Guest Blog: Transforming our music department with Just Play

10th March 2020

Kate Wheeler from North Liverpool Academy shares her story:

I have been teaching music for 14 years and I have tried and tested a variety of different domains and key concepts within the key stage three music curriculum. In 2017 I was appointed as Curriculum Leader for Music at North Liverpool Academy and I began to re-design the KS3 curriculum to suit the needs of our students. I was informed by our local music hub, Resonate, to try one of the Musical Futures approaches, so I went on the Just Play course with Martin in Manchester to see what it was all about. After attending the course, I felt inspired and I knew that these resources and the style of teaching would really suit our pupils.

The resources allow the pupils to study a variety of popular musical instruments and develop ensemble skills in a whole class setting. There are a variety of ways of teaching the resources but what the pupils love the most are how current and relevant the songs are and being able to work together to perform. They are able to build skills on each instrument and develop autonomy to be able to play as a small ensemble with little teacher guidance. Towards the end of the year eight scheme I found myself as more of a facilitator, guiding the students creatively whilst they blossomed with confidence.

A typical lesson involves pupils learning chords and rhythms from a popular song, then breaking off into small groups to practise and then finally coming together as a class so that groups can showcase their performances for feedback. Pupil engagement in extra curricular activities has grown significantly with the department being full every lunchtime with pupils wanting to engage in music making. There is a genuine love of music as pupils work together to create a performance.

When I started at NLA the year 11 cohort consisted of 4 students, we now have 34 in the current year 9! This reflects the impact that ‘Just Play’ has had on our students.  The Music Department has become one of the most thriving departments within the school and contributes performances to almost all of the school events. We recently hosted our first ever Arts Festival in which we worked collaboratively with Performing Arts and Art to celebrate careers in the creative industries. The event was a huge success with around 100 students performing.

We will continue to use ‘Just Play’ and we have recently updated some of our Play-along resources to keep the curriculum content current and engaging with plans to put on a ‘Just Play’ day in the summer term where the whole of year seven will perform songs together that they have been working on in class.

Thanks so much to Musical Futures for the training on the delivery of resources. We will continue to be an advocate for the organisation who are doing wonderful things for music education and the students in our local community.

Please click the links for more information on our Just Play training or resources

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

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra