Music can be an important intervention for young people struggling with social interactions and communication at school. Good Vibrations, a project developed by Hampshire Music Service, works by pairing a skilled music teacher with a school. Over 10 weeks the music teacher empowers students to create their own music and provides professional development to a member of staff working within the school. We spoke with Head of Service Shaun Riches about the development of and plans for Good Vibrations.
How did Good Vibrations Start?
Hampshire Music Service piloted Good Vibrations in a Secondary School that has a profile for working well with autistic students. We’ve since started working with primary schools, secure homes and inclusion centres, offering them a sustainable way to use music in their work with young people. A key part of Good Vibrations is to provide professional development for someone within the setting, so they become self-serving, and we prioritise creating a project that speaks to the needs and interests of the participants. For example, we ran a DJ project for teens in a library. We’re interested in making it musically relevant to the participants so our teachers running the projects are great at adapting to the interests and needs of the cohort.
Who is Good Vibrations for?
Good Vibrations is for young people who struggle with social interaction and communication within school – either a mainstream or a special school setting. It’s all about learning through music (rather than about music) It’s focused around developing social interaction skills and reducing barriers, developing self-esteem and team working, making youngsters aware of community cohesion and how to build relationships and form friendships through the vehicle of music.
What have the responses to Good Vibrations been?
Anecdotally, we’ve had great reports, withparents saying that their children who might typically struggle with a change of routine at the weekend have been able to handle the change in a more positive way. We’ve spoken to staff and students who previously didn’t enjoy music but now they count it as their favourite subject. All young people are plugged into music so it’s positive to tap into that and make it engaging and relevant to them. Good Vibrations gives a youngster a different way to positively relate to the school setting.
How did you get into schools to run Good Vibrations?
I have a background working in schools and initially I approached a deputy head I knew – he bit my hand off! Once we were working in a setting, I was able to video a session and interview the SENCO and the learning support assistant about what the project’s impact had been and that became a resource I could use to promote the project to others. I attended a head teacher’s district meeting and told them about the provision, and we’ve then grown Good Vibrations on a project by project basis.
What are the challenges you’ve faced with Good Vibrations?
There are head teachers who are open minded to new and different approaches and there are other head teachers who aren’t. The challenge is to open people’s eyes to the opportunity a musical intervention presents. For teachers who are keen to participate, there can be issues around budgets and timetabling. For a couple of schools, we found funding from Hampshire advisory and inspectorate service. We do try to set it up to be financially really reasonable and the fact that a teacher within the setting will develop their ability to run music sessions by working with us means that we hope the legacy of the project is that the school can self-serve in terms of a musical provision in the future.
What are your next steps?
We are in the process of developing case studies that attest to the project’s impact. We want to track students’ particular behaviours we offer support with to see how they develop in the music session and see if they can ultimately transfer back to the classroom setting with peers. The work is even more pertinent now with the legacy that Covid has had. Year two is a challenging year according to head teachers and there’s a real need for projects which can help with social skills for that age group.
It’s also important for us to consider how to recruit teachers who can deliver Good Vibrations, since being able to build relationship with the students and adapt to their needs is key. We’re really trying to ensure that we’re recruiting people with the right skills. We’re looking at intern programmes and apprenticeships. We’re exploring how to open the grassroots route into recruiting teachers in the provision area. Small steps are being taken but in three years the hope is to have the schools who’ve participated on Good Vibrations selling it to their peers, and have heads promoting to other heads. We know there is a real need for projects like Good Vibrations; about 10% of a class now have a challenge with communication and social skills and 100% of young offenders have issues with their communication and social skills.
Do you have any advice for those setting up their own music projects for young people?
In the first instance a successful project relies on a colleague who has the right personality to manage it. There’s a lot of it that hinges on relationships. Youngsters with communication challenges need a strong vibrant and adaptable personality to be able to run and deliver the project in the best way. Someone who can go in with a toolkit and set of possible ideas rather than a rigid lesson plan. Someone who’s creative and can respond to the setting. From the school’s perspective they need to commit in a meaningful way, so the head teacher and the delivery lead need to meet with the music service before launching the project. There must be a clear understanding from the school around what their commitment is.
If you would like to find out more about the Good Vibrations project or are interested in support, please do get in touch with Hampshire Music Service by emailing Liz Davies at email@example.com.