Ex Cathedra Education's 'Singing Playgrounds' project is designed to revitalise singing during recreation time at school.
Singing Playgrounds was developed in 2003 with Project Director, Rebecca Ledgard, and Project Leader,
Ula Weber, at its helm, and has now been implemented in many schools in the West Midlands and even in New Zealand. This year, schools in Tower Hamlets, Birmingham, Derby and Coventry will be taking part through funding from Sing Up.
The project's approach is innovative in that it treats singing as an inclusive activity, making singing part of children's everyday lives and an intergral part of school life. In the belief that any singing culture must be inclusive, Singing Playgrounds starts off with children's own song language and focuses on developing a self-sustaining culture of playground singing. A group of children are trained to be 'Song Leaders', who, through set leadership tasks, are encouraged to create, develop, lead and evaluate activities as well as stimulate the sharing of singing cultures. They are seen as role models and are chosen for their enthusiasm, not necessarily their singing skills.
The project is designed for primary schools, with schools working in clusters, and consists of school assemblies, class visits for all children, playground sessions, INSET and after-school sessions for parents, carers and children. The project involves all pupils and activities focus on vocal skills development, musicianship, repertoire building and sharing and PSHE development.
The Deputy Head at Earlsdon Primary School, Coventry, was particularly impressed by the project's results: "There has been a lot of happy singing in school - a lot in the playground, but also in the classrooms, and even on school trips!"
The programme is a combination of delivery from Ex Cathedra Vocal Tutors and INSET for School Project Coordinators, LSAs, and Dinner Supervisors, to equip them with skills to sustain the project during and after the one-year programme. Parents can also get involved.
And that's not all!
Complementing Singing Playgrounds are three more strands of work being funded through Sing Up, Strand 2, Singing Medicine, is a hospital programme for children with life-limiting conditions.
Using the philosophy and repertoire of the core Singing Playgrounds project, Singing Medicine aims to use singing games and songs from around the world to brighten the lives of children with life-limiting conditions on Birmingham Children's Hosipital intensive care, oncology, neurology, haemodialysis, and cardiac wards among others. This award-winning, innovative project of excellences makes a tremendous difference to children, young people and their families. It began as a 12-month partnership programme between Youth Music and the Arts programme of Birmingham Children's Hospital in November 2004, and immediately made a huge impact.
After winning the regional award in the Children's Category of the NHS Health and Social Care Awards, the project was presented at the NHS Live, BEST and ABO conferences. It was also an example of best practice on the Creative Remedies website.
Singing games and songs from around the world give children of all ages and abilities enjoyment and act as a distraction from being in hospital. They also stimulate, engage the family and aid PSHE (personal, social, health, education) development, and movement. Children's vocal and musicianship skills are enhanced too.
As the mother of a 10-year old dialysis patent commented: "She sings to the boy in the next bed when you're not here." The vocal tutor team is well supported at the hospital by a nursing advisor who provides training on issues like infection control and emotional support.
Strand 3 is an integration project to support newly arrived Polish children. Over the years, Singing Playgrounds has developed a repertoire of Polish songs through the expertise of one of the vocal tutors, and Polish children have blossomed in their integration in school as a result.
By using Polish and English singing games, Polish pupils are encouraged to make friends. The activity also builds confidence and develops language skills.
Strand 4 deals with the professional development of current and future singing leaders. As well as helping existing and new practitioners, teachers, trainee teachers, music students, community musicians and hospital staff also benefit. Training sessions are based on the work of Singing Playground.
Words: Rebecca Ledgard, Education Coordinator, Ex Cathedra