Unlike many of the caregivers who undertake our Structured Training Course, Interactive Music-Making, as a primary school music teacher Carolyn Adams started the course in 2019 with a different level of skill and understanding of how music can benefit the development of young children. Yet once the training began, it became immediately clear to Carolyn that it would make a real difference to how she approached her musical work with the children.

It made me rethink the thought processes and skills behind all that I plan to teach… It will make a huge difference to what I deliver.

The benefits during the training were not just limited to Carolyn, either. The positive effect of Interactive Music-Making sessions was especially illustrated in the case of Dylan. Dylan was selected to be part of the music sessions as, while he was a confident and typically happy boy, he had room to develop his turn-taking abilities had shown a reluctance to answer questions or interact verbally with many of his teachers.

Dylan began the sessions noticeably passive, only engaging briefly. But with the familiarity of repeating the weekly sessions, Dylan became more willing to speak and participate. With this progression, he was eventually able to take a turn at leading the musical interactions, experimenting with different sounds from the instruments and speaking to the other children to guide them in their own musical play. Dylan’s progress wasn’t limited to his time with Carolyn, either, with the rest of the Reception team noticing his social development outside of music sessions, too.

I’ve observed how Dylan has changed over the course of the IMM sessions from a, though confident in some ways, quiet and passive member of the group, to being confident enough to actually lead activities both physically and verbally, and I’m so pleased with the progress he made… This shows that with the right environment and support to explore with confidence, children can make very impressive progress.

On completing the training in 2020, Carolyn graduated straight into a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. With the support of the charity and her head teacher, she was able to adapt her Interactive Music-Making sessions to a Covid-19 context, and ensure the children who attend the school still have opportunities to access targeted musical interventions. Attending CPD Events through the year also helped Carolyn run her ideas and challenges past experienced IMM tutors and her fellow Interactive Music-Makers.

I feel more ready and prepared to start organising my sessions now… Just knowing that there’s someone willing to answer my emails with support is enough at the moment.

This meant by Summer Term this year, Carolyn was ready to run two separate IMM blocks with Reception children.  She worked with the EYFS team to select two groups and think about the goals they wanted them to achieve through IMM. The first group of children all had very different targets making activity choice more difficult – so Carolyn revised this for the second group. All the children in this block needed to develop specific skills like confidence, concentration and language, making it much easier to plan activities and move toward their targets together. Both groups however loved the sessions and were always eager to come back – and the EYFS team commented on the benefits observed for all the children who were taking part.

Though doing IMM sessions outside means we are subject to the weather, there have been many surprising benefits: plenty of space, being able to be as loud as we wanted, noticing the weather, the sensory experience of the surface, sun, wind, etc. And we were all able to use the space flexibly e.g. hiding for ‘Oh where, oh where!

As Carolyn looks toward the next term, she is planning more IMM sessions and building on these successes despite pandemic circumstances – ready to start once the new Reception classes have settled in.