Trauma-informed creative music nurture groups, teacher reflection groups & funding inclusion. National Music Services Working Group on Inclusion, Mar ‘22

23 people smiling, on a Zoom screen

In the latest gathering of music services who are pioneering approaches to embedding inclusion in their organisations, we heard from three of the 17 music services who’ve developed successful trauma-informed creative music nurture groups in primary schools. We also discussed how to continue the instrumental/vocal teacher reflection groups that were an important part of this programme, and how to find funding to roll out the model.

“It has transformed how our instrumental/vocal teachers develop their practice and our wider approach to training. It’s more of a partnership model with our staff.”

What is a nurture group?

A weekly 30-minute creative music-making programme with young people in primary schools who are identified by the primary school SENCO as at risk of social or school exclusion. The focus is on personal and social outcomes as well as musical ones.

Find out more about nurture groups and the programme of action research  

See our Nurture Group resources

Why nurture groups?

  • They can be delivered by music service instrumental/vocal tutors (supported by trauma training and critical reflection peer groups)
  • They can link to and build capacity for First Access / WCET, easing logistical challenges of inviting tutors to take on small pieces of work
  • They are practical way to link the music service to local authority and school wellbeing and inclusion
  • Schools understand the language – ‘nurture’ and ‘trauma-informed’
  • Previous research by Changing Tracks has suggested that regular training/reflection linked to delivery of activity is more effective than one-off training and/or training delivered by an external provider

What did we do?

  • Funded 15 Music services, £1500 each, to deliver a programme with one instrumental/ vocal teacher in one primary school 
  • 20 weeks of 30-minute nurture group sessions in one school
  • Half day ‘trauma-informed’ training from Darren Abrahams 
  • Monthly online tutor critical reflection groups (Tuesdays and Saturdays) – instrumental/ vocal teachers sharing activity ideas, discussing, and reflecting on what worked, what didn’t work, challenges, learning and outcomes, learning about reflective practice. A wide range of teachers is key, in order to learn different approaches, diversify their practice.
  • Case study and report writing by instrumental/vocal teachers

How important were the critical reflection groups?

  • Central to the success of the programme, and the development of instrumental/vocal tutors in being able to adapt their practice to a wide range of pupils
  • Instrumental/vocal teachers said it had improved their teaching, many wanted to continue the ‘community of practice’ through the groups, some wanted to focus on inclusion work now

Who were the three music services reporting on their nurture group action research?

  • Calderdale – A small music service and charity, 17 instrumental/vocal teachers, working in 33 of the 88 schools in the area.
  • Waltham Forest – A medium, local authority music service, 50 instrumental/vocal teachers, working in around half of the 70 schools in the area.
  • Essex Music Service – A large, local authority music service, 250 instrumental/vocal teachers, actively working in half of the 600 schools in the area.
  • Soundstorm (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole), Merton and Cornwall music services/hubs also shared their learning in the plenary.

How did they choose their tutor?

  • According to tutor availability plus looked for someone who is reflective, compassionate, and interested in this area of work.
  • Promoted the opportunity in staff bulletin, chose one who had experience of inclusion work
  • Looked at people who had a songwriting/tech skillset initially, then narrowed down

How did they choose their school?

  • Identified a school we weren’t already working with, that in our large county, was further out and often missed out of opportunities
  • Offered the opportunity at a primary network meeting and asked for an Expression of Interest, tried to choose the most deserving
  • Targeted those with high numbers of looked-after children, with help of Virtual School

What can we learn from the challenges discussed?

  • Be aware of the need to support Instrumental/vocal tutor’s well-being and reflection locally
  • Ownership from schools is critical, invest time in discussing expectations and needs (for pupils, class teacher/TA, school SLT, instrumental/vocal teacher), at the start. Follow with regular communication throughout
  • Discuss the level of prior information about individual pupil needs/challenges at the start.
  • Carefully consider the group dynamic
  • Start thinking about what workforce you need for more inclusive work now – from recruitment, to induction, to developing existing staff.

What were some of the outcomes?

“It has transformed how our instrumental/vocal teachers develop their practice and our wider approach to training. It’s more of a partnership model with our staff.”

PUPILS: SENCOs report that pupils with anxiety who’ve had other interventions but haven’t been able to release/express their feelings, have become able to do so. Children who weren’t sociable in the playground are now able to play, bond and connect with other children. A child with attachment issues who was tearful leaving their Mum in the morning now happily comes into school without tears on music group day.

MUSIC SERVICES: “It’s had a profound legacy for the service as a whole.” “This model has coalesced our work into something schools and LA colleagues can engage with.” “We’re being approached by academy trusts in our area to introduce nurture groups into their schools”

Changing Tracks will publish a review of the national creative musical nurture group project in summer 2022.

Reporting back on the Task and Finish Group on embedding inclusion in Quality Assurance cycles

The Changing Tracks team then reported on the recent Task & Finish (T&F) Group (the topic was of Quality was also discussed in the previous National Working Group). The T&F group had taken this forward by exploring how inclusion can inform the process of staff Induction, and how this links into many areas of Quality Assurance. As a result, Changing Tracks has developed a draft inclusion day schedule, which will be published soon.

Taking inclusion forward: critical reflection for instrumental/vocal teachers, and funding

Next, in breakout rooms, attendees discussed the actions they could take forward in answer to the following two questions:

How can music services support existing and new instrumental/vocal teachers develop their own ongoing critical reflection groups?

  • Set up instrumental/vocal tutor ‘surgeries’ where tutors can discuss what they want from the service, reflect on their own practice, and talk about the issues they face and how to overcome them in a non-judgmental space
  • Set up critical reflection groups similar to those used in the nurture group model, as part of other inclusion delivery work. Open them up to freelancers  
  • Invite people to observe the reflection groups first, or watch a recording  
  • Support new team members’ non-contact/non-school time at least for the first year as part of induction, for them to attend regular reflection groups or have mentoring sessions.
  • INSET days could be broken up into shorter reflection sessions
  • Set up whole service CPD about mentoring/coaching practice
  • Work with hub delivery partners to unlock further capacity and signpost the support/training available through you
  • Develop a culture of reflection throughout the organisation
  • Ask instrumental/vocal teachers to lead or completely run/develop elements of training and development, including their critical reflection groups

How can music services find funding or generate income for inclusive teaching practice and projects?

  • Hire a fundraiser or train a member of staff in fundraising or access fundraising support/databases (eg Grant Finder) via eg wider cultural partnerships
  • Sign up to funding newsletters and read them regularly and identify funds to apply for – be mindful of the non-musical criteria
  • Invest time researching and developing relationships with local authority commissioners and multi-agency teams (see our blogs about this) eg Virtual School, inclusion teams, health and wellbeing teams. Build a genuine understanding of need and who they work with, how you can help.
  • Do lots of good advocacy – videos, anecdotes, data, case studies, and being smart about selling the benefits of your work around their needs/interests

For more information, case studies and resources: watch out for our report on the learning from the nurture groups, and opportunities to bid for funding for the next cycle of the project coming out in late summer term. Sign up to our enews to get a copy straight to your inbox and be sure you won’t miss it and other inclusion resources for music services.

Thanks to all those who attended: Bridget Whyte, Music Mark; Michael Davidson, Changing Tracks/Hertfordshire; Nick Denham, Changing Tracks/Hertfordshire; Anita Holford, Changing Tracks; Ben Stevens, Hertfordshire; David Austin, Waltham Forest; Mary Mycroft, Waltham Forest; Simon Steptoe, NMPAT; Gareth Churcher, Cornwall; Steve Hawker, Cornwall; Julie Dorr, North Tyneside; Tim Rogers, Lancashire; Laura Durrans, Calderdale; Matt Brombley, Southampton; Jo Farley, SoundStorm; Jack Johnson, Cambridgeshire; Clair McColl, Dorset; Cath Sewell, Lancashire; Tim Brain, Norfolk; Sarah-Lee Surrey Arts; James Dickinson, Hull; Hannah Conacher, Essex; Ruth Morgan, Portsmouth

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