A workforce development programme led by RCM Sparks has increased the quality of music delivery in participating London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) nurseries to Platinum ratings.
The RCM’s Knowledge Exchange Fund has supported Mini Sparks, the RCM’s early years learning and participation programme, to train LEYF nursery practitioners as Early Years ‘Music Champions’ to improve music provision across the organisation.
'This project aims to train early years practitioners to be champions of music. We hope the knowledge they gain will spread far and wide throughout the organisation and beyond to make music accessible to all,' said Hayley Clements, RCM Head of Learning and Participation.
Music, despite being an integral part of Early Years (EY) education, has been found to be the subject that teachers without a music background have the least confidence to teach. Without sufficient hours for teachers to gain practical experience, many schools buy in music specialists, creating a skills vacuum.
Having recognised the importance of incorporating music activities in their nursery network, LEYF commissioned RCM Sparks to deliver a pilot skills development project in 2017 for teachers in their Angel Nursery. LEYF runs 39 award-winning nurseries in 12 London boroughs, 75% of which are intentionally sited in the 'most deprived' and 'deprived' areas.
The next stage of the 'Musical Futures' programme was to train nine EY practitioners as Music Champions in nine LEYF nurseries across London. Supported by the RCM’s Knowledge Exchange Fund, the programme ran during 2021-23 with the aim of the nurseries attaining a Platinum Standard for Music, based on the Tri-Borough Music Hub’s self-evaluation tool.
Greg Lane, LEYF’s Senior Nursery Manager and Arts and Cultural Lead said: ‘The best thing about entering into quality collaborations is what and how we learn from each other. Our pedagogy, knowledge and experience meet the creative and musical expertise of RCM. Our shared passion for music creates opportunities for our teachers and, in turn, benefits our children no end.’
RCM Sparks’ evaluation of ‘Musical Futures’ has highlighted the national shortage of trained nursery workers. Given the current staffing crisis, staff availability to attend the training was a real issue, with some settings requiring individual nursery visits from experienced practitioners, and others needing further tailored training sessions at the RCM.
Despite the time constraints all the participating nurseries have improved their rating and are progressing to becoming a Platinum Standard in Music, proving that children in these LEYF settings now experience high quality music-making at a crucial point of their learning journeys.
June O Sullivan MBE, LEYF CEO said: ‘We are delighted to work on this project with the Royal College of Music, in particular, using the opportunity to extend our children's cultural capital. Also upskilling and building the confidence of our LEYF teachers to deliver quality music provision through our pedagogy across LEYF’.
Next steps include building upon LEYF’s online training resource so practitioners can share successful songs and activities across the organisation.