Through Future Sounds, a 3-year programme of work funded by Youth Music, we are developing and delivering a rich programme of music making in two areas: SEN/D (Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities) and Youth Justice. Utilising our specialist music leaders and strong partnerships in these areas, and building on previously/currently funded work: Exchanging Notes, Sonic Explorers and Musical Inclusion, we are expanding our engagement to increase access and participation in music making for young people.

We are working with specialist support workers with Youth Offending and Crime Prevention Teams to design and and co-deliver a rich offer for young people at risk of offending. Through this we aim to produce engaging and innovative prevention programmes that use music activity to support young people at a critical time in their lives.

We have strong SEN/D networks in our region, and are building on the exciting music delivery we have developed in a number of schools locally. We are striving to embed innovative and tailored music activity and delivery skills in settings in Southampton and Portsmouth. Our experienced practitioners will work closely with each setting to build relevant music programmes and support staff to co-deliver.

Sharing skills between practitioners and support staff in both areas, we’ll produce strong evaluation and work strategically to link this work to local/regional/national priorities, measuring impact and exploring sustained delivery.


  1. To increase the skills and awareness of music leaders, teachers and associated staff to support SEN/D young people to access music-making
  2. To improve the sense of wellbeing and resilience of children and young people who are engaged in the Youth Crime Prevention Scheme in Hampshire
  3. To improve improvisation and songwriting skills of children and young people in challenging circumstances
  4. To increase the number and effectiveness of partnerships that support and encourage wider engagement in music for children and young people in challenging circumstances
  5. To increase knowledge and skills to develop robust evidence that documents the benefits of music interventions with children and young people in challenging circumstances

Case studies

The project at Greenwood school, a pupil referral unit in the New forest in Hampshire, has enabled young people the opportunity to make music, learn how to play instruments, write songs, re-discover or uncover latent musical skills and empower them to create new, positive pathways and identities.

Over the course of the last year, pupils have taken part in person centred musical activities that have been tailored to their individual needs and that have supported and facilitated creative, personal, social development and fulfilment.

View full case study.

Student C is a 16 year old male attending Mary Rose Academy in Portsmouth, he is wheelchair bound and tends not to use his hands to manipulate items and objects and is diagnosed with epilepsy.

Student C has recently completed work with Future Sounds as a way of getting a range of students with varying SEND needs to participate in song writing/music exploration and using music as a method of communication for students who cannot necessarily speak themselves. Therefore, to find out there was a project working with Future Sounds and SoCo to introduce students to instruments from a full orchestra and perform together myself and my team for 5 Teaching Assistants were very excited.

Read full case study.

Through our project, Future Sounds, we have worked in partnership with Rosewood Free School in Southampton. One of our outcomes is to improve improvisation and songwriting skills of children and young people in challenging circumstances.

In working with young people with Profound Multiple Learning Difficulties we have seen our participants’ musical skills and self-expression flourish as through our delivery we found appropriate outlets, resources and forms of interaction.

Read full case study.


We initially conceived the second leg of our sessions at St George’s (Spring term 2020) as a continuation of our work with their ‘Sensory Class’, which we had delivered in 2018. The strong impact of that intervention encouraged the school to expand our delivery to a full day in order to include a KS3 class. Most of the students in this class were from the MLD spectrum, with minor challenging behaviour. None of the students had complex physical disabilities, with the exception of a student from other class who was invited to attend some of the sessions. Class teacher Ros suggested that we followed through the same delivery model we used in the sensory class, combining full group with 1:1/small group delivery. Sessions in her class therefore consisted of performance workshops for a large group, and 2:1 sessions for two students within the ASD spectrum. This report is about the 2:1 sessions.


While Jon and Lucas (names have been changed for child protection reasons) could take part in group activities, they had complex communicational needs, and some difficulty initiating, maintaining or responding to holding interactions outside established routines. From what I could notice myself, and found out in conversation with staff members, these difficulties were expressed through withdrawal (Lucas) or anxious behaviour (Jon).

Session set up

The 2:1 session were entirely planned on the basis of child-centred facilitation. The structural flexibility of small group sessions allowed more time and space for Jon and Lucas to make and see through choices and preferences, as well as to take part in extended musical interactions. The structure of the sessions was therefore ‘emerging’ as they used the performance space, instruments, and explored the musical interactions. Not least, the 2:1 approach was viable as the sensory needs of the students were compatible, none of them presented highly challenging behaviour, and they were familiar and comfortable with each other. Sessions took place in the sensory room downstairs; a learning assistant came to the sessions with us and eventually take part in the session (in her own terms).

Initial sessions

Jon initially needed considerable preparation and scheduling; we needed to frame the sessions in very concrete and simple ways. The anxiety caused by the new experience probably encouraged Jon to fix in a single object, which he played without interruption or variation. He also needed constant reassurance. At first Lucas explored instruments on his own and avoided interactions. As they explored different small percussion instruments they started vocalising. This led to some sparse vocal exchanges and finally a brief ‘rain song’ – in response to their playing rain sticks. Upon listening to the song, Lucas smiled, laughed and sat next to me. This led to a series of interactions in which Lucas would trigger the song by singing or playing the guitar. These interactions got Jon’s attention,  and he started looking at us while strumming a guitar. At that time I wondered whether my interactions with Lucas would triangulate; operating also as a model of engagement for Jon – as the louder and more eloquent Lucas’ exclamations were, the more her looked – and sometimes smiled – at us. By the end of this early stage there was a flexible structure: initial vocalisations – rain song/other songs – instrumental interactive play.

Mid period sessions

Both students were familiar with the music sessions and expected them. Lucas’ prompts were established and Jon started to use language to emphasise the structure of the session and his engagement: ‘rain song’, ‘guitar’, ‘play fast’, ‘stop!’. His playing became more expressive and nuanced; instruments were still fulfilling their role as sensory objects but were also an outlet of expression and emotion. Lucas’ interest in playing expanded from triggering the rain song, to improvising with us. Yet he was particularly interested in the instruments that were part of the rain song, such as the rain stick, the guitar, and, increasingly, the shruti box. This was particularly satisfying, as the shruti box demands concentration, sensory motor control, and stability to create a steady sound.

Last sessions

The last sessions confirmed the powerful impact that music activity was having on the students; in particular, in aspects of communication and engagement. Generally, Jon’s interactions and use of language were primarily used to follow schedules and make practical requests. There was a lack of expressive language. While we had not anticipated this as an expected outcome, in the last period of our sessions it became clear that this was a key area to explore. We first noticed this at the end of the big group session, when Jon and Lucas came to the classroom and waited for us to go to the sensory room. By the time they entered the classroom the rest of the class was rehearsing a performance. Jon approached us and said ‘I am dancing!’ and started dancing with his classmates. While it was common for him to take part in movement-music activities with the rest of the class, it was much less common for him to use language to get other people to notice him for something that was not a practical request. On the same day, as he enthusiastically made his way through all of the 2:1 session activities with Lucas, he said ‘I love music’. This was interpreted as a demonstration of progress by his teacher and teaching assistants, who knew him better than I did. This was particularly surprising as no one was used to Jon using language to express his emotions. His enthusiasm was contagious, and the sessions became more upbeat, with more start-stop/fast-slow activities using horns, slapsticks or loud bells as triggers. Lucas by now was happy to take part in a wider range of songs, and started sharing instruments with Jon.

Towards the end of the project Jon was using language to express his desire to go to the music room, using phrases like ‘I want to play instruments in the sensory room’, or more expressive phrases like ‘I love playing music’, ‘I love musical instruments’, or ‘I like the guitar’. By the time sessions were disrupted (we missed two weeks) by the lockdown, we were planning to encourage expressive language to further delineate part of the session, and for both students to coordinate activities more closely.

Practitioner reflection

These sessions were a powerful learning experience for me; I could explore the possibilities of triangulating interactions in a 2:1 context – in this case with great success. Lucas came out of his shell and expressed preferences early on, at a time when Jon was not yet ready to engage with us. Interactions with Lucas contributed to a sense contained excitement and safe routine, while also operating as a model of engagement. On the back of this, Jon started to explore his own way of elaborating interactions and engaging with the musical experience, which, in this case, led to an increase in creative performance and an unexpected (and highly celebrated) use of expressive language.

Written by Ignacio Agrimbau, Music Practitioner


Music Club – Springwell



Considering the complex needs of the children participating in these sessions, it was necessary to rethink the music group as a more open activity planned entirely around the individual needs and preferences of the students (whereas in other music groups individual preferences interacted and nuanced an existing delivery framework based on a classical music theme). Following the initial sessions, it became apparent to us that a key outcome of this project would be to enable the students to find their comfort zone within the sessions. That involved not just the recurrence of specific activities, instruments and ways of playing, but also a consistent positioning and layout within the room. We completed a series of recording sessions within school facilities. We used a room mic linked to a laptop recording suite, operated from outside the workshop area (so it did not distract the students), in combination with a field recorder that we could move to pick up individual as well as group performance. The result was a collage that combined room/panoramic with more focused recordings.

View full report.

Rosewood Free School – Reception

The delivery of Future Sounds in the second Rosewood Reception class illustrates the key role this project has had in making connections between different projects to enhance their impact. It also proves the value of long-term interventions, where delivery can adapt to changing needs and priorities.

Rosewood Reception II coincided with SEYM (Sustainable Early Years Music). Given that many learners from EY classes often move to Reception II, and that there is a fluid collaboration between Reception teachers Jenny and Esther, with Niki, head of early years and SEYM music ambassador at Rosewood, there was a fruitful cross-fertilisation between both projects. Not least, the profile of needs of Reception II was very similar to those of learners in the EY classes.

View full report.

Rose Road Association Report


Demographic of participants

Attendance to the sessions was diverse, as members of different teams brought service users to the sessions. The majority of the participants were within the PMLD spectrum, with some with SLD and a minority with MLD. Altogether, we worked with around 30 service users. Most were between 15 and 30 of age, but some sessions were also attended by some primary school aged children, and one 3 year old infant. Group sessions were very well attended, with our largest session including 17 service users.

View full report.


Music facilitation technical support for Guitar Open Tunings – Training A – open tunings

The guitar is one of the most widespread instruments in the world, which might explain why it is so popular among children and adults. However, fretting technique (the pressing of strings against the fingerboard in between two frets to produce a specific tone) demands advanced fine motor skills that can take some time to develop. But guitars can be played in different ways to create sounds that are pleasant as well as rewarding. In what in musical terms is called an ‘open tuning’, strings are retuned so that they form a series of notes that produce the sound that you want without having to use conventional fretting techniques. Open tunings are generally achieved by changing the conventional guitar tuning so that the open strings produce a simple chord.

Core principles, framework and methods for students with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities – Music session for students with PMLD


“Just a quick and massive ‘THANK YOU’ for this week. What an incredible week for our young people. What I have seen, and what has been fed back to me, is amazing. I think too that the staff learned that the more they take part rather than watch the more they get out of it. They have come away with some amazing skills and a confidence with music that will benefit our young people for a long time to come. Fair to say that one young man who you spent so much one to one time with (ZR) may find that he can begin to reintegrate to services and to school now that we have found that music is the way to reach him and keep him engaged and calm.”

Feedback from the CEO at Rose Road Association:

“Through the sessions I have learned how to cope with feeling nervous to record and gained the confidence to put my music out there. I have learnt how to structure my music when writing so that it makes sense. I have recently learned how to prepare my voice by using vocal warm ups through online meetings with Shannon and have carried on with practicing them.”

Female Participant (15 years)

“I just wanted to say what a fantastic time the students (and staff) are having when Iggy delivers the music sessions at St Georges (IOW) - they truly are the highlight of the week and we have already had many golden moments”

Feedback from the class teacher at St George’s, Isle of Wight:

“I myself have been able to run a couple of sessions and my confidence has grown throughout these sessions. I have been given ideas and opportunities to develop myself as a musician and with the ability to use what I have learned from Future Sounds”

Feedback from support staff at Mary Rose, Portsmouth

“I was so impressed with how Louis and Iggy interacted with our young people. They truly understood the ability and specific needs of each individual and managed to include service users with PMLD amongst group sessions which included young people with only mild learning difficulties. We also witnessed, during a one-to-one, vocalisations from a service user that has been using Rose Road for some years now that had previously never been heard before which was absolutely amazing. I sincerely hope that these sessions become a regular occurrence.”

Feedback from support staff at Rose Road Association

“The sessions made me feel way more confident about myself and taught me so much about my rapping, it’s helped me learn how to structure my ideas lyrically and how to be myself in the booth. They’ve helped me grow and made me believe in myself a lot more and I have become a better me, which is why these sessions are my favourite thing to go to.”

Male Participant (15 years)

“Every single student has benefited enormously from the sessions and a lot of fun was had by all - including the staff! I could tell from many of the photos and videos taken in evidence that the interactions were as joyful as they were educational”

Feedback from class teacher at St George’s:

“There have been tears of joy and happiness from both myself and the support staff as it has been wonderful for others to come into our classroom and see the students as creative, funny and wonderful pupils that we know we have. To share their personalities and watch them develop over the weeks of hard work and dedication has been wonderful. I cannot thank Future Sounds and SoCo for bringing their understanding and beauty into our school”

Feedback from class teacher at Mary Rose:

I’ve enjoyed letting my imagination run wild

Male participant from Autism Music Group (9 years)

“We have students who have attendance issues that come in on Thursdays because they find the time with Jim so positive and beneficial. The sessions with Jim have had a very positive impact on the self-esteem attitude and confidence of our more emotionally vulnerable students

Feedback from Behavioural Lead at Greenwood School

Exploring the Evidence

Evaluation and impact measurement is an important part of our work. As we embark on new long term projects we ensure that we understand what evidence and research exists that relates to our delivery. In the case of Music in Youth Justice settings there is a strong evidence base, and we will be carrying out an evidence review of the impact of music and creative interventions for young people offending or at risk of offending. Here are some useful links to research papers, evaluation materials and previous evidence reviews:

Evidence review: Music making with young offenders and young people at risk of offending – Norma Daykin

Demonstrating the value of arts in Criminal Justice

A Narrative-Based Evaluation of “Changing Tunes” Music-based Prisoner Reintegration Interventions

Musical Pathways: an exploratory study of young people in the criminal justice system, engaged with a creative music programme

Re-imagining Futures


Good Vibrations: Music and social education for young offenders

Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) and Music Making – YOUTH MUSIC Evidence review

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