At New Haw, our vision is to inspire a love of music that not only develops a subject-specific skill set, but also challenges children to consider their understanding of history, art, technology and culture; thus reinforcing local as well as global themes. Where words fail, music speaks. Through the unifying powers of music, we aim to provide all pupils – regardless of race, gender or ability – with a platform to express themselves through this unique form of communication that can change the way they feel, think and act. We strive to use music to promote emotional development and an appreciation of others, therefore forging important links between home, school and the wider world. Through the provision and integration of enriching performance opportunities, we aim to bring together all aspects of school life in order to promote a cohesive, inclusive, inter-connected and dynamic school community.
The curriculum at New Haw is designed to ensure universal provision of music education, for all pupils. Our lessons contribute to the development of musicianship in the following four key areas: singing, listening, composition and performing/instrumental performance.
Singing: Lessons are sequenced to build upon quality vocal production and a well-developed sense of pitch. In lower Key Stage 2, pupils are taught how to sing in time (mainly within group ensembles) and they are provided with strategies to help them to sing in unison, with the emphasis on observing and following a conductor. In upper key stage 2, the challenge increases; the focus centres around helping children to sing in harmony (two or three parts) and to consider the impact of phrasing and dynamics. By Year 6, through appraisal/evaluative work, children learn to identify breathing techniques, posture, dynamics and phrasing in musical pieces and they are encouraged to apply these elements to their own performances.
We offer children the opportunity to understand and appreciate a wide range of musical compositions, spanning a range of different geographical and cultural spectrums. The genres that we focus on in our lessons include: reggae, R and B, rock, South African music and classical (Year 3) gospel, pop and classical (Year 4) pop, soft rock, rap, sea shanties, contemporary and classical (Year 5) and pop, blues, classical, gospel, Motown, folk, gamelan and scat (Year 6).
We specifically revisit the classical genre in every year group in order to help embed children’s understanding and appreciation of the early historical origins of music. Through the Primary Robins scheme, we are able to further enhance this knowledge through the provision of professional singing lessons (led by classically trained singing teachers) to all pupils across Years 3, 4 and 5.
Listening: Listening to music is critical to musical understanding. As such, aural skills are focused on in all units in order to (a) reflect on how compositions are constructed (b) consider the impact of musical elements on the listeners in terms of mood/emotion (c) try to establish the significance/meaning of lyrics and (d) evaluate the overall intent of musical pieces.
Opportunities to apply aural skills are of great importance too. In lower key stage 2, children are taught how to identify and copy simple rhythms aurally, including crotchets, minims, semibreves, quavers and 1 beat rests. In the upper years, we move onto exposing pupils to more complex rhythms, including dotted rhythms, tied notes and semibreve, minim and crotchet rests. By Year 6, children are encouraged to be able to aurally recognise repetition, variation of pitch and duration, contrasts and elements that contribute to expressing certain emotions – e.g. through dissonance.
Composition: The creative process of composing, with its wide horizons of possibility, gives pupils ‘an opportunity to contribute to musical culture in unique and valuable ways.’ (NC) Because of this, composition skills at New Haw are interwoven in all of our music topics. As pupils transition through each year group, they develop and refine the craft of creating melodies and fashioning these into short pieces. Familiarity with a wide range of diverse music feeds into great compositions, which is why music assemblies (separate to the in-class music lessons) have also additionally been devised to draw children’s attention to the works of many of the greatest composers and music styles, ranging from Baroque to 21st century songs. In Years 3 and 4, children begin to compose 4 bar melodies, improvise simple harmony parts and consider speed, dynamics and tone in their musical creations. In Year 5, children compose more complicated arrangements, including arpeggio and alberti arrangements of chords. By the end of Year 6, we aim for pupils to be able to create improvisations over instrumental sections, using a variety of instruments. They are encouraged to consider 2 parts (including harmonies and scat ostinatos) and are challenged to try to use their compositions to convey specific moods. We aim for children to be proficient at using the pentatonic scale as well as being able to carefully consider rhythmic variety to form interest.
Performing/instrumental performance: We provide children with a platform to celebrate, share and experience music of all kinds in order to consolidate the learning within the MNC. We apply the following principles of performance across all year groups: development of stagecraft; sequencing of performances to maximise impact and maintain audience engagement; encouragement of peer feedback and seeking opportunities for collaboration. In lower school, children take part in a range of ensemble performances which include simple rhythmic ostinatos. In Years 5 and 6, the focus moves to introducing and consolidating more complex rhythms with leaps and intervals of fifths.
Music theory plays a huge role in securing children’s musical understanding. As such, we have integrated music notation lessons into all year groups, delivered by a specialist music teacher. Lessons are aimed to sequentially build upon the recognition of musical notes, symbols and terminology. In Year 3, the emphasis is mainly on crotchets, paired quavers, minims, allegro, adagio and a range of a third on the stave line. In Year 4, these elements are reinforced, and the following are introduced: rests, range of a 5th, crescendo and decrescendo. In Years 5 and 6, the challenge continues to increase through the introduction of: semibreves, rests, time signatures (2/4, 3/4 and 4/4) and a range of an octave. In Year 6, we are ambitious about children exploring treble clef as well as bass clef notes, with an increased sense of precision.