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Count Me In – A Head Start Approach

28th June 2024

A teacher is stood at the front of the class holding a yellow ukulele. Several students are sat watching her, also holding ukuleles. A whiteboard can be seen behind the teacher reading 'Warm Up: My Dog Has Fleas'

Following their talk at our Spring Summit earlier this year, Inspiring Music (Central Bedfordshire) shares more about their Head Start Approach, which supports children and young people who typically experience learning barriers.

In September 2022, Inspiring Music (Central Bedfordshire) integrated the Head Start Approach into all Whole Class Instrumental and Vocal projects. This initiative stemmed from the Count Me In Project, launched in autumn 2021, which targeted four specific groups: children in challenging circumstances, children at risk of exclusion, children from the Global Majority, and those with SEND & SEMH needs.


Understanding the Need

Approximately 12% of mainstream school students face additional learning needs that hinder their ability to learn instruments. These barriers can cause restricted progress, disengagement, and challenging behaviour. Paradoxically, these students often stand to benefit the most from music education.


The Head Start Approach

Since September 2022, the Head Start approach has been working with small groups of children and young people (CYP) who typically experience learning barriers. These CYP are involved in a tailored session to support their needs ahead of the first full session with the whole class. By focusing initially on these small groups (maximum of 8 students), Head Start aims to build their confidence and self-esteem, enabling them to participate and excel in subsequent whole class sessions. This early intervention has shown significant positive impacts, helping more CYP engage with the whole class instrumental and vocal learning.


Implementation and Impact

A teacher is sat on the floor with three pupils holding an iPad.Ben Sellers has played a crucial role in shaping and supporting the Head Start process. His insights have emphasised the importance of recognising and nurturing individual progress. Inspiring Music employs a 1:9:1 model for projects lasting a term or more. The 1:9:1 model is structured as follows:

  • 1 Head Start session (max 8 pupils)
  • 9 whole class sessions
  • 1 showcase concert

This approach not only supports the progress of CYP but also provides deeper insights into individual learning needs. It is evident that CYP selected for Head Start make substantial progress, develop instrument skills, gain confidence in using their voices, and understand lesson structures. In some cases, students have even taken on leadership roles.


Collaboration with Schools

For the success of Inspiring Music sessions, close partnerships with schools are essential. Our Whole Class tutors engage in detailed discussions with class teachers to understand each class’s unique needs. This collaboration involves:

  1. Initial Fact-Finding Questionnaire: Collecting baseline information about the class.
  2. Head Start Pupils Questionnaire: Conducted with the whole class tutor to identify specific needs of the CYP selected.
  3. Logistics Implementation: Setting up the necessary arrangements for Head Start sessions.


Benefits Beyond Music

The Head Start Approach supports students in becoming musicians and developing transferable skills such as confidence, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. By addressing the individual needs of students, Inspiring Music aims to foster an inclusive and supportive learning environment where every student can thrive.


How To Get Involved

At Inspiring Music, we are very happy to share our understanding about what we have learnt and implemented with Head Start. If you would like to learn more about it, please do watch our Count Me In A Head Start Approach Documentary.

If you still want to learn more about Head Start, get in touch with Mark Lowe (Music Inclusion Manager) –

Photo credits: Traybake Studio