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.

Project Updates

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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