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Sing when you’re teaching

December 7, 2021, 19:35 GMT+1
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  • Music training at ITT level has never been more important. Janet Limberg explains why
Sing when you’re teaching

Initial Teacher Training (ITT) is the first step on the journey to becoming a teacher. It’s when the foundations of good teaching and learning can be set, and habits established that underpin a teacher’s classroom practice through the rest of their career.

Over my six years as ITT lead at Somerset SCITT, a school-based teacher training programme within the Somerset local authority, I’ve seen the impact a firmly embedded music culture can have in schools, and the importance of inspiring our teachers to in turn inspire their pupils through music.

Recently, I’ve been able to take this further and fully integrate music across our SCITT programme, thanks to an Out of the Ark Music initiative. Music often feels like a challenge to many class teachers, another subject to understand in an already busy schedule; however, I know it to be a tool that can help trainees teach the whole curriculum and improve children’s mental health, love of learning and social skills. 

A tool for teaching

In 2017, Out of the Ark approached Professor Susan Hallam MBE to collaborate on a research project that identified the benefits of integrating music and singing in the classroom and across the curriculum.

From 300 primary school teachers and 9,000 students surveyed, the report found an increase in student confidence, self-esteem, cooperation with other children and improvement of mood.

NQT’s are facing huge pressures as we recover from Covid, so it’s vital to support them to be more confident singing songs in class because it’s not just a fun activity, but also a key to reigniting the joy of learning in children and boosting their development. 

Research shows that music and singing are tools that can really help develop germane load and improve children’s memory for information. For example, using a song in history to remember dates, or in numeracy to help remember number bonds, can be a powerful tool for a teacher.

Singing cuts through distraction and highlights the important details; when learning is fun, children engage, and if they engage, they’ll remember. Professor Hallam’s report found an 11.3% increase in maths performance and a 10% increase in phonics, listening and reading skills post implementation of the Out of the Ark project.

A lot of teachers still believe that using music is about singing in front of their classes and requires both a good voice and previous music knowledge. Consequently, many trainees currently experience little music in schools, and aren’t always able to observe it being used by class teachers, as it’s so often left to peripatetic teachers to cover PPA time.

Our trainees get the chance to observe a lesson being delivered with music, see music used in action, and then work themselves, trying out ideas from the training session. We hope the work we’re doing on this programme will give them the confidence to harness the incredible power of music as a tool in their classrooms.

A rich curriculum

Ofsted’s new implemented framework now encourages ITT providers and schools to go beyond the statutory minimum curriculum entitlement, having found that “only a minority of partnerships could demonstrate that they had incorporated trainees’ statutory minimum curriculum entitlement into their plans, and very few had gone beyond it”.

The training and resources offered by Out of the Ark help us both teach the national curriculum and meet the requirements for a rich curriculum offering stipulated by the new framework. 

Music and singing can both help in the recovery curriculum and support children’s social skills, emotional literacy and mental health. Our teacher trainees, our early career teachers and our class teachers will be responsible for bringing a love of learning back into the classroom.

It’s our job as trainers and faculties to let them know what resources are available to them and give them courage to see music as a cross-curricular tool that they can use to aid in core subject repair.

Janet Limberg, programme manager for SCITT.