What the inspectors saw - Good practice by Ofsted

19th October 2012 at 01:00

Every teacher a singer: Churchfields Junior School

In brief

Churchfields Junior School encourages all its teachers to get involved in weekly singing sessions and bring music into their lessons.

The project

When Ofsted inspectors visited Churchfields Junior School in London last year, they were impressed by many aspects of its music teaching, particularly its weekly singing sessions led by advanced skills teacher Maggie Goble.

But they had one suggestion. Could the school find a way to get other teachers more involved?

In her weekly sessions, Goble (pictured right) uses the Kodaly system, an approach to music teaching developed in Hungary. This involves a special, simplified form of musical notation and accompanying hand signals.

"It works well with the children in developing their sense of pitch and accurate placing of notes and their awareness of the intervals," Goble says. "When I'm at the front doing the signs, it focuses everybody's eyes on me. There's no way anybody can not be focusing - if anyone's not doing the signs, you can immediately see exactly who you've got."

Sometimes she asks the pupils to sign the songs without singing. "They continue to sing in their head and that is internalising, fun and useful."

After Ofsted's suggestion, headteacher Wendy Thomas took steps to ensure not only that all staff were present at the singing sessions, but that they also tried to join in.

Goble says she has been impressed by how the teachers have risen to the challenge. "I have been trying to look for the talents of each member of staff, because I do realise that some people will never be happy to stand at the front and lead singing, whereas others will once they have been shown what is expected of them.

"Staff might play the recorder or the guitar, or they might be singing, in a quiet way, or leading. But they are certainly involved now."

Goble says she sees singing as a crucial starting point for pupils to move on to other forms of music-making, such as playing instruments. She has also been working with teachers to help them bring more music into their lessons.

Robin Field, a class teacher, says: "I'd thought that bringing music into the classroom would be quite difficult. But actually I've been shown, through sessions with Maggie and asking advice from colleagues, that it's a very straightforward procedure. You've just got to go for it and try it out, and kids respond so well that it just reinforces why you should have music in the classroom in the first place."

The school's work with the local authority's Redbridge Music Service has meant it has been able to offer a range of instrumental tuition, ranging from individual instruction to group work and larger projects, such as African drumming for key stage 2 pupils.

Goble says she has also benefited, as an advanced skills teacher, from plentiful continuing professional development, including via the Sing Up initiative and the Trinity College London and Open University music CPD programme.

Signs of success

Ofsted returned to the school after six months and found that it had succeeded in getting all the staff involved in the singing sessions. All pupils receive classroom music lessons and a quarter continue to learn to play an instrument.

What the inspectors said

"There is no doubt that a key reason for pupils making good progress at Churchfields is the quality and quantity of partnership-working with the local authority music service to provide good quality teaching and a range of instrumental and vocal opportunities. Furthermore, the school has worked hard to build the confidence of non-specialist class teachers in supporting and leading in music, especially in the singing sessions."

Read the full Ofsted case study report and watch a video showing Churchfields Junior School in action at bit.lyQh16DK

THE SCHOOL

Name - Churchfields Junior School

Location - Redbridge, London

Type - Mixed junior community school

Number of pupils - About 500

Intake - The proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals is below average, but the proportion from ethnic minority backgrounds is higher than at most schools, with some at a very early stage of learning English.

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