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How the nurture group model came about
Drawing on learning from working in alternative provision settings from 2015–18, Hertfordshire Music Service (HMS) sought to develop instrumental music teaching to prevent school exclusion. HMS found creative musical activities could have particular value for pupils with SEMH (Social Emotional Mental Health) difficulties which may result in school exclusion later. A nurture group model developed by a HMS WCET tutor suggested a way to offer this in primary schools.
Schools already know and understand the concept of nurture groups from the Boxall model, and music offers additional value.
Changing Tracks believes this model can be replicated or developed further in all music services/hubs and music education hubs.
Musical nurture groups use music as a means to help young people to connect and feel confident with their peers and other adults; express their ideas, make choices. They try things out, take risks in a nurturing environment and so build their resilience and agency. Through all of this, they develop a sense of belonging and self-esteem.
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What are the benefits for music services/hubs?
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- Delivered by music service instrumental/vocal teachers (supported by trauma training and critical reflection peer groups).
- Can offer a preparation for extension from WCET, building capacity and easing logistical challenges of inviting tutors to take on small pieces of work.
- A practical way to link the music service to local authority and school wellbeing and inclusion agendas.
- The 17 music services/hubs in this programme have found that regular training/reflection linked to delivery of activity is more effective than one-off training and/or training delivered by an external provider.
How is it different to small group instrumental/vocal lessons?
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- The instrumental/vocal teacher’s role is to support personal and social, alongside musical outcomes.
- Activities encourage pupils to explore music through creative and participatory techniques. E.g., the Hockets approach where participants make music through social interaction, with each playing just one note.
- There is no ‘model’ way of delivering a nurture group. The tutor creates flexible lesson plans, then designs the lessons collaboratively with the students, to meet the different musical interests and learning preferences.
- Pupils participate actively, sometimes leading the music.
- The teacher is attuned to group dynamics and individual behaviour and focuses on processes to include everyone.
- The teacher and pupils reflect on what happened, before, during and after the sessions. Peer-to-peer critical reflection groups support tutors to develop this, creating a community or communities of practice.
Trauma-informed creative music nurture groups, teacher reflection groups & funding inclusion. National Music Services Working Group on Inclusion
In the latest gathering of music services who are pioneering approaches to embedding inclusion in their organisations, we heard from three of the 17 music services who’ve developed successful trauma-informed creative music nurture groups in primary schools. We also discussed how to continue the instrumental/vocal teacher reflection groups that were an important part of this programme, and how to find funding to roll out the model.
What is a nurture group?
A weekly 30-minute creative music-making programme with young people in primary schools who are identified by the primary school SENCO as at risk of social or school exclusion. The focus is on personal and social outcomes as well as musical ones.
Why nurture groups?
- They can be delivered by music service instrumental/vocal tutors (supported by trauma training and critical reflection peer groups)
- They can link to and build capacity for First Access / WCET, easing logistical challenges of inviting tutors to take on small pieces of work
- They are practical way to link the music service to local authority and school wellbeing and inclusion
- Schools understand the language – ‘nurture’ and ‘trauma-informed’
- Previous research by Changing Tracks has suggested that regular training/reflection linked to delivery of activity is more effective than one-off training and/or training delivered by an external provider
What did we do?
- Funded 15 Music services, £1500 each, to deliver a programme with one instrumental/ vocal teacher in one primary school
- 20 weeks of 30-minute nurture group sessions in one school
- Half day ‘trauma-informed’ training from Darren Abrahams
- Monthly online tutor critical reflection groups (Tuesdays and Saturdays) – instrumental/ vocal teachers sharing activity ideas, discussing, and reflecting on what worked, what didn’t work, challenges, learning and outcomes, learning about reflective practice. A wide range of teachers is key, in order to learn different approaches, diversify their practice.
- Case study and report writing by instrumental/vocal teachers
How important were the critical reflection groups?
- Central to the success of the programme, and the development of instrumental/vocal tutors in being able to adapt their practice to a wide range of pupils
- Instrumental/vocal teachers said it had improved their teaching, many wanted to continue the ‘community of practice’ through the groups, some wanted to focus on inclusion work now
Who were the three music services reporting on their nurture group action research?
- Calderdale – A small music service and charity, 17 instrumental/vocal teachers, working in 33 of the 88 schools in the area.
- Waltham Forest – A medium, local authority music service, 50 instrumental/vocal teachers, working in around half of the 70 schools in the area.
- Essex Music Service – A large, local authority music service, 250 instrumental/vocal teachers, actively working in half of the 600 schools in the area.
- Soundstorm (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole), Merton and Cornwall music services/hubs also shared their learning in the plenary.
How did they choose their tutor?
- According to tutor availability plus looked for someone who is reflective, compassionate, and interested in this area of work.
- Promoted the opportunity in staff bulletin, chose one who had experience of inclusion work
- Looked at people who had a songwriting/tech skillset initially, then narrowed down
How did they choose their school?
- Identified a school we weren’t already working with, that in our large county, was further out and often missed out of opportunities
- Offered the opportunity at a primary network meeting and asked for an Expression of Interest, tried to choose the most deserving
- Targeted those with high numbers of looked-after children, with help of Virtual School
What can we learn from the challenges discussed?
- Be aware of the need to support Instrumental/vocal tutor’s well-being and reflection locally
- Ownership from schools is critical, invest time in discussing expectations and needs (for pupils, class teacher/TA, school SLT, instrumental/vocal teacher), at the start. Follow with regular communication throughout
- Discuss the level of prior information about individual pupil needs/challenges at the start.
- Carefully consider the group dynamic
- Start thinking about what workforce you need for more inclusive work now – from recruitment, to induction, to developing existing staff.
What were some of the outcomes?
INSTRUMENTAL/VOCAL TEACHERS: “It has transformed how our instrumental/vocal teachers develop their practice and our wider approach to training. It’s more of a partnership model with our staff.”
PUPILS: SENCOs report that pupils with anxiety who’ve had other interventions but haven’t been able to release/express their feelings, have become able to do so. Children who weren’t sociable in the playground are now able to play, bond and connect with other children. A child with attachment issues who was tearful leaving their Mum in the morning now happily comes into school without tears on music group day.
MUSIC SERVICES: “It’s had a profound legacy for the service as a whole.” “This model has coalesced our work into something schools and LA colleagues can engage with.” “We’re being approached by academy trusts in our area to introduce nurture groups into their schools”
Changing Tracks will publish a review of the national creative musical nurture group project in summer 2022.
Reporting back on the Task and Finish Group on embedding inclusion in Quality Assurance cycles
The Changing Tracks team then reported on the recent Task & Finish (T&F) Group (the topic was of quality was also discussed in the previous National Working Group). The T&F group had taken this forward by exploring how inclusion can inform the process of staff Induction, and how this links into many areas of Quality Assurance. As a result, Changing Tracks has developed a draft inclusion day schedule, which will be published soon.
Taking inclusion forward: critical reflection for instrumental/vocal teachers, and funding
Next, in breakout rooms, attendees discussed the actions they could take forward in answer to the following two questions:
How can music services support existing and new instrumental/vocal teachers develop their own ongoing critical reflection groups?
- Set up instrumental/vocal tutor ‘surgeries’ where tutors can discuss what they want from the service, reflect on their own practice, and talk about the issues they face and how to overcome them in a non-judgmental space
- Set up critical reflection groups similar to those used in the nurture group model, as part of other inclusion delivery work. Open them up to freelancers
- Invite people to observe the reflection groups first, or watch a recording
- Support new team members’ non-contact/non-school time at least for the first year as part of induction, for them to attend regular reflection groups or have mentoring sessions.
- INSET days could be broken up into shorter reflection sessions
- Set up whole service CPD about mentoring/coaching practice
- Work with hub delivery partners to unlock further capacity and signpost the support/training available through you
- Develop a culture of reflection throughout the organisation
- Ask instrumental/vocal teachers to lead or completely run/develop elements of training and development, including their critical reflection groups
How can music services find funding or generate income for inclusive teaching practice and projects?
- Hire a fundraiser or train a member of staff in fundraising or access fundraising support/databases (eg Grant Finder) via eg wider cultural partnerships
- Sign up to funding newsletters and read them regularly and identify funds to apply for – be mindful of the non-musical criteria
- Invest time researching and developing relationships with local authority commissioners and multi-agency teams (see our blogs about this) eg Virtual School, inclusion teams, health and wellbeing teams. Build a genuine understanding of need and who they work with, how you can help.
- Do lots of good advocacy – videos, anecdotes, data, case studies, and being smart about selling the benefits of your work around their needs/interests
For more information, case studies and resources: watch out for our report on the learning from the nurture groups, and opportunities to bid for funding for the next cycle of the project coming out in late summer term.
Thanks to all those who attended: Bridget Whyte, Music Mark; Michael Davidson, Changing Tracks/Hertfordshire; Nick Denham, Changing Tracks/Hertfordshire; Anita Holford, Changing Tracks; Ben Stevens, Hertfordshire; David Austin, Waltham Forest; Mary Mycroft, Waltham Forest; Simon Steptoe, NMPAT; Gareth Churcher, Cornwall; Steve Hawker, Cornwall; Julie Dorr, North Tyneside; Tim Rogers, Lancashire; Laura Durrans, Calderdale; Matt Brombley, Southampton; Jo Farley, SoundStorm; Jack Johnson, Cambridgeshire; Clair McColl, Dorset; Cath Sewell, Lancashire; Tim Brain, Norfolk; Sarah-Lee Surrey Arts; James Dickinson, Hull; Hannah Conacher, Essex; Ruth Morgan, Portsmouth
Music Nurture Group Day at Stevenage Music Centre
Written by Ije Amaechi
In Stevenage, Music Nurture Groups are a way for schools to help young people at risk of exclusion who struggle socially and emotionally, to re-engage in school. Weekly half-hour sessions take place in school with groups of three to five young people, focusing on creative music-making and pupil choice and voice. Music leader Ije Amaechi describes a recent Music Nurture Group day, which aimed to give pupils a first introduction to their local music centre.
Hertfordshire Music Service set up music nurture groups in eight schools in Stevenage, and in Spring 2020, all the groups came to Stevenage Music Centre along with their teachers, their music tutors from the Music Service and community musician, Mark Howe who was to lead the day.
Musical warm-ups to level the playing field
To begin the day, the 30 young people and all participating adults, sat in a large circle. Mark began with icebreakers – making big gestures, wiggling around, reaching high to low, clapping hands, stomping feet, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes random. Most of the children joined in without Mark saying a word to instruct or direct.
He whistled softly, the room fell quiet and he began passing a clap around the circle. Each activity flowed into the other, with very little dialogue throughout or between, which encouraged the children to go with that flow and copy what Mark was doing. The fact that no one knew what he was going to do or what was expected of them put them all on a level playing field and united them in the room, a brilliant way to begin the day.
Pupils take the lead with junk percussion: “Let’s see what happens when …”
Soon after, Mark introduced his double bass, which he “found in the sea” whilst rowing a boat one day. This story invited the children’s curiosity of the instrument and intrigue of what was to follow. He brought out different junk percussion – metal bowls, plates and jars, a big barrel to hit and placed them in the middle of the circle for everyone to see.
Mark asked for volunteers to experiment with the instruments and in small groups they began interacting with the instruments and each other’s sounds – hitting, tapping and spinning them. One of the children had a big smile when his bowl was the last to finish spinning. There was a great moment when one of the boys called out, ‘Let’s see what happens when we bang them together!’, when working with the barrels.
It was mainly the boys in the group who were putting themselves forward for coming into the middle of the circle, especially in the first half an hour. However, as time went on, gradually children, including the girls who were more reserved began raising their hand to volunteer themselves. Those who didn’t put themselves forward were still very engaged -tapping a foot, watching the movements and taking in the energy of the room.
Mark then brought out his ‘break bass’, a homemade instrument. One of the girls shot her hand up high, which she hadn’t done before. Two more girls did the same and joined the band in the middle of the circle. They had little smiles at the end of playing and a slightly more relaxed demeanour. Different children took it in turns to play in the middle of the circle, then Mark brought it back to the whole group. Each child was invited to make a certain sound one by one, giving everyone a chance to have their turn without too much pressure on the individual, since everyone was doing it.
Subtle ways to involve reluctant learners
One of the children in a hoodie, slouched in his chair, didn’t want to play whenever it was his turn. Mark took care not to push him to, knowing he would when he was ready. One activity in particular helped prepare him for this.
Mark set up a jam, which begins with each participant playing their own rhythm in turn around the circle, then conducted people to drop in and out….’All the boys now’, ‘Everyone with cool glasses on now’, ‘Everyone with a pony tail now’! When he called ‘everyone with a hoodie on now’ he got a broad grin back from the boy, and though he didn’t join, he was ready to at the next invitation. Later, when the whole group split up, the boy played on the steel pans with his music tutor, Lyndsey.
Mark then asked each child around the circle to give “one word that you remember from this morning”, some being ‘rhythm’, ‘expression’, ‘money’, ‘randomness’, ‘kindness’, ‘noise’, ‘junk percussion’, ‘beep’, ‘everything’.
Next, Victoria sang a chorus that she wrote for all the nurture groups to ‘Sing and Play Together’, about being part of a nurture group (“I’m not feeling sad when we sing and play together’). Victoria did call and response with the group to begin learning the lyrics and gradually the children’s voices became louder and more confident. We used this throughout the day to create a calm, reflective moment for the group between activities.
Part of the plan for the day, was to give the children a chance to perform what they’d been learning with the tutors in school. Ross’s nurture group performed Lean on Me on the ukuleles, while Ross sang the lyrics. The rest of the group from other schools listened attentively and gave them a round of applause at the end. They repeated this and Victoria and Ije joined in, encouraging the children to sing too. Most of the children were just watching, with a few quietly singing. Lyndsey’s student sang an amazing song she’d written that seemed to be influenced by a bereavement, while Lyndsey played the steels drum to accompany her.
The group returned to learning ‘Sing and Play Together’ with Michael leading on the ukuleles, showing the children how to hold it and play certain chords. This meant that everyone was included, most playing ukulele, one playing steel pan and one spinning the metal bowl.
Words captured from this section were ‘mystical’, ‘everything’ (again), ‘pipes’, ‘heavy’, ‘random’, ‘fun’, ‘passionable’, ‘heavenly’, ‘together’ and ‘uniqueness’, followed by Mark whispering at the end to bring the energy level back down.
Linking music with feelings, and creative composition
Lastly, the nurture groups split up into breakout rooms and had some time to create their own pieces together to show to the others at the end of the day. These included gamelan, steel pans, piano, percussion and ukuleles. The groups worked very hard and well together, perhaps motivated by knowing they were going to be sharing it later. Mark asked each group to pick a mood to represent their music and explained that the other groups will have to guess the mood when they perform it back. One pupil suggested ‘Frail’ for one of the pieces.
Later on, the children’s guesses ranged from ‘excitement’ to ‘hypnotising’, ‘calm’, ‘happy’ and Mark made sure they knew that even if their guess wasn’t what the group decided, it could still be that emotion, because music makes people feel different things and there is no right or wrong.
To end the day, everyone re-gathered in the auditorium and performed ‘Sing and Play Together’, which was a fantastic way of reminding everyone what the day was all about – music and togetherness.
Developing Musical Inclusion Through Music Service Partnerships
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Sharing our experience of developing Musical inclusion through Music Service partnerships.
Enablers of Inclusive Practice
Inclusion practice has always been a continuum, ranging from specialist inclusion providers commissioned to deliver initial engagement work, to instrumental tutors focusing mainly on musical outcomes, but still producing personal and social outcomes.
Changing Tracks starts with our findings that increasing inclusion capacity for instrumental music tutors can offer ongoing, preventative inclusion practice right at the heart of schools, rather than as a short term and sometimes remedial extra when funding is available.
One challenge is that many instrumental tutors are more used to benchmarking progress largely through musical outcomes, rather than personal and social outcomes. Many also are more used to working with middle class pupils whose parents can afford lessons.
We addressed these challenges in a number of ways including diversifying the workforce, expanding our approach to dialogue and pedagogy, developing new progression routes and creating additional opportunities for CPD.
Diversifying the workforce
To broaden recruitment we developed a model called Routes into Teaching. This uses musical activities and discussion to raise awareness of how opportunities to teach for music services are broadening, and to help potential tutors make the most of their applications.
Diversifying dialogue and pedagogy
Bringing different types of tutors, such as community music tutors and instrumental tutors, together opened up broader conversations around teaching.
At one of our events, community music tutors demonstrated practical ways to manage groups, to embed consultation and youth voice in music activities, and to focus on process, personal and social as well as musical outcomes. This was valued particularly by First Access tutors, as it helped them manage risk of exclusion pupils who can present challenges. Community music pedagogy also helped tutors diversify their approaches to teaching orchestral instruments.
This is gold dust!
EMS First Access tutor
But there was a two-way benefit to this. As community musicians often work in time bound projects, it was helpful to hear from instrumental tutors about how they plan long-term and work towards performances and other goals, and how these also can have considerable personal and social outcomes for pupils.
Many instrumental tutors responded positively to developing more child led, and creative approaches to their teaching such as writing songs and lyrics with pupils.
Although many young people reacted very positively to this way of teaching, we heard from some tutors working with young people on the autistic spectrum that they preferred working page by page through their tutor book.
This serves to demonstrate that inclusion is about developing approaches that respond to the different interests and needs of young people, rather than one magic bullet approach.
Diversifying progression routes and Musical Communities
More diverse approaches also need the support of more diverse progression routes – options other than exam grade examinations, bands and orchestras.
Our Songwriter project, in particular, offered young person led alternative progression routes based around producing high quality creative content. In Hertfordshire we run regular workshops in every school holiday, and weekly songwriting communities in music centres.
Songwriter also progressed young people to performances at festivals, on into HE, and in Hertfordshire was delivered by workshop leaders who had been participants themselves.
Music leadership is itself a progression route and we found that developing opportunities for young people to lead sessions helped manage behaviour as well as offering suggestions for careers. Young music leader training is forming part of our development of the Stevenage Youth Music Council, with a view to developing more local music leaders.
Developing Quality through CPD
Creating space for Critical Reflection was key in supporting tutors and managers to take responsibility for developing their work. Much CPD focuses on repertoire but reflecting about how we can improve our teaching can be more effective, and sharing practice can raise enthusiasm in an often isolated profession.
Do, Review, Improve!
Youth Music Quality Framework
Ten tips for new leaders
It’s your first session as a Music Nurture Group* (MNG) leader. In the next ten minutes, a group of students will come through the door, and they may be as apprehensive as you. They’ve never experienced a Music Nurture Group, and you have never delivered one. You have never met them before and even though you are an experienced teacher, there’s a definite feeling of uncertainty… Tim Fletcher an instrumental music teacher from Essex Music Education Hub, shares some tips to help you.
*A music nurture group is a weekly creative, instrumental music session for 3-5 young people in primary school. Participants are identified by schools as being vulnerable and at risk of poor outcomes due to mental health, behaviour or general confidence difficulties. The aim is to provide a calm and nurturing environment where children can build their resilience and agency and develop a sense of belonging.
The Hertfordshire Music Service nurture group model draws on learning from previous Changing Tracks work in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), that children become excluded from school due to early difficulties preventing them settling into school, socialising and learning. Creative music nurture groups can help address this preventatively and can offer a way to embed inclusive practice within mainstream workforce development.
As with many new teaching situations, your first meeting with a new group of students can be a bit daunting. You may feel underprepared or worry that there aren’t enough resources. You probably feel that you don’t know enough about the students you are going to be working with, and you haven’t really been able to plan for whatever their needs are. You may not have been into the room where you will be delivering the session, and don’t even know where to find the chairs…
As a new MNG leader last term, I found myself experiencing many of these feelings before the first session. But by the last session, I have to say that it mostly worked out fine. There were frustrations and difficulties along the way, but there were also lots of smiles and ‘magical moments’. I saw a positive change in most of the students; some of these changes were personal, some musical, and some behavioural, but everybody got something from the sessions – including me. I learned to focus less on the musical outcomes and more on those that developed students’ personal attributes. I learned to accept a very wide range of abilities and needs, and to use these to help develop more inclusive practice. But I think that the most important thing was to reinforce my belief that music has a profound effect on children’s personal and emotional wellbeing.
Based on my experiences in running my first group, here are my ten tips for new MNG leaders that will hopefully help to get you through your first sessions.
1. Don't underestimate the value of the pre-start meeting
Always meet with your contacts at the school in advance of the first session (I had my meeting only 24 hours before my start date, but it was invaluable) and take on board any advice they have. They should give you detailed profiles of the students and advice on how they might present to you, and how you might interact positively with them. Also, while you are there, take a look at the available resources – find where they keep any useful instruments and any other equipment that could be helpful. Ask to see where you will be delivering the sessions and try to explore the space if it’s possible to do so.
2. Make use of other professionals
In your sessions you will be supported by Learning Support Practitioners (LSPs). Talk to them – they are a valuable resource. They will know much more about the students than you do, and can guide you when things get challenging. Ask them to give you feedback about how you might improve your interactions with the students – this can give you some valuable insights. I made it a priority to have a quick chat to my LSPs at the end of every session, and they were both supportive and helpful in providing advice and guidance. Also get them to join in with the activities in the sessions – if the students see their LSPs joining in, they are more likely to do so themselves.
I also interacted in between sessions with the inclusion lead at the school where I was working, and she was very good at providing practical help in relation to finding instruments and other resources. She also gave me some excellent feedback – the students would tell her about how much they had enjoyed the sessions (even if they hadn’t told me!) and she could see improvements in behaviour and confidence in the students who took part in the sessions.
3. Take away the barriers and tap their creativity
Given the right environment and context, children can be musically very creative. In my first session, to engage them with the piano, I asked them each to invent a tune. The only instructions I gave were ‘play one note at a time, and stick to the white notes’. I played some simple chords, and tried to follow the student’s direction as they improvised. Some of the outcomes were very good indeed, some were amazing, and they all managed to play something that worked. They amazed themselves!
4. Plan your sessions, but be prepared to 'go with the flow'
By all means plan something – have an idea about what activities you might do and what you are expecting the students to get out of the session, but don’t follow this blindly. You never know what might happen in the next hour, and something may occur that either derails what you planned and you need to go in a different direction, or something amazing happens and you need to go along with it to get the most from it. Think on your feet – be brave enough to run with whatever crops up.
5. Keep it varied - even with limited resources
Try to include a range of different activities from session to session, but also vary them within each session where you can (although you can go with one idea if it’s going particularly well). It may be tempting to keep doing a favoured activity from one session to the next, but this may mean that the students are not getting a broad scope of learning contexts. In my early sessions I mainly used small drums and focused on rhythm games, but after three sessions that helped develop rhythm awareness and perception, and concepts like tempo and counting, I felt that it was time for a change. Using the drums and other percussion instruments for improvised sound effects, and the piano for character motifs, I got the students to improvise and compose ideas for the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ story. The results were very good.
6. Engage with the students both verbally and musically
Your students may have difficulties dealing with mainstream educational practices, so you should engage with them in a way that makes it more likely that they will keep attending. Talk to them about their musical experiences and what they like and dislike, and get them to give you some quick verbal feedback at the end of the session. Listen to their responses, and try to use them to inform your choices of activities.
Even though you are there to run the workshops, try to avoid the temptation to set a task or activity and simply observe the outcomes. You’re not there to just lead, but to model good practice and engage with them musically – get involved! In one session I became aware that I was kneeling on the floor playing a tiny drum with the group while another student conducted us to play louder and quieter…
7. Keep it fun (or even silly), and give the students space to express themselves
Invent mad stuff to do – they’ll probably love it. There’d been some chat on a music teacher’s WhatsApp group about using rap music in lessons, and one objection was the inclusion of violent and misogynistic lyrics in ‘Gangster Rap’. I played with the words to undermine the negative connotations and came up with ‘Hamster Rap’. This prompted a lesson idea where the students would create a rap about their favourite (or imaginary) pet. I created some prompts to get them to think about what their pets were like, and a template that divided the rap into beat chunks. The students engaged with it really well, and performed their raps at the end of the session – this was a definite success. One student even wanted to perform his rap again later for his class – he had never felt confident enough to do anything like this before.
8. Don't try to cram too much in
After my ‘Hamster Rap’ success, I considered a similar idea, but with a layer of music added to the lyrics. I thought it might be a good idea to encourage the students to learn a twelve bar blues chord sequence on the newly sourced guitars, and also write a blues lyric about their life experiences. I asked all the students to learn some ‘simple’ chords, but this was beyond them – big guitars, little hands. I probably persevered too much with this task, and didn’t leave long enough for the lyric writing. Neither aspect was completed. I’d have been much better spreading the tasks over two sessions, and perhaps tuning each of the guitars for the different open chords in the song, or getting them to learn one chord each.
9. Don't underesimate your students
Your students may have hidden talents – try to find them. During the first band session, I had asked one student to play the piano, and showed him how to play some chords in the right hand. After a little while, I noticed he was playing the left hand notes also, with no input from myself – he’d just worked it out himself. In the last band session, a student that had been generally rather reluctant to communicate with me suddenly asked if he could sing. I had no idea that he could do so, or even wanted to. Of course, I said yes. He proceeded to sing Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ rather wonderfully while I played the piano rather badly. It was a revelation.
10. Encourage a sense of musical community
Getting the students to make music with you, and more importantly, together is one of the
most important aspects of the MNGs. Finding activities where they each have a role and have to interact with each other musically is a great way of doing this. I finished my sessions with three band rehearsals – I taught them individually how to play the bass, electric guitar, piano, and vocals for ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry. There were some frustrations as it was more complex than other tasks I’d given them, but with some judicious re-tuning of guitars, and the use of sticky coloured stars to show where the notes and chords were, they managed to play it quite well.
For my first attempt at running a MNG, this was a productive and fulfilling experience, and I learned a lot from doing it. It was, in many ways, unlike my previous roles teaching one-to-one instrumental lessons, or lecturing in music at FE and HE level, as I wasn’t aiming for the students to pass assignments or achieve a qualification, but it taught me to value the ‘soft skills’ of musical creativity, interaction and community, and the value of music making in improving self-confidence and agency.
But I think the biggest lesson I learned was to embrace the unexpected and run with it!
How to set up an in-school Music Nurture Group
In partnership with a network of school heads, Stevenage Music Centre has been piloting a programme of research into how instrumental tuition might prevent school exclusions. Here, Michael Davidson, Head of Rock, Family and Community Music at Hertfordshire Music Service summarises the process for setting up a Music Nurture Group for vulnerable pupils.
Intended Outcomes: Improved emotional resilience, confidence, musical and social skills, independent learning, musical community.
Sources of evidence: Triangulated (pupil, tutor, teacher/SENCo/TA) music lesson report forms (download a sample music lesson report form here) case studies, lesson observations.
- Identify schools with a high number of pupils at risk of exclusion, in partnership with local authority inclusion teams and local music centre.
- Music service and school SENCO Identify young people at risk of exclusion from primary school, who are interested to learn music in a small group.
- They then select group of 3-5 with a close age range and compatible characters/challenges.
- Music service sends pupil research consent form to parents/carers. Ensure this is signed, returned and kept safely.
- Ensure suitable accommodation is available in school for the sessions (quiet and enclosed), advise possible times for session, and available instruments, agree timetable.
- Discuss pupil individual challenges with SENCO, share and log.
- Identify suitable tutors for each pupil – either already working in school, or locally. Arrange individual briefing sessions to advise each tutor on what works best for each, to help tutor adapt their practice as necessary.
- Identify and arrange appropriate training for tutors: this may include attachment theory, early trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences training, mental health awareness, and community music training.
- Discuss with tutors which additional outcomes/indicators (social, personal) would be valued by school, in order for them to continue to support and fund the programme.
- HMS tutor delivers sessions, with support from Teaching Assistants, keeping notes of outcomes and changed behaviours, with input from Teaching Assistants/SENCOs. At a sample of sessions the tutor, TA or SENCO asks each individual pupil a series of short questions outlined on the music lesson report form, including ‘how does it feel to make music’ and records this on the music lesson report form.
- School provides demographic information on pupils for reporting/analysis.
- Tutor completes music lesson report form for each pupil, with input from SENCO, Pupil and Pupil’s parents (ie triangulated). Tutor writes up one case study, either individual or group. A music service manager completes one lesson observation during the programme and writes up.
- Share project outcomes with SENCOs/school Heads and local authority (Hertfordshire County Council) inclusion leads.
Other things we’ve found helpful
- Framing the session as a musical activity rather than as an intervention to improve behaviour/ wellbeing.
- Working towards simple recordings or performance, although the process is more important than the final product.
- Asking pupils to be ‘co-researchers’ and asking for their input into the evaluation via the music lesson report forms eg ‘how does it feel to learn music?’
- Making it easy for pupils to progress to an activity at the music centre. For example, we ran a Nurture Group Day at one of our music centres, and are planning to invite families to a performance there.
What skills and qualities are helpful for working with vulnerable young people?
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The music tutors who discussed this work with our creative music nurture groups come from a range of backgrounds. Some are instrumental tutors from the music service, some have community music backgrounds. The aim of the nurture groups is to prevent school exclusion by providing a welcoming, child-led space in school where pupils come together to make music in small groups.
Good communication with the school
Dialogue, checking student learning needs with the SENCO at the start of a project, and reporting back successes/challenges. Ensuring staff supporting the session understand your approach.
Positive relationships with pupils
Facilitation, asking pupils what they’d like to do, rather than telling them.
Collaboration, negotiating a contract with the group about behaviour.
Negotiation, negotiating aims of the group, rather than telling.
Asking, asking pupils what they want to do, and how they feel after they’ve done it.
Flexible, sensitive approach/style
Patience, taking your time to explain things differently to respond to different learning styles and needs.
Differentiation, helping provide an appropriate level of challenge to each pupil.
Flexibility, adapting approach and material as needed, and modelling how to react to difficulties/challenges positively and flexibility.
Recognition, identifying and rewarding when pupils make a good contribution.
Leaving Space, allowing pupils to join in when they feel ready, rather than requiring all to be playing at the same time.
Humour, using humour to create an equal space.
Creative, varied, young people-led session content
Creativity, teaching pupils how to improvise and create music, together, and individually.
Lyric-writing, having strategies for facilitating lyric writing.
Movement, allowing/encouraging pupils to move/dance in response to the music, as appropriate to the space available.
Musical Skills basic skills on a variety of instruments.
Using music-technology, Keysi, Madpad, Garageband, Soundtrap.
Performance. Working towards performances, and recordings. Reviewing these afterwards.
Regular reflection and learning
Reflection, encouraging pupils to reflect on their music choices and feelings about playing music.
Critical reflection, evaluating andreflecting on sessions afterwards, and adapting as needed.
Dialogue, talking with music tutor colleagues regularly to share successes and challenges, compare approaches, find new ones.
Evaluation writing case studies to capture personal and social outcomes for each student.
Announcing 15 music services and schools piloting trauma-informed music nurture groups this Autumn
Article written: 01/07/2022
Fifteen primary schools across England will be piloting the second rollout of an innovative programme of inclusive music work with vulnerable young people this Autumn. The programme will be delivered by the lead organisation in their local music education hubs, as part of the Changing Tracks national programme run by Hertfordshire Music Service and funded by Youth Music.
The musical nurture group model was pioneered by Hertfordshire Music Education Hub as an action research programme to reduce school exclusions. The aim is to help other hub lead organisations to grow their understanding and skills in inclusive music work, and to support music tutors to develop new skills for working with children facing barriers to music and learning. The projects will run for six months, in one primary school per area.
What is a music nurture group?
A music nurture group is a weekly 30-minute creative instrumental music session for three-five young people in a primary school. Participants are identified by the school SENCO as being vulnerable and at risk of poor outcomes due to mental health, behaviour or general confidence difficulties. The aim is to provide a calm and nurturing environment where children can build their resilience and agency and develop a sense of belonging.
The Hertfordshire Music Service nurture group model draws on learning from previous Changing Tracks action research in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), that children become excluded from school due to early difficulties preventing them settling into school, socialising and learning.
A creative musical nurture group is a practical way for hubs to develop and implement their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Action Plan, which all hubs are required to publish by December 2022. A nurture group helps by embedding inclusion within mainstream instrumental music teaching, and linking hubs to school and local authority preventative health and inclusion agendas.
The hub lead organisations who successfully applied for funding for nurture groups, are:
Buckingham Music Trust, Cumbria Music Service, Gateshead Music Service, Harrow Music Service, Lancashire Music Service, Leeds Music Education Partnership (ArtForms), Leicestershire Music Service, Musica Kirklees, Portsmouth Music Service, Solihull Music, Southwark Music, Sutton Music Service, Swindon Music Service, Tameside Music Service, Trafford Music Service.
Hub inclusion managers and one tutor in each service will receive support and resources from the Changing Tracks team, including guidance on how to set up, run and evaluate a music nurture group; training in the impact of trauma on learning; and regular critical reflection sessions – a space for tutors to share learning and advice and support each other. Outcomes will be shared through the Changing Tracks website, and the National Working Group for Musical Inclusion.
Funding for your music service to develop a trauma-informed creative musical nurture group project, Sept 2022-March 2023
Article written: 20/05/2022
- Changing Tracks is pleased to make available funding for music services in England to each develop a trauma-informed creative musical nurture group project in a primary school
- £1,500 is available per music service to support your tutor’s delivery time, introductory and subsequent monthly online training; we will ask services to match-fund time for a supporting project manager to attend introductory training and to analyse return and present outcomes evaluation after completion of delivery
- The funding is available for music services and music hub lead organisations who have not previously received Changing Tracks funding
- Applicants will be asked to confirm they have capacity to begin programme delivery during September 2022 to conclude early March 2023
- Please note, we are looking for applicants who will be interested to roll out more widely in their services after Changing Tracks funding has finished.
- This opportunity and the Changing Tracks programme are led by Hertfordshire Music Service (HMS) and backed by Youth Music, thanks to the National Lottery via Arts Council England.
What is a primary school creative musical nurture group?
A musical nurture group is a weekly 30-minute, creative instrumental music session for 3-5 young people in a primary school. Participants will be identified by schools, usually the SENCO, as being vulnerable and at risk of poor outcomes due to mental health, behaviour, or general confidence difficulties. The aim is to provide a calm and nurturing environment where children can build their resilience and agency and develop a sense of belonging.
The HMS nurture group model draws on learning from previous Changing Tracks action-research in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), that children become excluded from school due to early difficulties preventing them settling into school, socialising and learning.
A creative musical nurture group is a practical way to implement/help develop your service’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Action Plan, by embedding inclusion within mainstream instrumental music teaching, and linking this to school and local authority preventative health and inclusion agendas.
Running a nurture group can also help you to develop more inclusive whole class teaching too.
Why is Changing Tracks making this funding available?
- To provide a way for music services to link a practical initiative to EDI action planning, bringing EDI intentions to life through CPD for instrumental music teachers’ delivery in school
- To give music services an opportunity to test a proven inclusion model which can be adapted and scaled up afterwards with more teachers.
- To support music services to develop outcomes linked to schools and local authority team’s inclusion agendas
- To gather learning to share with other music services across England and the UK to advocate for embedding equality, diversity and inclusion
What is the timeline?
- 20/05/22 Fund launched
- 06/06/22 Online drop-in briefing session 3-4pm – meeting link here.
- 17/06/22 Deadline for return of application form
- 24/06/22 HMS/Changing Tracks confirms successful applicants
- 30/06/22 Online project briefing for services who have been confirmed 3:30-4:30pm
- Sept 2023 (date tbc) Online training session on Trauma-informed practice
- Sept 2023 Nurture groups begin, followed by monthly online critical reflection sessions*
- 10/03/23 Tutors return reports and case studies to their project managers for analysis*
- 17/03/23 Project managers return analysis to HMS to include in reporting to Youth Music
- 28/03/23 Project managers/music service leaders share outcomes during National Music Services Working Group on Inclusion (NWG)
*Funding for tutors’ reporting time and critical reflection sessions is accounted for in the funding
What support will Changing Tracks provide?
- £1,500 funding to support the tutor’s time for training and delivery, as per your service’s costs. This payment will be made in two halves, the first 50% paid at commencement of the project
- Facilitate online sessions: initial briefing, training, critical reflection groups and project manager groups (see above)
- Provide critical reflection diary, report, case study and outcomes framework and reporting templates
- Share your learning (including case studies) nationally with other music services through Changing Tracks website, social media, enewsletter, events and other channels e.g. Music Mark
- Offer feedback on EDI Action Plans
Announcing the 17 music services piloting inclusive creative musical nurture groups this Autumn
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Article written: 18/10/2021
Seventeen music services from across England will be piloting an innovative programme of inclusive music work with vulnerable young people in primary schools this Autumn. The projects are part of the Changing Tracks national programme run by Hertfordshire Music Service and funded by Youth Music.
The pilot is a rollout of a programme pioneered by Hertfordshire Music Service to reduce school exclusions. The aim is to help other music services to grow their understanding and skills in inclusive music work, and to support music tutors to develop new skills for working with children facing barriers to music and learning. The projects will run for six months, in one primary school per organisation.
What is a music nurture group?
A music nurture group is a weekly 30-minute creative instrumental music session for three-five young people in a primary school. Participants are identified by the school SENCO as being vulnerable and at risk of poor outcomes due to mental health, behaviour or general confidence difficulties. The aim is to provide a calm and nurturing environment where children can build their resilience and agency and develop a sense of belonging.
The Hertfordshire Music Service nurture group model draws on learning from previous Changing Tracks work in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), that children become excluded from school due to early difficulties preventing them settling into school, socialising and learning. Creative music nurture groups can help address this preventatively (of much interest to local authorities who often host music services), and can offer a way to embed inclusive practice within mainstream workforce development.
The music services who successfully applied for funding from Changing Tracks to pilot the nurture group programme in their local area, are:
Bury Music; Calderdale Music Trust; Milton Keynes Music Hub; Dorset Music Service; Merton Music Foundation; Lambeth Music Service; Sunderland Music Hub; Severn Arts (Worcestershire); Peterborough Music Hub; West Sussex Music; Wakefield Music Services; East Riding Schools’ Music Service; SoundStorm Music Education Agency (Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole); Waltham Forest Music Education Hub; Cornwall Music Service Trust; NMPAT (Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust); Liverpool Resonate.
Music service inclusion managers and tutors will receive support and resources from the Changing Tracks team, including guidance on how to set up, run and evaluate a music nurture group; training in the impact of trauma on learning; and regular critical reflection sessions – a space for tutors to share learning and advice and support each other.
Working with vulnerable young people through music
In this video, four music service tutors share their experiences of nurture groups, first access and critical reflection support groups. These tutors have critical reflection meetings every half term to share activities, advice, challenges and support one another in their working with vulnerable young people.
They share practical tips, such as co-creating a ‘group contract’ with the young people as a way to agree to rules for the group.
Lindsay also talks about different ways of communicating in a session, not having to just rely on dialogue, and how to engage the quieter students in a group.
The tutors run through a practical warm-up activity with ukuleles. One of the tutors usually runs this in a whole-class group, but shows how it can be part of an online lesson.
Here is an example of running the activity ‘don’t copy me back’ with a djembe and clapping hands.
How can music services help prevent school and social exclusion?
In partnership with a network of school heads, Stevenage Music Centre has been piloting a programme of research into how instrumental tuition might prevent school exclusions. Michael Davidson, Head of Rock, Family and Community Music at Hertfordshire Music Service explains.
Stevenage is a Hertfordshire new town, with several wards in the top deprived 10 per cent nationally, and an increasing number of excluded pupils. We wanted to learn more about how music could help, and in particular, the social and personal outcomes that aren’t usually documented or benchmarked in schools’ music.
We heard from staff at the PRU, who we’d worked with on a short-term inclusion project, that they were part of DSPL (Developing Special Provision Locally), one of 10 networks of Hertfordshire school head teachers, working to prevent school exclusion from primary school upwards.
We approached the Stevenage network heads (DSPL2), who agreed to match fund the programme by £11,000. They didn’t want to see improved attainment levels, but were really interested in the outcomes of confidence and resilience, and were keen to offer a creative musical activity that could improve the children’s ‘fit with school’.
We worked with the network to refine our ideas and came up with a two-pronged approach:
- Creative group music making, called ‘Nurture Groups’ which would take place at the Music Centre during the school day, or at the primary schools, for children identified as vulnerable due to mental health, behaviour or general confidence difficulties at primary school. See also How to set up an in-school Musical Nurture Group
- One-to-one music mentoring for pupils in the PRU and secondary schools, both to prevent exclusion, and to welcome them back into school.
Activities would be coordinated from Stevenage Music Centre, and match-funded from our Youth Music funding, as part of the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England.
In the video above you’ll hear from teachers, tutors, young people and our Centre Manager about the programme and the Celebration Day we ran; and below I’ve summarised some of the key elements and findings. You can also read a blog from Ije, one of our music leaders, about the day. Ije is now one of our music leaders, and previously a participant in our work.
- Musical skills and knowledge
- Resilience, confidence, agency
- Musical community
- ‘Fit with school’
Setting up the programme
- We wrote to all Stevenage schools and set up 30-minute, weekly sessions in each of the 8 primary and 4 secondary schools that responded and worked with 80 pupils aged 6-18 in these schools during our first year.
- We then contracted ‘reformed opera singer’ and trauma therapist Darren Abrahams to deliver training to music tutors based at or in schools around Stevenage Music Centre who expressed an interest in being involved in the programme.
- We also recruited two trainees, a gap year A-Level music student, and an undergraduate music student from the University of Hertfordshire.
- Through the training, we learned how school environments can limit the natural ‘resetting’ processes of the nervous system, especially for pupils with early experience of trauma. Darren also introduced tools for tutors to take care of their own wellbeing, to ‘meet’ pupils from a place of calm. We also used community music activities to reflect on how music-making could support Darren’s focus on the breath, social connection, expression and release.
‘It has changed my teaching immensely. I am continually trying new methods and communicating far more with the SEND team. Therefore enabling me to be prepared and organised for the lessons.’
First Access Violin, and nurture group tutor
- Alongside the programme in schools and the music centre, we started to run regular (bi-monthly) two-hour critical reflection sessions to help tutors adapt their practice to the different interests and needs of the young people. This has been a very important part of the programme, offering tutors an opportunity to ‘offload’ – almost peer supervision (in the social work sense of supervision), but also to share experiences, advice, and learning. We think this is a better method of musical inclusion than simply training everyone to deliver in the same way.
- The diversity of the group was key. We used WCET djembe, violin, steel pans and ukuleles tutors, alongside songwriting tutors from our Songwriter project. The more-formal tutors found it helpful to draw on the songwriter tutors’ child-centered approaches. More experienced tutors were open about where they were having challenges, and this helped establish an informal supportive atmosphere that produced lots of helpful learning. The trainees were able to draw on their own recent experience of learning music, both positive and negative.
Documenting practice and capturing impact
- Some of the tutors had previously thought of case studies as something you ‘had to do for funders’. But once they were in an informal, supportive, environment, many turned out to be really good at talking about how they were adapting their practice. So we recorded these conversations and the trainees turned these into case studies to help our learning and evaluation.
- We adapted our standard instrumental tuition report form to include comments from school and family, tutor and pupils on personal, social and musical progress (which we’re now using as standard across the Music Service).
- We also invited the pupils to tell us, as co-researchers ‘How does learning music feel?’ and audio-recorded responses. One simple indicator of increased confidence was ‘I put my hand up more in class!’
- Large numbers: some of the schools identified many pupils for us to work with. This meant that sometimes there weren’t enough teaching rooms available, or it was difficult to group pupils by age-group. We ran separate (additional) sessions to manage this, but have clarified expectations about this in the second year.
- Getting tutors together for training: this was tricky because of their busy teaching schedules. But those who attended all the training sessions found it benefited their confidence – and some of those who didn’t had more challenges.
- Support from school staff: the best sessions have regular support from SENCOS and TAs or trainees, and we’ve built an initial planning session into the second year of the project.
- Using composition/songwriting: tutors found this helped manage both differentiation and pupil engagement, as it gave pupils a chance to have a voice, and bring their authentic lives to schools.
- Tutors sharing their musical selves: pupils liked hearing the tutors play and sing, and getting to know them through their music.
- Working towards recordings and performances: this helped develop focus and resilience in response to challenges.
- Reflective sessions for tutors: tutors look forward to the sessions and enjoy comparing notes as co-researchers. They say that it improves their confidence and their ability to tailor their work to individual pupils needs, as well as managing inclusion better in their mainstream teaching too.
- A Head of Centre committed to inclusion: the Head of Stevenage Music Centre was already experienced in inclusion practice, and she set up the sessions with SENCOs in each school, developed links to Looked After Children, Family Intervention teams and the local children’s home. As a result several vulnerable young people have joined our Stevenage Music Centre Youth Music Leaders Council.
What were the benefits to the music service?
- Increasing the reach of the music centre: the project established a community music network around the Centre, raising its profile with schools and increasing the range of pupils attending, and their profile. For example, last April the Youth Music Council’s Give a Gig featured a track written by a pupil from the PRU.
- Engaging ‘hard to reach’ families: we ran a nurture group composition day at the Centre – featured in the video above – and we will invite programme participants and their families to attend a concert.
- Engaging ‘hard to reach’ schools: the project engaged schools we hadn’t previously worked with. School heads were very clear that they value the service as another way to for them to support vulnerable pupils. Developing the work through our mainstream tutors will help us both promote the programme to young people at risk of exclusion in all schools, as well as promote the wider service offer to those young people.
- Our inclusion work has already influenced the organisational culture of the music service. We’ve provided written guidance to the wider music service team on capturing personal and social outcomes; our lesson observation templates and critical reflection sessions we used with the trainees are being used for the wider music service quality system, and our revised staff code of conduct now advises tutors to have regular conversations with SENCOs. Most significantly, inclusion is at the centre of our new 10-year vision for the music service.
Next year, DSPL funding will be sustaining activities around the music centre, and Youth Music funding supporting us to develop this approach in our other music centres, one in each of the other 9 DSPL districts. To do this we’ll be diversifying recruitment, CPD and contracting to grow capacity for inclusion within our wider workforce. We’ll also be speaking with heads other music centres to draw on their local knowledge of schools which would most benefit, and to check which tutors they recommend to get involved.
We think that our nurture groups model could be replicated in other counties, and be a key part of a wider preventative inclusion strategy in schools, through partnerships with Music Services.
What is music mentoring
Working with vulnerable students in schools and Education Support Centres, trained peripatetic teachers are able to act as mentors providing musical learning activities and experiences that respond to the pupils’ own musical interests, develop their broad attitudes to learning and offer a safe way to talk about feelings, issues, challenges and choices.
Music Mentoring is a coaching relationship that uses music to build confidence in learning. It’s time bound and involves goal setting, with pupils involved in setting the goals. This gives pupils a chance to personalise their learning, by, as far as possible, giving them a choice in what they learn and how. It’s teaching music for personal and social outcomes: confidence, social connection, freedom, and as a way to talk about feelings. It also has the further effect of changing pupils’ feelings about learning by teaching them how to critically reflect on how they respond to the challenges they face. It can happen one to one, or in groups.
Peripatetic music tutors are often the only regular one-to-one contact a young person has with an adult in school and so they are really well placed to pick up difficulties a student may be having. We’ve found promoting the music mentoring element of instrumental teaching has helped to improve the flow of information about students’ needs between school and peripatetic staff, and has helped schools value our work as an additional way of supporting pupil wellbeing and attainment. When we work in groups it can involve teaching pupils music leadership skills and how to mentor others who may be struggling.
From a practical point of view, it helps manage differentiation and behaviour. Good music mentoring, like good music teaching, is about being able to change our practice to respond to the needs and interests of pupils, and continuing to do this. We develop capacity for this by practising our own critical reflection, in written notes, or with colleagues.
Music mentoring is teaching a skill for life, as it offers young people a way to take care of themselves and others. As part of a recent Hertfordshire Music Service CPD session, we produced this video explaining how music mentoring works, including a case study of our work at Dacorum Education Support Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
In-school music mentoring example at Monks Walk School
n-school music mentoring utilises the one to one relationship peripatetic tutors have with their students.
The peripatetic tutor is often the only regular 1-1 contact young people have with adults in schools, and as such is well placed to pick up and pass on information related to pupil wellbeing. MusicNet East supported an 18-month development of the Hertfordshire Music Service in-school music mentoring model to build capacity for peripatetic music tutors to mentor vulnerable pupils in Monks Walk School, a mainstream school in Hertfordshire.
The children and teachers from the school made a film about the project.