We are delighted to have been awarded funding from Youth Music to deliver a practice-based-research project to develop a Sustainable Early Years Model (SEYM).

This sees SoCo Music Project embark on an exciting partnership with the Royal College of Music (RCM) and academic mentor Jessica Pitt. Through SEYM we intend to provide a much needed, sustainable musical support framework for learners and educators in Special Educational Needs/Disabilities (SEN/D) Early Years and Reception settings.

Our partner settings are Early Years at Rosewood Free School and Reception settings at Springwell School, both of which are in Southampton.

Building on our participation in the Youth Music Exchanging Notes project as well as similar projects funded by CAMHS and Youth Music Future Sounds we aim to nuance and develop our practice to empower permanent communities of practice in these settings. As a sustainable model, SEYM is built on the interplay between three key areas of practice-as-research: collaborative music session delivery, knowledge-exchange practices and data collection.

We will be working towards three outcomes:
• Increased confidence and practical knowledge of staff in Reception and Early Years settings to facilitate music sessions for young people with SEN/D
• Increase in young people’s ability and confidence to engage in a wide range of musical activities
• Improvement in young people’s communication and sensory development

Sustainable Early Years Music (SEYM) aims to support Early Years practitioners across Southampton to deliver music sessions independently, as well as to use different forms of music-making as a part of their pedagogy.

We are focusing on supporting communities of practice that work with children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEN-D). They include teachers and learning assistants in EY or Reception classes in special schools, as well as SENCos in mainstream nurseries.

SEYM is a practice research project; that is, the process by which we collect evidence and develop our knowledge of what is needed, and what works, in EY/SEN-D settings, is embedded in our strategies to encourage positive change. We developed an inclusive strategy to work with our collaborators. Rather than supporting communities of EY practice through on a series of ‘top-down’ CPD sessions, we are running an innovative three-part model that encourages all project participants to learn from each other.

The model reflects the three core activities the project entails:

  • Session co-delivery (lead practitioner and permanent staff members lead session together)
  • Knowledge-exchange (school practitioners, researchers, musicians and project manager learning from each other)
  • Collaborative evaluation/data collection (evidence is gathered and produced from difference sources by different project practitioners).

This project was possible through the invaluable contributions of different individuals whose areas of knowledge, experience and expertise, was complemented by their flexibility and eagerness to explore new ways of working. The project is led by Ignacio Agrimbau (SoCo, Royal College of Music), acting as a practitioner researcher. The project strategic manager and fundraiser is Marie Negus, and the research mentor is Jessica Pitt (RCM). Our setting collaborators will vary as SEYM is delivered across different settings in the city.

The first part of this project, SEYM I, involves collaborations with two SEN-D schools. We are currently working with two nursery classes at Rosewood Free School, and three Reception classes at Springwell School. Altogether we are working with five teachers and three learning assistants. By the end of the project, we aim to include four more learning assistants. Our key collaborators in these settings are the nursery teachers Niki Seel and George Ellis, and the Reception teachers Clare Knight and Alexandra Cave. We have also collaborated with the Southampton City Council’s Early Years Advisory Team through our contribution to their Toolkit training scheme. This collaboration will be crucial for SEYM II, where we will be adapting the current model to support SENCos working in mainstream nurseries in the city.

SEYM’s academic home is the Royal College of Music. In his dual role as researcher/practitioner, Dr Ignacio Agrimbau is a research associate at the RCM during the length of the project. Dr Jessica Pitt, an experienced music education expert specialised in Early Years, is the research mentor. SEYM has already been introduced to the college’s Music Education MA students as a part of their lecture series.

SEYM is a complex project that developed over several years of practice and is being implemented across several stages. The first stage focused on developing familiarity between the school participants and the researcher-practitioner, to road test a series of approaches to delivery, and to finish assembling a knowledge-exchange framework. The second stage, which is currently unfolding, includes a higher number of training sessions, more focused team meetings, the delineation of children’s music portraits and the drafting of the SEYM model of independent facilitation, and the beginning of co-delivery. The third stage will introduce independent delivery, internal transmission, start processing project data, and draft a final version of the SEYM model. The fourth stage consists of several visits by the researcher/practitioner and project manager to the settings, supplementary training, report writing and dissemination.

Summary Evaluation Report

SEYM has enabled us to provide a much needed, sustainable musical support framework for learners and educators in SEN/D Early Years and Reception Settings. It built on our participation in the Youth Music Exchanging Notes project and projects funded by CAMHS and Youth Music Future Sounds.

SEYM is a participatory action research (PAR) project aimed at developing a sustainable music provision model for Early Years (EY) children in challenging circumstances and/or with SEN/D. It was conceived by music practitioner, ethnomusicologist and composer Ignacio Agrimbau. The first phase, SEYM I, was run in two special schools in Southampton, Rosewood Free School and Springwell School. The current phrase of the project, SEYM II, provides a support framework for the communities of practice within the Southampton City Council Early Years and Childcare Service. Sensitive to the specific needs, priorities, practical and financial constraints of nurseries and EY and practitioners, the model promotes the integration of music provision in existing pedagogic provision as well as in EY interventions aimed at supporting the children’s social and emotional well-being, communication and self-expression. 

SEYM is grounded on three interrelated key areas of activity: collaborative facilitation, knowledge-exchange processes, and analysis and evaluation.

Collaborative facilitation: unlike general practice in music provision where music specialists work independently or in parallel with other practitioners, in SEYM the planning and facilitation of music activities sees a music specialist, school practitioners, SEN/D coordinators (SENcos), 1:1 EY practitioners and Childminders working together throughout the project. Music activities are both 1:1 and group-based, and introduce new resources and methods aimed at engaging children with complex needs. Following a child-centred approach, SEYM promotes and interprets music engagement as sensory, social, interactive and expressive experience.

Knowledge-exchange: the impact of our intervention relies on a bi-directional learning curve between different project participants; we model and adapt our practice on the basis of what we learn from each other through a cycle of reflection, planning and action. The key project participants are EY practitioners, SoCo’s project manager, an SEN-D music specialist and researcher, and a research mentor. Our knowledge-exchange ensures that our input is guided by the specific needs, priorities, available resources, staffing structures and relevant pedagogical frameworks (e.g. ImPACTS curriculum, Schema, Development Matters, Leuven Scales, Effective Early Learning, Attention Autism) used in the settings.

Analysis and evaluation: we use a combined methods model of data collection. It includes ethnographic surveys, children and practitioner case studies, setting documents and archives, notes from Focus Groups meetings, and a field diary. Data-triangulation allows us to cross reference our findings with evidence collected or provided by practitioners. We use these sources to evaluate the project’s key impact areas: the children’s social and emotional well-being and creative self expression, EY practitioners’  confidence to facilitate music activities, and the frequency and recurrence of music activity as an independent activity, or integrated to other areas of pedagogical intervention. We also study how the project affected the EY communities of practice as a whole in terms of self-confidence, cohesion and initiative. We also use data to develop models of sustainable EY music provision, and to examine relevant questions; such as the (changing) perceptions of music in EY/SEN/D settings, and community centred learning architectures necessary responsive to different communities of practice.

Youngest participants (SEYM I)

Rosewood Free School:

  • Our learners in this setting have profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD)

Springwell School:

  • The majority of our learners in this setting are within the Autism spectrum.

Issues concerning inclusive practice:

  • Learners’ experiences and perceptions of music and sound (and the world at large) are unique, and  impossible for us to fully comprehend
  • Communication: prompts, yes/no choice, explanations might be ineffective or ambiguous
  • Mainstream group activities might be challenging, create unfair expectations and/or negative interactions
  • Agency and advocacy: particularly with learners with PMLD, it might be difficult to establish whether an individual wants to be part of an activity, or whether their input or ‘reaction’ to a sound is intentional, positive or negative.
  • Risk of practitioners ‘dis-abling’ learnings:
    • Trying to forcefully impose mainstream ideas of music value or approaches to music-making
    • Adopting a negative approach to provision that is based on ‘what learners cannot do’

Practitioners and communities of practice

Issues concerning inclusive practice:

  • All professional communities are socially situated, mediated and conditioned by work relationships, history and institutional practices
  • Work hierarchies and status
  • Assumptions and beliefs concerning competence and ability
  • Small proportion of practitioners had substantial music training (formal or informal)
  • Difference ideas about what music is and how it relates to wider human activity
  • Widespread, non-inclusive ideas about value and competence
    • What ‘good music’ looks, sounds and feels like
    • Negative experiences in music education
  • Lack of exposure to more accessible forms of music-making
    • Lack of positive experience making music
    • Negative beliefs 
    • Lack of confidence

Project Updates

30th October 2020

So this is goodbye for SEYM I! Our funders Youth Music were wonderfully flexible and gave us extra time to collect all the data we needed for our report, following the challenges created by lockdown. We are delighted and honoured to have collaborated with such wonderful colleagues, from whom we have learned so much. We will be catching up with all the new school facilitators, see the great work they are doing, and provide support if necessary. In the meantime the SEYM train keeps going, with SEYM II (wider EY sector) and SEYM Ib (Springwell Year 1).

29th October 2020

SEYM Ib (Springwell Year 1) take part in their first SEYM toolkit session. The training is co-delivered by Ignacio and Alex, one of Springwell’s participants in the previous iteration of SEYM. This is a firm step into internal knowledge-transmission, key to sustainable music provision.

28th October 2020

Ignacio gives another seminar for the great MA Music Education at the Royal College of Music, now exploring music as communication. Most of the examples used to examine communicational exchanges in music sessions came from our vast reservoir of SEYM session footage.

16th October 2020

Final focus group session for SEYM I at Rosewood with all practitioners and research mentor Jessica.

15th October 2020

The first training session for SEYM II: lovely evening session with the fantastic practitioners at Shore nursery. This is followed by training sessions at Paint Pots 2 and Start Point.

9th October 2020

Finally back a Rosewood! Final Rosewood toolkit session, and collecting all sorts of great documentation about how our colleagues in the school have integrated music provision to their work.

6th October 2020

Back to the Twilight training meetings! A great session on Self Regulation by Sam from the EYATs

3rd October 2020

Ignacio delivers an online seminar for the Royal College of Music about ethnographic research, outlining the type of ethnography that unfolded during the SEYM project.

24th September 2020

We are meeting our new collaborators for SEYM II from three lovely nurseries: Start Point Sholing, Paint Pots 2, and The Shore. See SEYM II for more information.

15th September 2o20

We are putting together our final SEYM I report. We are collecting some impressive stats concerning music engagement revealed in Springwell’s Tapestry journal.

7th September 2020

We had an inspiring meeting with Sam from the Early Years Advisory Teachers (EYATs), and Angela from the development team. SEYM II is also taking off.

September 2020

The new academic year starts in full swing. An unexpected project sibling, SEYM Ib, starts at Springwell. We will now we working with Year 1 children, teachers and learning assistants.

July 2020

The final SEYM toolkit session with Springwell practitioners at Hightown is held.

June 2020

Amid these difficult times, some great news. SoCo has secured funding for SEYM’s sister project, SEYM II, under our Changing Tracks project. This project will see us implement and adapt our SEYM models of music facilitation, sustainable provision, partnership and support, to the wider Early Years sector. This will be a steep and wonderful learning curve for us, as well as a unique chance to engage with a wider and varied community of EY practitioners. Not least, we are absolutely delighted that the Royal College have extended Ignacio’s research affiliation as well as Jessica’s mentoring role. They have also contributed with a knowledge-exchange budget for instruments to be used with our new nursery participants.

7th May 2020

Meeting with Maria, Springwell’s co-head teacher. We discuss SEYM and our wider collaborations. Aware that SEYM is coming to an end soon, we explore different ways to expand the project across the school. Springwell also commits to continue collaborating with SoCo to produce a subsequent set of educational videos.

May 2020

Ignacio and SoCo practitioner Louis Duarte, who form the percussion due ‘Dock Season’, start a series of educational videos, supported by Springwell School and SoCo. The videos are streamed over 10000 times through the Springwell Facebook page only.

27th April 2020

Ignacio resumes weekly support visits to Start Point Springwell, supporting practitioners working with children of key workers.

4th April 2020

Research mentor Jessica Pitt has a long and fruitful focus group online meeting with the Springwell group. Ignacio plans a series of support visits to Start Point Springwell.

23rd March 2020

We are in lockdown! Ignacio and colleagues from Rosewood and Springwell gather and share data, and discuss how to support children during the current disruption. We prepare a ‘SEYM During Lockdown’ document which we share with Youth Music.

13th March 2o2o

Ignacio introduces the SEYM project at the Inclusion Network presentations at Start Point Sholing and Paint Pots House for SENCos working for the EY and Childcare Service of the Southampton City Council.

2nd March 2020

Watched lots of inspiring session video with practitioners at Rosewood school. Discussing how independent facilitation is going.

10th February 2020

An inspiring wave of independent music-making and planning decisions at Springwell: 1:1 interactive music making sessions planned for every week (when Ignacio is not there), internal knowledge-transfer (through a system of ‘session buddies’), SEYM’s music portrait material is included in student Pen Portraits (which were redesigned to include a music interaction section), PPA class teacher sessions now includes music video share, started to find was to integrate more music observations into Tapestry.

6th February 2020

Planning for a project share between Springwell School and Rosewood Schools starts

5th February 2020

Ignacio co-leads a group session at Rosewood with permanent staff members who were peer trained by SEYM participants

Ignacio is invited to attend a workshop in which different SCC providers discussed Southampton’s EY Peer challenge, and the results of the Early Intervention Foundation maturity matrix.

4th February 2020

Ignacio attends a Twilight training session run by the Early Years Advisory Teachers of the Early Years and Childcare Team. This inspires an extension of the knowledge-exchange section that addresses connections between music delivery and the implementation of recreational and pedagogic interventions.

1st February 2020

Research mentor Jessica Pitt, Ignacio, Marie and teachers from Springwell took part in a long but very prolific training sessions and focus group meeting.

25th January 2020

Rosewood Early Years classes adopted ‘Music’ as their theme throughout the Spring term

20th January 2020

Staff at Rosewood and Springwell have started to deliver their own independent group and 1:1 music sessions

8th January 2020

The new year has brought some very exciting developments. Our aim to bring the SEYM model to the wider EY section in Southampton is closer to become a reality, as Ignacio is due to be invited to introduce the project’s continuation at the Inclusion Network meetings, organised by SEN-D coordinators in the local EY service.

8th December 2019

The SEYM training method is adapted and used at two reception classes at Rosewood School which where not, in principle, part of the project.

1st December 2019

Members of staff at Rosewood, project manager Marie Negus and Ignacio shared a lengthy and productive focus group meeting, in which they discussed session footage and share their views on the next steps to take.

17th November 2019

Training session at Hightown, SoCo’s studio facilities, for teachers and learning assistants at Springwell

1st November 2019

As a part of Springwell’s consistent and generous sponsoring of a teacher support programme, we start implementing the SEYM model in a third Reception unit run by the school, located at the Start Point EY centre.

22nd October 2019

Ignacio discusses the ideas and methods used in SEYM, the project’s background, and its relationship to Music Education, Community Development and Ethnomusicology – as the central part of a music lecture led by Dr Mary Stakelum.

17th October 2019

The SEYM CPD model is introduced as a part of the Twilight training sessions offered by the Early Years Advisory Team of the Southampton City Council. This is a great step towards reaching out to SENCos and children with SEN-D attending mainstream nurseries.

12th October 2019

Springwell reception teacher Clare Knight invites Ignacio to discuss SEN-D music facilitation and methods used in SEYM in her presentation at ‘Minds Matter’, Southampton Early Years and Childcare Conference.

3rd October 2019

As a part of our knowledge-exchange framework, Jessica, Marie and Ignacio attend a training session on the ImPACT PMLD curriculum implemented at Rosewood Free School, facilitated by the Deputy Head at Rosewood

2nd October 2019

Teachers Niki, George, and learning assistants Kim and Karen starts co-delivering sessions at Rosewood with Ignacio.

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