Sat, Mar 06, 2010 - Page 9 News List

Singing helps special needs pupils in UK

By Sarah Jewell  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Singing helps children outside mainstream education to develop, become more confident and integrate with their peers, says a new study from the national singing program for England and Wales called Sing Up. The report, “Beyond the Mainstream,” is a comprehensive assessment of the success of their 14 pilot programs across the two countries that were designed to reach more than 800 children with different needs who are schooled outside of mainstream primaries.

These children included those with special educational needs, children who attend short stay schools, looked- after children, refugees and asylum seekers, young carers, children with physical disabilities and children with emotional and behavioral difficulties and mental health problems. The projects ranged from the Sound Minds “Songs from the South” project, which worked with children with mental health problems, to the Plymouth Music Zone project for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities in the southwest of England, which used vocal looping technology to help engage with children who were unable to use their voices.

The feedback was very positive and researchers found the various projects helped children with their self-confidence and self-esteem, sense of achievement and also their social interactions. Singing also acted as a leveler, helping the children to mix with their peers in mainstream schools.

“It was good to work with the mainstream primary as our children were given a huge confidence boost by discovering they were just as capable as their mainstream peers,” one project leader who worked with children about to enter the education system for the first time said.

Some children said they now felt “confident to stand up and sing a solo” and “proud of their final performance,” while their teachers noticed that the children were growing more confident as a whole and that this was helping them to integrate with other children, as well as be clearer and more confident in stating their own needs.

Singing in groups also helped children who found it difficult to socialize or make new friends, by giving them a focus and encouraging them to work together in a non-threatening environment. As part of the “Songs from the South” project, they found that one child who had not had any previous significant peer relationships developed a “joking relationship” with two other young people. This was a considerable achievement for this child and the project had other similar success stories.

There was also an improved attitude to learning — 13 out of 14 projects, for example, said children’s concentration had become “better” or “much better.”

Many projects saw children showing a marked improvement in musical and vocal language and technique. This was not only useful for children as a skill and a link into the mainstream curriculum, but it also helped to foster a sense of pride and achievement, a sense that they had become “good at something” and were recognized for that.

In almost all of the projects, the partnerships were key to their success.

“The pilots have shown us that solid partnerships that focus on the different organizations and individuals involved in a child’s life are the lifeblood of successful outcomes for children outside mainstream education,” Baz Chapman, Sing Up program director, said.

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