School: Norristhorpe Junior and Infant School
Position at your school: KS2 Teacher (and Sing Up Awards Champion)
What singing currently happens in your school?
Singing is a key part of our school life. As well as singing together in assemblies and in regular practices, our children enjoy sharing songs with each other, staff and parents to mark significant moments in the year. We now have two non-audition choirs, with children singing a variety of pieces to different audiences. Recently, we were very privileged to join with Musica Kirklees for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
What do you think singing brings to school life?
For many children at Norristhorpe, singing brings a great joy and happiness to the day. Singing allows all our children to achieve in an extra way – to shine, feel confident and be proud of themselves. All our children play a part in our singing activities, which improves our community ethos; our school motto is 'Norristhorpe Together' and our singing in particular expresses that.
How do you encourage other staff to get involved in singing and music?
Working towards a Sing Up Award gave us an opportunity to ‘relaunch’ singing in our school. In staff meetings, we shared tips and planned opportunities to use singing across the curriculum. Staff were fully invested in the Awards scheme, with teachers joining pupils and governors in signing our pledge certificate. Staff also have opportunities to sing together, either in our staff choir or performances to the children at key celebrations. The time we have invested in staff through the Award scheme is really starting to pay dividends with their enjoyment, confidence and use of singing in school.
What inspired you to go on the journey to achieve a Sing Up Award? What have you learned along the way?
Initially we wanted to celebrate and recognise the achievements we were making and to raise the profile of singing to parents, staff and our pupils. We learnt the importance of having a whole school approach to singing, involving the whole community. The Awards journey was a fantastic opportunity for us all to increase our understanding of how to develop vocal technique (including using the Inside the Voice resources) and seeing in action the tangible benefits of singing. Above all, the Awards process has helped all staff see themselves as becoming singing leaders.
How do you feel the pupils benefit from singing and music at your school?
Singing and music gives our pupils another way to express themselves and provides them with a gateway to other areas of the curriculum. They develop friendships in singing groups and music activities, including with children they wouldn’t usually have contact with. Performing has given our children new experiences and opportunities and has started to enthuse them, I hope, with a long term desire to develop and showcase their musical talents.
Have you seen singing help with other areas of the curriculum?
Absolutely! Singing has made an enormous impact in improving children’s recall of key information through topic and core curriculum songs, especially understanding some of the tricky terminology in SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) and the quick recall of number facts in Mathematics. Singing has had a particularly positive impact in our Life Skills groups, supporting SEN children to understand the world around them and feel confident through singing.
What are your Top 5 Sing Up songs and why?
Nouns is a fantastic song for entrenching a core SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) skill in a highly accessible way. The children love singing it so are happy to use it to help them remember the different noun types when they are stuck! Once they had learned the structure, they can write their own rap verses for other words to sing along to the backing track. It’s fantastic for adding colour to what can be a bland topic.
Count on Me
Count on Me is our treat song – it’s great for an end of the day get together and was by far the most requested song by my class. The upbeat nature and un-swaying positive message makes it fantastic for showcasing the real social benefits of singing together. We’ve just started using the tips Shelly Ambury demonstrates in the accompanying video to include the harmony part – with fantastic results.
I’ve found Juba great for encouraging young singers, boys in particular, into singing with others– it has a real groovy feel. Juba is also ideal for experimenting with using dynamics and phasing.
Ain’t no Mountain High Enough
Another wonderfully positive song which has been a key part of our choir’s repertoire. This song has special meaning to our school after we performed this at a community cohesion event.
This song was my first introduction to Sing Up at the start of my career – you can just about see me on the front row of the Writing Songs and Raps Webinar led by Beccy Owen! The song is easily adapted for many contexts – I’ve used it all over the curriculum to write songs with children, including Geography, Literacy and Online Safety – and it is immensely fun!
What are your aspirations for singing and music in your school?
The progress we have achieved through Sing Up Silver Award has really enthused us to go for the Gold Award! I’m keen to develop the leadership and independence opportunities singing offers and we are encouraging pupil ‘singing leaders’ to lead warm ups and singing activities throughout the school day, inside and outside the classroom. We also want to use singing to strengthen our community partnerships, linking with a variety of local groups – our children enjoyed performing for and with older people and I am keen to explore these intergenerational links. I also want to build on the enthusiasm our children now have for singing to increase their technical awareness. I’ll be overjoyed if every child and teacher is proud to call themselves a singer!
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