Guest Blog: Musical Futures at Monksdown Primary School, Liverpool

25th September 2019

Alan Wilson from Monksdown Primary School in Liverpool recently became a Musical Futures Champion Teacher after attending Musical Futures Just Play professional development training in 2018 and then implementing the approaches and using the resources as part of his classroom music delivery to Years 1 -6.

In this blog he explains the role of music as a central part of the school ethos:

The Role of Music in Our School

“We believe that the arts help develop our young learners into strong, resilient and understanding members of our school community and should be used throughout the whole curriculum. The children constantly ask when their next music lesson is, from year 1 all the way up to year 6. and they learn a fundamental lesson in music – that if we all work together, regardless of our ability, we can produce something amazing!”

The Wider Impact of Musical Futures at Monksdown Primary

“Using Musical Futures approaches has made a big difference to our children’s confidence. Many children now ask to take on musical responsibilities in my lessons, such as keeping the beat on the drum kit or singing on a microphone. These are children who wouldn’t say a word in a more formal lesson setting. I always say yes, and quite often, those children then go on to flourish in other areas of the curriculum, such as developing stronger confidence in their own writing and mathematics and a capacity to receive and adjust to ‘even better if’s’.”

Musical Futures at Our School

“Our lessons are actually very structured, and whilst many teachers might fear the idea of using a class set of ukuleles, as well as randomly swapping children onto glockenspiels, keyboards, drum kit and percussion, at Monksdown, this is the kind of differentiation and variation that makes the children love the subject so much. We may well spend a lesson or two all learning on the same instrument, but we often add in other instruments for differentiation and work on building children’s capability to play in an ensemble alongside different instruments that require completely different skills and techniques.

We always start off with a walk-in task if it’s possible, depending on the year group. This may be a vocal warm up, a ‘just dance’ or coming in with instruments and playing along to a previously learned piece of music. We then briefly talk about our previous lessons and before moving straight on to making music. Our lessons nearly always end with a performance of what we have achieved so far.”

Before we started using Musical Futures approaches and resources, children mainly sang songs and played hand percussion. The children still enjoyed the lessons, but I was acutely aware that they were capable of far more. I felt we were letting the children down as instrument technique was not being taught widely enough, and when it was, those who did learn it soon forgot due to the length of time before they picked up the instrument again.

I only need to give one example to show how things have changed since we began implementing Musical Futures at our school. In year 5 last December (after starting guitar), we had a spare lesson at the end of term. We picked up ukuleles, keyboards, microphones and glockenspiels, and played through no less than three previous songs from the last two years, as well as two they had never seen before that used the same chords. That day reminded me how amazing our children are at adapting to musical performance, and how effective Musical Futures approaches are in the classroom.”

Alan’s top tips for Primary teachers considering trying a Musical Futures approach:

  1. Don’t fear mistakes, embrace them! Teaching using a Musical Futures approach requires good resource management and flexibility, and every mistake you make only makes you a stronger teacher in future lessons.
  2. Remember that more able children can move on to more complex tasks, such as arpeggiation, whilst others can use the basic chords until they feel confident enough to move on. In fact, this differentiation only adds to the quality of a final performance and their ability to play alongside different parts.
  3. Get financial support from your headteacher. Although this can be difficult in the current financial climate, just a few hundred pounds can buy a class set of ukuleles, guitars, glockenspiels and a few keyboards. This really is a drop in the ocean of a school budget, and I would implore any headteacher to take a chance on one of these class sets and see the difference it makes!

Interested in Musical Futures training?

See our comprehensive training offer for teachers of ages 8-16 or for more information: 

Excellent workshops ‑ extremely accessible for all abilities and levels."

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra