Secondary School. Instead, it carries on in the same way, with a shared sense of community and history when events are repeated over several years.
Developing an ethos
The change to Secondary schooling is a significant step for pupils, and for the schools it can sometimes be difficult to engender a sense of the new, cohesive identity. Cross-phase musical developments can help – both for the subject itself, and for the school as a whole.
For the subject, an awareness through collaborative events that music is a continuum – a consistent thread - allows Primary school pupils to enter Secondary school without negative attitudes. This alone can have a significant impact on the standards achieved in the musical classroom at the beginning of Year 7.
For the school, joint musical experiences can be crucial in establishing a sense of common community in the early part of Year 7. One only has to see the results of successful whole-year ‘productions’ to see the positive impact on the Year group as a whole. Social engineering is not the purpose of music – but it can be a very positive by-product!
Existing national and local resources
Nearly all of these focus on the curriculum aspects of liaison. Those found to be most useful are:
1. Building Bridges (QCA; 1998)
- the need to focus on the standards of pupils’ work
- how to use assessment data to guide developments
- the importance of ensuring planning for continuity and progression
- the importance of joint monitoring of pupils’ work
2. The National Curriculum Orders (2000)
The Teacher’s Guides highlight:
- The importance of planning for progression
- The need to plan a broadly consistent range of content
- The significance of building on pupils’ earlier experiences
The Schemes of Work provide specifically-designed ‘Bridging Units’, for use at the end of Year 6 and the beginning of Year 7.
The Levels provide indications of expectation, both for Primary schools to aspire to, and for Secondary schools to build upon.
3. Across The Sound Barrier (Hampshire Music Service, 1999)
This provides materials for:
- units of work to be taught in the summer term of Year 6, and the autumn term of Year 7
- photocopiable materials and song books
- tape recordings of the materials to assist in the teaching of the units
- advice on assessment systems
- transfer of information sheets, for use by Junior and Secondary schools, and the pupils themselves
- Important considerations
Starting the process
Music teachers need to realise that their schools will already have developed significant systems to enable the smooth transfer of pupils from Year 6 to Year 7. They should not feel as though they are starting something new, therefore, but are building upon existing frameworks and systems. At the same time, it can be acknowledged that many of the current liaison initiatives are designed to support pupils’ welfare and the so-called ‘core’ subjects.
Music teachers therefore need to do two things:
- use the systems and support mechanisms already in place
- work slowly – not everything can be done at once!
The most important issue, for both Primary and Secondary music teachers in the early stages of developing more systematic and formal liaison procedures, is to build a sense of common purpose and trust. Both parties need to know and understand what is being put in place, and for what reasons. At the heart of this will be pupil progress and musical standards, but this need not necessarily start in the curriculum. Joint extended curriculum activities can be equally successful at developing common ground, and improving standards – much will depend on local interest and expertise. Local areas will need to decide for themselves what is the most appropriate way to start – and while many have started successfully with core curriculum developments, many have also started effectively with extra-curricular projects.
As time goes on, the strongest aspect of cross-phase liaison must inevitably be curriculum development, since this is a requirement for all pupils. Extended curriculum activities can provide significant support to a flourishing sense of community and continuity, but by its very nature may not necessarily reach all pupils. Even if a sense of musical partnership is developed outside the classroom, therefore, one eye should always be kept on the main goal of curriculum liaison.
Critical support mechanisms
The Curriculum Development Initiative has found consistently that a pre-cursor to successful developments which involve Secondary teachers is the support of Senior Managers. These include the Head, any Deputy Heads with a clear KS2 / KS3 liaison role, and link Governors. These people must be aware of the principles, the plans and the specific benefits which can accrue from developing effective musical liaison. It is interesting to note that different SMT roles see different potential benefits. Apart from the obvious benefits to learning, some also see the benefits to the public profile of school, and the consequent impact on pupil recruitment.
Once support is gained, positive responses to specific strategies are much more likely. For instance, it is particularly helpful to request, early in the calendar year, one afternoon each week ‘off timetable’. This is not in addition to a standard allocation of free periods, but it allows sufficient time for visits to be made to local Primary schools, to arrange concert ‘tours’ around Primary schools, and to enable Primary classes to visit the Secondary school. None of these are, realistically, possible with single periods, but can be achieved in a double period – especially if there is potential to run the event on after school. In other words, such ideas could only normally work with special arrangements and supply cover being arranged. With non-timetabled afternoons available, they all become possible with a (relatively) small impact on the Secondary school – administratively and financially.
It is equally important to gain the support of the Year 7 coordinator, or the KS2 / KS3 liaison coordinator. This enables the musical liaison to be located within the complete programme of KS2 / KS3 liaison in the area, and saves wasteful duplication of information and time.
- The liaison strategies
The liaison strategies - an introduction
The various strategies used have been divided into different areas for ease of reference, but they are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, some strategies clearly fall across several boundaries – Cluster groups, for instance, organise professional development sessions focusing on the curriculum, playing days which support extended curriculum activity, and projects which develop a sense of shared identity and a common ethos. Nevertheless, the following categories seem helpful:
- Secondary Teachers in the Primary Classroom
- Primary classes in the Secondary school
- Induction programmes
- Area Professional Development projects
- Across the Sound Barrier
- Building on earlier work in the first term of Year 7:
- General approaches
- Using learning from Across the Sound Barrier
Extended Curriculum Activities
- GCSE groups visiting the Primary School
- Primary Concerts in the Secondary School
- Area Playing Days
- Area Festivals
- Instrumental lessons
The singing Year 7 – a case study
Organisation and support groups: the structural and administrative mechanisms
- Focus Groups and Area Panels
- Pyramid and Cluster groups
- Information exchange and Pupil questionnaires
- Curriculum development strategies
Secondary teachers in the primary classroom
Two different approaches can be taken here. Both, it must be stressed, depend upon one of the key strategies explained in the ‘Critical Support Mechanisms’ section: providing the secondary teacher with an afternoon of non-contact time, so that visits to local schools can be made.
In the first approach, the secondary teacher visits the Primary school when the timetable allows it, and is used as an expert supporter of the primary teacher. After agreeing roles and learning outcomes, the secondary teacher can take off some pupils to work on specific aspects of a class project, while the primary teacher continues to work with the rest of the class. For instance, one teacher helped some pupils develop some tuned percussion work while the class teacher worked on dance with the rest of the class. The two groups were then able to come together having separately developed their skills to a higher level than would have been possible without the additional support. In this situation, the primary teacher is seen to have the lead; but the secondary teacher is able to give expert support, both to the pupils, and to the primary teacher (if needed!) during the planning and post-lesson discussions.
Gradually, as the collaboration grows, the secondary teacher can be used in a greater variety of ways:
- leading whole class warm-up sessions
- suggesting (and leading where appropriate) developments to modules of work where their own expertise complements or enhances that of the class teacher
- providing specific materials and resources which they can bring from the secondary school
It becomes, in effect, a genuine partnership of team teaching, with each teacher using his or her own strengths to balance the work of their partner teacher. Inevitably, with greater individual and group support, and with additional expertise, the pupils achieve higher standards.
The second way of working is for the secondary teacher to act in the role of an ‘Advanced Skills Teacher’. In this scenario, the Primary music coordinator and Secondary Head of Music agree to plan for specific aspects of support which may have been asked for by some primary class teachers. A programme of visits can then be arranged, starting with planning time together. The secondary teacher then takes the lessons, with the primary teacher present and joining in as appropriate, and as agreed in advance. An important aspect of this approach is the post-lesson discussion time, so that both teachers can learn from each other about the pupils, their progress, and the plans for the next lesson. It is also important to agree what can be undertaken by the class teacher before the next week’s joint session. A series of lessons (preferably lasting over a half term) provides the best model, since there can be a real sense of shared development over time. Alternatively, it is possible to plan for 1 week of shared teaching, and then 1 or 2 weeks when the secondary teacher works with other classes, before returning again the following week. It is critical in this situation that the ‘what needs to be done between joint sessions’ is agreed, and that, on the weeks without shared teaching, the class teacher has the opportunity to talk with the secondary teacher to discuss progress made and issues arising.
It is crucial in this developmental model that the lead is actually taken by the Primary school teachers: they should decide what support they are looking for, and plan it with their secondary colleague. The expert knowledge of the secondary teacher will only be valuable if it can be seen genuinely to address the needs and aspirations of the primary teacher. If it goes well, however, the benefits are great:
- the pupils benefit from expert teaching and should improve their work
- the primary teachers develop expertise which they can continue to use after the shared work is complete
- the secondary teacher gains real insight into the working methods of primary schools, and understands the standards which are achieved by the pupils before they arrive at secondary school
Primary classes in the secondary school
In this model, classes of pupils from the primary school visit the secondary school for lessons in the music department. The rationale behind this is very different from the ‘Secondary teacher in the Primary School’ model. Here, the expertise of the secondary teacher, and the additional resources available in the secondary school, are used to provide pupils with very particular experiences which they would otherwise be unable to gain. For instance, one school took its three Year 6 classes to the secondary school, one at a time, over a three-week period during the summer term. The classes were able to undertake some very specific work on keyboards exploring sounds and styles. This achieved three things:
- It built upon the work the pupils were already doing at that time on French music – and allowed the pupils to go back to their own school with new ideas and concepts to extend their existing work
- It enabled the pupils to acquire specific keyboard skills which would be useful when they moved to the secondary school
- It enabled the pupils to undertake a short concert, providing a strong sense of identity with the ethos of the secondary school
Many schools will already be familiar with this approach. During the summer term, pupils from Year 6 visit the secondary school they will be moving to in the autumn. A programme of ‘taster’ lessons is provided for them all, giving them a chance to get familiar with their surroundings, teachers and ways of working.
For music, this is an important opportunity to establish positive attitudes. Some schools manage to go beyond the simple ‘five or six taster lessons’, and work towards a performance at the end of the day. This very often involves singing, with each group learning the same songs, and then coming together at the end of the day to perform with the other classes – often in two and three parts. Other schools have gone for a mini ‘production’ – some classes perform on percussion and / or keyboards, others sing, others present music they have composed. Where it is linked together by a common theme (Music for Celebration on Midsummer’s day), it can produce a powerful performance. This approach:
- creates a positive attitude towards music. This is especially true of singing where it is a main feature – pupils are much happier singing in Year 7 as a result
- enables the secondary school to get an early ‘fix’ on the standards of the pupils coming the next term
- creates an early sense of ‘Year’ identity, so that the start of Year 7 begins with a positive sense of collaboration and shared purpose – especially if the materials are used again at the start of Year 7 (see ‘The Singing Year 7 – a case study’ for more on this.
Area Professional Development projects
Some pyramids of schools make a point of establishing and running joint primary – secondary ‘panels’, with teachers from primary and secondary teachers participating. Each term, a specific aspect of music is identified as an area requiring development, and all teachers work together under the leadership of one person (often, but not necessarily, the Secondary Head of Department). Topics can vary widely, but have included:
- development of a local KS1 to KS2 transfer project
- development of teacher support materials for specific aspects of the curriculum (e.g. definitions of the musical elements, and games to explore them with)
- shared projects – modules of work which all can then use
- writing new songs and arrangements for specific modules of work or concerts
- working towards shared concerts (one class of Year 6 from each school, for instance)
The sharing of ideas, and the requirement to produce materials (ie this should not just be a talking shop) helps all teachers to understand the range of work and the standards achieved for every year group. This common understanding is crucial to successful transition for pupils from one Year to the next – especially from Year 6 to Year 7.
There are two fundamental issues for the successful running of such groups:
- there must be support at SMT level from all the schools involved if the work is to be sustained over a period. See the ‘Pyramid Principles’ for an example of a strong set of agreements and requirements - these have been based upon the principles used by a Basingstoke Pyramid of schools
- the issues addressed by the groups must be relevant to the primary schools. This is self-evident in one sense, but it is essential if they are to work well
Across the Sound Barrier
These materials were specifically designed to support musical liaison and development between the Primary and Secondary sector: see ‘Previous Hampshire Music Service cross-phase project: Across the Sound Barrier’ for more information about what it includes.
The notion of materials specifically designed to address curriculum continuity across the two phases is not new, of course. It goes back to the fundamental issue of KS2 / KS3 liaison – the desire to improve pupils’ progress by developing materials for the start of Year 7 which will build upon experience, but which will also take pupils further, extending and improving their achievements. Schools which have used the materials, at both Primary and Secondary level, have additionally commented that:
- the materials are useful for Year 6 classes in their own right. They provide a good unit of work, and set appropriate expectations for teachers and pupils to work towards
- it is possible for the secondary teachers to identify quite quickly which pupils have experienced the primary unit of work, and which have not – both in simple terms such as which pupils know the songs, and in more complex ways such as which pupils showed more detailed understanding of the musical concepts, and expertise in particular skills. This shows how important it is to focus on curriculum development in liaison activities: when it goes well, the pupils’ work does improve!
- at the same time, there are some issues about using the materials in Year 7 where there is a great variety and number of schools which ‘feed’ the secondary school. In particular, the issue of what games and songs are known or not known by which pupils can create difficulties. However, it is possible to be creative about this: one school identified the learning from the Year 6 unit of work, and built it in to a first module for Year 7 pupils on Shanties – see Using learning from Across the Sound Barrier. Quite apart from the clear focus on learning this provides, it allows secondary schools to build upon previous experiences without having to change their preferred sequence of modules (ie some schools prefer to use Blues later in the Key Stage, or to build it into more general work on Jazz)
Building on earlier work in the first term of Year 7
One school took a very clear approach to the issue of finding out about the new pupils in Year 7. Rather than ‘taking back all the pupils to square one’, and starting all over again with basic rhythm work, the first part of Year 7 was devoted to an open-ended composing project. Pupils were given a structure and a title (‘Journeys’) but were largely left to determine the nature of the piece themselves. There were a number of reasons for doing this:
- to create an attitude amongst the pupils of ‘I can do; and I can, and am encouraged to experiment’, alongside a sense of trust from the teachers that previous experience, ideas and learning were valued
- to create a set of clear expectations for social skills, including leadership (these were built into the project from the word go – pupils being taught how to work together, rather than just being expected to cooperate)
- to encourage a creative approach to composing
- to start the development of an evaluative culture – pupils were required to evaluate first efforts in some detail, to make suggestions about what they could do to improve- and were then given the time to make the improvements
- to develop specific skills regarding to rhythm and ensemble work
In conjunction with other work undertaken in Year 7 (especially a major emphasis on singing), this was found to provide a firm basis for the ‘culture’ of the music department, allowing pupils to show what they could do without fear of failure, and allowing teachers to identify standards of groups and individuals very quickly.
Using learning from Across the Sound Barrier
Another school took a very different approach with the first module of Year 7. With the study of Blues music already planned into the curriculum later in the key stage, the first module was retained as an exploration of Sea Shanties. Like many of the successful ideas developed for KS2 – KS3 liaison, it focuses heavily on singing, allowing all pupils to participate without specific expectations of prior theory or instrumental skills.
However, in order to build upon the ‘Across the Sound Barrier’ materials, the Head of Department (Ian Muir at Richard Aldworth School) identified those aspects of learning which would have been covered by those pupils who had completed the Year 6 unit of work, and which could be developed further during the Year 7 Sea Shanties module. The outline planning for this is shown in the sheet ‘Sea Shanties Planning’, with all reference to the learning potentially covered in the Year 6 ‘A Minor Blues’ unit of work in bold and italics.
This approach has clear benefits:
- the learning is the key focus, rather than the activities. This ensures that continuity of learning is maintained
- it resolves some of the issues regarding which pupils in any Year 7 class have or have not covered the A Minor Blues: for those who have, the learning can be differentiated to account of their experience; for those who have not, the same learning can still apply, but with slightly different expectations
- it enables the Year 6 teachers to feel that their work has been valued and built upon, whether or not they have used the A Minor Blues unit of work – all their pupils will have the potential to benefit from the learning and activities planned for the start of Year 7
- Extended curriculum activities
GCSE groups visiting the primary school
This again is likely to be a familiar strategy: at various points during the year, GCSE classes are taken to their local Primary schools to play for the pupils. This can take a number of forms:
- a straight ‘concert’ for a whole Year group, though it is usual for the GCSE pupils to demonstrate and talk about their instruments and the ways they are used
- some schools then use the GCSE pupils as ‘artists in residence’, visiting individual classes and working alongside the class teacher. They can give more detailed demonstrations, use their instrumental expertise as part of a class performance, or simply work as a musical ‘expert’ – especially in compositional tasks. This kind of work clearly needs careful preparation, but quite apart from the obvious benefits it provides to the Primary pupils, it is surprising how much the GCSE pupils can learn. Having to articulate and explain to others about performing and / or composing can often clarify issues in their own learning
- some schools have also used such visits as a spring board to start development work which leads to the GCSE pupils writing and performing music for specific Primary events – the Infant Nativity, for instance. Again, this benefits the GCSE pupils as much as the Primary school, who have their own work lifted by the presence of new music performed by advanced instrumentalists. GCSE pupils who are able to identify purposes and expectations for their compositions and arrangements find that they are often able to be more creative and precise than when writing without such clear purpose
This kind of work clearly goes beyond standard KS2 to KS3 curriculum issues; but it provides a real strength to the sense of continuity and ‘whole pyramid’ ethos which can indirectly benefit the core curriculum work at the Year 6 to Year 7 stage.
Primary concerts in the secondary school
This is again a familiar strategy: pupils from a number of Primary schools work on the same materials, and then come together for a concert at the secondary schools.
It is important to use such occasions as a way of developing key learning objectives for the curriculum, as well as a way of developing a positive ethos towards music in the Secondary school environment. It is good if the Secondary Head of Music can be involved in the planning of the event – not just for the logistical details, but also in the choice of music to be performed. This is not to force Primary schools into using a particular set of materials, but as a way of being involved in the development of expectations regarding the range and difficulty of the music being used. This can then be built upon during Year 7, and sometimes built into curriculum planning.
A simple way of influencing this type of event is to encourage the possibility of including children’s compositions in the concert. This can be a free choice for the Primary schools, but can be particularly effective when there is a common theme or starting point. In this way, it is possible to focus on the work and the learning involved rather than potentially competitive aspect of which school can produce ‘the best’ – a natural instinct, but one which must be guarded against.
In some areas, it is the Head of Music who takes the final rehearsal and leads the actual performances. This is not a necessary function, although it does help to meet the Year 5 and Year 6 pupils before they arrive at the Secondary school: it helps to establish positive relationships. This can be extended even further by the Head of Music running rehearsals in the Primary schools in advance. However, the reasons for doing this must be clear to all parties: it may well be the case that there are good reasons for Primary colleagues doing this, particularly if they have specific expertise relevant to the musical activities being undertaken.
Area playing days
An extension of this idea is to involve all the schools in a wider cluster: 2 or 3 Secondary schools and all their Primary feeder schools. The focus here can be more instrumentally focussed, involving just those pupils who are having instrumental lessons. Strong coordination is needed, but it is possible to arrange music which can involve pupils with a wide range of playing skills into a cohesive unit to rehearse and perform together.
Some areas have gone further, and tackled music theatre productions. These are, clearly, major operations requiring significant commitment from all parties. Successful events, though, produce a strong sense of community and provide pupils with a set of experiences and learning which can transform their work in the classroom.
Many Secondary schools will already have in place systems for encouraging Year 6 pupils to continue with instrumental lessons when they transfer to Secondary School, or to encourage more pupils to start lessons in Year 7. Transfer forms with relevant information, use of induction evenings to promote new lessons, and demonstration sessions are well-known strategies.
One or two schools have also been able to go a stage further, and offer times when Year 6 pupils can have lessons on particular instruments at the Secondary school. This will only work where issues of distance and transport are not a problem, and are usually best for ‘minority’ instruments. Where only one pupil in a Primary school wants to have lessons on, for instance, trombone, it might be possible to fit them in to an existing brass group at the Secondary school. In this way, the Primary school is not responsible for trying to find a teacher willing to visit for one pupil for one lesson – at the Secondary school, larger numbers can make a visit viable.
- Special projects
The singing year 7 - a case study
One school in the Initiative embarks annually on a major singing project as a way of establishing a positive attitude towards music, and establishing singing as a regular feature of Year 7 music.
In the summer term, all the Year 6 pupils who will be transferring to the Secondary School spend an induction day at the school. The Head of Music sees all the classes of pupils during the day, and teaches them a range of songs and vocal material. At the end of the day, all the classes come together in the school’s hall, and perform the songs – in parts where required.
In the first week of Year 7, these songs are used again in the first music lessons the (now Year 7) pupils experience. In the second week of the term, the complete Year 7 is taken on a camping trip, partly to establish the ‘Year ethos’. A key feature of this trip is the Camp Fire – on one night, there is a major camp fire, and all the Year 7 pupils sing the songs leant at the Year 6 induction day, and any new materials taught in the first week of Year 7, or at the camp. Parents are invited to attend (most of them come), and there is a performance by all.
On return to school, with singing clearly established, work starts immediately on a Year 7 show, which is performed at the end of the term. All Year 7 pupils are involved in the show, either as actors, singers, or both. This means that many class music lessons are used to teach and develop the singing, supporting both curriculum aims and the needs of the show.
This project clearly sets out to develop both musical and social aspects of the transfer between Year 6 and Year 7, and manages successfully to reach high standards in both areas.
- Organisation and support groups
The structural and administrative mechanisms
Focus groups and area panels
In Hampshire, both Primary and Secondary schools have access to support groups: the Primaries can attend termly ‘Focus Groups’, and the Secondaries can attend what are variously termed Curriculum Development Groups, Consortiums etc.
The Primary Focus Groups are run by Hampshire Music Service, and provide opportunities to share and discuss significant issues of the moment. They have recently focused on planning for the new National Curriculum Orders, and are currently looking at expectations at Key Stages 1 and 2.
The Secondary groups are run by the schools themselves, and set slightly different agendas. They are supported by Inspectors from Hampshire Music Service, and are increasingly addressing curriculum issues.
The potential clearly exists for closer cooperation between these groups, and the increasingly strong focus on curriculum agendas means that the essential aspects of cross phase liaison can be considered. In addition, Secondary schools have been offered the opportunity to attend local Focus Groups, and the additional sessions which have trained Year 6 teachers in the use of the ‘Across the Sound Barrier’ materials.
Pyramid and cluster groups
These are also referred to under ‘Area Professional Development projects’ and ‘Extended Curriculum activities - Area Playing Days’. They can be a powerful force for positive liaison between schools in local areas, and often arrange exciting and developmentally significant events for pupils. They can successfully:
- arrange Area Playing Days
- arrange Area INSET on particular aspects of music education
- set up large-scale ‘projects’
- develop teacher support materials
The most significant aspect is the size of these groups: rather than relying on two or three schools to undertake development work, they can spread the load of work across a large number of schools. This also means that there is greater potential for consistency of provision across the area, and the development of teacher expertise is broader and more effective.
Information exchange and pupil questionnaires
Although all schools will have systems for transferring information about pupils’ attainment and progress from the their Primary School to their Secondary School, it is invariably the case that the amount of musical information included is either of limited value or rarely reaches the right person in the most useful way. This is not a criticism of the systems, but an acceptance of the fact that essential personal information about Year 6 pupils, and their progress in core subjects, will always have the highest priority.
It is possible for Secondary Heads of Music to acquire relevant information, however, and the ‘Across the Sound Barrier’ materials provide two methods of doing so:
- A transfer of information form is completed by each Year 6 teacher, and passed directly to the Head of Music at the Secondary School. This form includes very basic information about pupils’ progress in curriculum music, and information about their instrumental and vocal skills, and their participation in extended curriculum activities.
- A questionnaire for use in the early part of Year 7, which pupils complete themselves. This was originally devised by a local ‘Area Pyramid Group’, and has been found to be a successful way of finding out useful and significant information about pupils’ interests and potential
Both methods need to be set up carefully and with due regard to the amount of work involved. Critically, if they are to be employed, the information must be read and acted upon – there is no point in producing the paperwork if it cannot directly impact on and improve what actually happens, musically, in the Secondary school.
There is no doubt that there is vast experience in a wide range of systems and material which all contributes to establishing successful musical liaison between Key Stages 2 and 3. No-one could hope to use everything, so the trick for Secondary schools is to decide what will be most effective in their own location. This will require research into existing practices, coordination with significant people already involved in the process, and a willingness to be flexible.
Above all, there must be a clear rationale for any specific work undertaken: what will this address, and how will it improve the musical attainment of pupils as they move into their Secondary education?
What happens next
To take this Curriculum Development Initiative forward, Hampshire Music Service will be undertaking the following:
- a further meeting of the group of schools initially involved will take place in the summer term 2001, to review any further developments which have been put in place
- a series of meetings for Year 6 teachers will take place during the Spring term, allowing more teachers to be trained in the use of the ‘Across the Sound Barrier’ materials
- the next Curriculum Development Initiative will look at the development of expectations for KS3 music, building upon the existing KS2 ‘Skills Development Overview’. This will be critical in establishing a clear line of musical progression for all pupils’ compulsory music education
- Hampshire Music Service will continue to support Focus Groups, Curriculum Development Groups, and local areas by providing advisory time and organisational and musical expertise in the provision of area playing days and festivals