Vicki Utting, Music Co-ordinator from Lexden Spring School tell how music is so important in her school.

Music plays such an important role during a week in my class of 4 to 7-year-olds with a wide variety of complex SEN and medical diagnoses. Lexden Springs is a large school that caters for pupils aged 3 to 19, all of whom have a diagnosis of a severe learning disability. We work with a non-subject specific curriculum, and each individual pupil has their own set of targets around which our lessons are structured. This approach gives me a wonderful opportunity to work in a highly cross curricular and creative way and ensure that music and the creative arts are woven into activities throughout the day.

For our more structured music sessions, I use Charanga, the online teaching tool provided though Essex Music Services. This is a primary focused resource, but there has recently been a brilliant SEND section developed which is where I mainly draw my activities from.

My pupils love our whole class Charanga sessions. They feel confident with the familiar structure that the sessions take, a greeting song, some type of physical warm up song, and then an activity, for example, choosing an instrument or playing to an instruction such as ‘start and stop’ or ‘loud and quiet’. I find that in a 30-minute session, we are able to focus on a wide spectrum of their individual targets, for example, making and maintaining eye contact, developing fine and gross motor skills, making a choice, expressing an emotion, turn taking and developing individual responses such as vocalisations and facial expressions.

Throughout the week my class also make frequent use of our resonance boards which came to the school through Essex Music Services, which I use in a variety of ways to develop my pupil’s early communication skills. Resonance boards are a brilliant tool and are particularly engaging for pupils with multisensory impairments. I often use my cello on the board to create an extra level of sound and resonance. This approach proved a great way of engaging a pupil with a severe visual and hearing impairment, as she was able to experience to the variety of vibrations created as she was lay on the board, responding to the activity with vocalisations, which was a newly developing skill for her. Laying on the board also gave her an element of physical freedom, which was hard to create when seated in her wheelchair, again, encouraging developing movements linked with her individual targets.

Alongside these more structured sessions, we also use music in a number of different ways. It is used as a sound reference to cue in one pupil with a severe visual impartment and autism. She has a piece of music to represent every day of the week (which will remain the same as she progresses up through the school). She has a music cue for snack and lunch time, and a finishing song to warn her that a favourite activity is ending. This creates a more predicable structure to her day, and lessens anxiety around transitions, enabling her to access other class activities.

Vicki Utting

Sunshine class teacher and music coordinator

Lexden SpringSchool