Name: Susie Jones
School/Organisation: Self Employed Music Education Consultant, primarily working with North Tyneside Music Education Hub (NTMEH)
Can you tell us about your work with NTMEH?
I provide in-class support and CPD to every Primary School, to teach music and use resources such as Sing Up effectively.
What was your journey to become a Music Education Consultant?
I originally taught Music in the North East of England in a range of schools and was the MD for a Children's Theatre school. I was frustrated with the emphasis on academic attainment at the cost of creativity and my Secondary School's desire for a quality choir without supporting singing or music within the curriculum – especially when pupils had had limited music experiences in Primary School. I decided I was going to try to change how music education was being applied in my community.
I became self-employed and returned to my native North Tyneside in 2010 where I first started working freelance for NTMEH. I was asked by Percy Main Primary School to take over music teaching altogether, which I continue to do, and NTMEH have since commissioned me to provide in-class support and CPD for teachers in Primaries across the borough.
It's amazing to see how children, teachers, parents and the wider community respond to being able to access quality music services through NTMEH. I am loving being a part of that.
How has singing been integrated into the work that NTMEH does?
NTMEH use Sing Up as the basis of a good progressional singing curriculum which can lead to vocal work in a wide range of styles and now provides Sing Up as part of the service level agreement to Primary Schools ensuring that this quality and engagement continues. They have commissioned me to provide in-class support and CPD to ensure everyone knows how to use the singing strategy effectively. Through this, the standard of classroom singing and choirs has increased significantly. NTMEH plan to run large scale Sing Up events and have a big sing planned on Sing Up Day.
How important is singing in your work, and why?
Singing is my main focus. Wherever we travel we bring our voices. Teachers who are reluctant to use instruments have the opportunity to use their voices to make a difference to every child. Back in my Secondary School teacher days, having the choir and singing in class as my priority resulted in all pupils being able to participate in singing activities with a healthy mix of boys and girls.
At Percy Main Primary School the quality of singing throughout the school has developed significantly. Teachers are singing with their class – for topic, reference and even for FUN! The ethos of working together and understanding the importance of an individual's role within a singing group is a valuable lesson that can be translated into all aspects of life.
What impact have you seen singing have on the schools that you have worked with?
North Tyneside Schools are fortunate that many opportunities are provided via the Hub to support and engage young people to sing. My passion has always been to work in the schools where self esteem and enthusiasm may be lacking. When you introduce singing into that environment a little light switches on. The pupils (and staff) become emotionally involved, they learn to support and trust each other. Collectively they begin to hunger to improve and the defeatist attitude fades.
The vibe when I walk into school becomes one of excitement that ‘The Music lady’ is coming and the children know we are going to have fun and improve their sound. Even better when I’m not in the school and a teacher tweets to tell me they’ve just sang with their class.
How do you ensure that staff are engaged in singing in the schools you work with?
In the beginning I was the friendly face teachers avoided because they were consumed with working towards data and SATS. You have to be thick skinned and keep going into schools, engaging pupils and teaching staff. Highlight the how singing can benefit the whole curriculum and, most importantly, the child. Be ready to meet comments like “there’s no time for music” with positivity and a stack of answers to demonstrate how singing and the music curriculum can be part of day to day school life.
What advice can you give for engaging less confident singers?
Within each class I listen for my strongest singers – this could mean volume, accuracy of pitch or interpretation of words. I make this group “THE POWER HOUSE” and gather them in the middle of the room and have my less confident singers are around them, with any reluctant singers on the edges. The less confident singers are often mirroring whatever is near them so they in turn become more confdent and graduate in to ‘THE POWER HOUSE”, then my reluctant singers ‘want in’ on the action and begin to come out of their shells. I try to allow for solo or small group performances so I can get to know every child’s voice and they get used to being performers in a safe environment while the rest of the class learn to appraise each other supportively.
Do you have any advice for other music specialists working with music hubs and music services on how to get schools engaged with singing?
Collaboration between school staff, music hub and other music specialists is integral to raising the standards of singing. I believe that in-class support via demonstration lessons, as well as 1:1 CPD and staff meetings, have been integral to implementing the singing strategy in North Tyneside. Moving into whole school singing, collaboration concerts between schools lead to the wider community being aware of singing and the schools working closer together to engage pupils in singing, which in turn raises the standard and the profile of singing.
- We will rise
- One and a million
- Hey dumba
- Let love shine through
- True colors
You are quite active on Twitter. What tips can you give to teachers who want to join the online music education conversation?
Make social media a celebration of children’s achievement and look for exciting prospects that will further engage children and staff in music education, especially singing. The real excitement for me is after I’ve worked in a school to see them continue to tweet their progress and watch the passion for singing grow in children, then teachers, then whole schools and communities.
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