This section details my experience, successes, and values regarding Music teaching and learning.
I am passionate about all aspects of Music and the array of learning and developmental opportunities that this national curriculum area offers students of all ages and abilities. I have extensive experience of leadership in a number of state schools across Performing Arts, Music, Humanities, Languages, English, and Able, Gifted, & Talented. I am also a qualified piano teacher (I hold a DipABRSM in Instrumental Teaching) and have a 100% pass rate in ABRSM examinations.
Posts held: [Currently freelance teacher, tutor, and consultant]
Jan 2013-Jan 2018: Head of Music / Head of Performing Arts / Head of Humanities [John O'Gaunt School 'JOG', Hungerford]
Jan 2007-Dec 2012: Acting Head of Music / Teacher of Music [The Commonweal School, Swindon]
Previous to training as a secondary school teacher (at Bristol University), I spent a number of years working in industry, teaching piano both privately and in local primary schools, and doing a research degree in German Literature at Bath University.
I am extremely proud to have succeeded in taking the Music department at JOG to the next level in terms of raising the profile of music-making. There are now record numbers of students taking instrumental lessons and musicians attending club rehearsals are steady and regular. As the current political climate in education has quite drastically affected the Music provision nationally for some time now, it has been imperative to constantly review the curriculum, to ensure the experience of learning music is consistently exciting, wide ranging, and challenging for all, whilst keeping the schemes of work relevant, engaging, and accessible for all learners. Indeed, my aim to “get students being as musical as possible” (Robin Hammerton, previous Lead HMI Inspector for Music) has been the lynch-pin in planning and delivering a wide a range of topics within the curriculum, ranging from teaching whole-class ukulele, a Blues Band project using drum kits, guitars, and keyboards, to Body Percussion and Beatboxing topics. I am particularly proud of my SoW on Sports Themes, aimed at engaging and motivating Year 9 boys by teaching them how to play various football chants on the keyboard and ukulele! I have also introduced students to free web-based music software programs, which has really sparked excitement as students can access their work from home and can post it (safely) online if they wish.
In recent years, the challenge of leading Humanities whilst still maintaining my leadership of Music and AGT has developed my leadership style and toolkit, including leading a more diverse number of subjects and staff, and presented a welcome challenge of learning and leading on new curriculum areas and specifications in which I am not a specialist. I have developed an even wider understanding and knowledge of monitoring the quality of teaching and learning alongside progress across a range of subjects: History, Geography, Citizenship, Leisure & Tourism, Philosophy and Ethics, and Music. I have conducted learning walks, collected, analysed and acted upon student voice as well as carrying out work scrutinies alongside data analysis. This has allowed the development of effective teaching and learning strategies to improve progress and outcomes for students. Sharing good practice through effective line management and departmental meetings has built a cohesive, mutually supportive, and motivated team.
A key responsibility for me as a leader continues to be to ensure consistency of high quality teaching and learning across all areas I am responsible for, with a keen focus on raising the achievement in particular of boys and SEND students, which is a key whole-school objective in many establishments currently. Last year, our Year 7s and 8s had a particularly high proportion of PP/SEND students, and although it can be a challenge to provide tasks appropriate for all, my team and I were always committed to working together to address this. The impact of our approach was soon evident and clear through the improved content and quality of student work as well as Behaviour for Learning, and my team and I took consistent pride in our flexible and reflective approach which helped us to continue to strive to improve to really ‘be the best we can be’. To give an example of the positive impact of our SEND focus, last year's Year 7 data capture (March 2017) showed our SEND students in Humanities were MEP 12% above our non-SEND students. In Music, the MEP figures were very close: the difference between Year 7 SEND and non-SEND students was only 1% MEP. With regards to boys, I am also pleased to say we successfully worked hard to close the gap between boys’ and girls’ attainment in Year 11, with our Year 11 boys predicted 2% higher than the girls (across all Humanities subjects only) as per our March 2017 data capture. [In May 2016, the equivalent data was drastically different: Year 11 boys were predicted 40% lower than the girls for A*-C]. Examples of our comprehensive differention strategy included annotated seating plans through MINTCLASS showing key focus groups and their data which allows for targeted teaching, marking PP/SEND books first, giving underachievers leadership roles, providing writing frames, and practical activities are just some of the examples of differentiation strategies we use every day in our lessons.
Liaising with the West Berkshire Secondary Music Teachers’ network and Berkshire Maestros, our local music hub, was vital for me as a one-person department; regular communication with music teachers in other schools is important to keep ideas fresh and discuss current educational issues. I am an active Twitter follower, and enjoy reading articles and literature. A particular achievement I am especially proud of is that I have also published two articles for the e-magazine ‘Innovate My School’: How to Kickstart the Learning Brain with Music (May 2015) and Music & SEN (September 2016). My third article is due to be published later this year.
Monitoring and evaluation has always been a key part of my role, and I am fully conversant with SISRA Analytics to extract and analyse data after each data capture and to deliver reports to SLT. I am proud of how my students progress – especially since many have never studied Music before arriving at secondary school and music tech resources are notoriously limited across many learning environments. I am very proud of the fact that during my time at JOG, I secured funding from Greenham Common Trust to purchase a class set of ukuleles and a Yamaha digital grand piano, and was able to purchase two digital drumkits with money raised through concert ticket sales profits. Two years ago, I was invited to present at the Hungerford Rotary Club lunch in order to gain financial support. Similarly, at my previous school, I secured £1000 from the PSA to go towards the purchase of a brand new piano.
I have experience of leading and conducting ensembles at all levels: Junior Band, Concert Band, String Group, Music Theory club, Junior Choir, Chamber Choir, Ukulele Club, as well as community choirs. Student enjoyment of ensemble work is of course imperative and aims to foster a sense of teamwork as well as individual self-esteem and confidence. Furthermore, a sense of discipline and commitment in terms of working towards and achieving a performance of the highest quality is instilled, which in turn sets an example to younger students and inspires further learning. Among the events and concerts I have organised include the annual ‘JOG X Factor’ competition, (which last year a celebrity judge joined the judging panel – Jordan Fish of the band ‘Bring Me The Horizon’) incorporating a feeder primary category as well as humorous staff performances. In addition, I organised regular school Carol Servicesat our local church, the musical performances at the annual community Christmas ‘OAP Party’ at JOG, Spring / Summer concerts, performances at HADCAF, Hungerford Carnival (we won 2nd place in the walking procession with my samba band) and workshops delivered by visiting musicians. For our community events, I worked closely with Hungerford Town Council, local videographers, photographers, organists, accompanists, and a sound/lighting company to ensure the performances are always of the highest standard. I organise the musical performances for our annual Prizegiving Evenings – past guest speakers we have performed for have included Bear Grylls and Jon Snow. At Commonweal (Swindon) I had the responsibility of Assistant Musical Director for the shows Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hairspray, and at Kingswood (Bath), a musical adaptation of the fairy tale Rapunzel, for which I composed several of the songs and was the Musical Director on stage.
Last year, with the support of Berkshire Maestros, I jointly set up Hungerford Music Centre within my department at JOG, which is another example of a brilliant achievement and one I am extremely proud of. We now have two medium-sized ensembles who meet and rehearse every week (a Guitar Band and a Wind Ensemble), comprising JOG students and feeder primary students from across the county. Similarly, I helped to set up the local ensemble West Berkshire Strings, comprising young string players from across the county, who specialise in ‘pop-up’ concerts at local venues. All ensembles have scheduled performance at events throughout the school year.
In the past, I have assisted on various foreign music tours to Barcelona and Paris, and am proud to have led the joint MFL and Music trip to the Black Forest last summer. At Commonweal, I established the extremely successful inter-schools Swindon Piano Festival and ran it for three years (now in its ninth year). This Swindon-wide celebration of piano-playing, comprised my delivery of a piano/musicianship workshop, a masterclass and talk by world-renowned and local concert pianist Paul Turner, and culminating in a prestigious concert at the Swindon Arts Centre involving students performing on the piano from primary and secondary schools across the borough). One of my early career highlights was conducting the brass/organ ensemble at the Kingswood Leavers' Assembly in Bath Abbey.
As part of my performance management in previous years, I launched an initiative to ‘join up KS1-KS5 thinking’ as I can see there is a gap of knowledge/information currently that exists between Primary and Secondary schools in the state sector in particular. This involved presenting my initiative and strategy at the local Primary School Music Network meeting with a view to collaborating with primary music specialists in the area, in order to support each other by sharing good practice. As part of this exciting initiative, I took my GCSE class to our local primary school to deliver a series of music workshops to the Year 5 students there, which was very energetic and great fun! Cross-phase collaboration is certainly something I am passionate about.
In 2015 I took on the role of A, G & T Co-ordinator, which has given me the valuable experience of working at a wider level across the school. My 3-year plan incorporated a multitude of strategies to support and encourage our high-achieving students, involving Student Voice Surveys, learning walks, presenting to Governors and MLT, Learning Portfolios demonstrating best work, workshops delivered by visiting speakers (including parents of the school), ensuring stretch and challenge opportunities are utilised at any given opportunity, and Mystery AGT Challenge events. Our Able cohort last year comprised 20 students from across the school. Since taking up the responsibility, our Able students have demonstrated outstanding and sustained progress in terms of attainment. One of the key strategies staff have implemented is incorporating higher order thinking / questioning styles as standard in their teaching. In Music, another way I regularly stretch and challenge my high ability KS3 students is through student-led ensembles and introducing GCSE skills as soon as they arrive in Year 7. Last term, I launched (with support of the Assistant Head responsible for Transition) a series of AGT sessions in Music, Science, and MFL for Able Year 4 and 5 students from our local feeder primary school. This role has proved to suit me very well; it feeds in to my passion to encourage our students to be the very best they can be, and to really take pride in producing their very best work.
I am passionate about instilling a sense of independence and accountability in students from an early age, using the ‘DIRT’ (‘Directed Improvement Reflection Time’) strategy in lessons to excellent effect. I would be very happy to share my experience in this with colleagues as a support in improving practice when planning, marking, and giving feedback to students. I keenly use technology in my lessons to enable students to record their practical work, to enable reflection and improvement, in conjunction with AFL and peer assessment. As a practical subject, developing strategies to record evidence of progress in Music is essential and is an area that I am keen to continue to research and share ideas. I am currently involved in trialling PiXL-style PLC spreadsheets (based on GCSE mock exam performance), which form part of the individual intervention plans I have in place at KS4.
My teaching style is innovative, engaging, pacey, approachable and friendly, yet firm but fair. I regard myself as having a clear communication style and am happy working with young people and colleagues at all levels. I have high expectations of students and staff, and I am proud that my team and I consistently model good behaviour.
Having 'many strings to my bow' is reflective of my values in the benefits of always learning and being versatile: apart from KS3 and KS4 Music teaching, I have also taught English, German, Philosophy & Ethics, Geography, Product Design (theory only), and last year, I was asked to support staff with behaviour management strategies in Maths and English lessons. This year, I have been asked to take on the role of SLE for Music within the MAT, based at St John’s, Marlborough. I have a solid grounding in Drama and Art, purely through my personal experience: as well as taking Theatre Studies A-Level at VI Form College, I was a member of a Summer Theatre School from the ages of 12-16.
Having completed an MPhil thesis on German Women's Literature and having spent my undergraduate year abroad teaching English in Vienna, I also speak fluent German, and have conversational Polish and French. My own musical education is wide and varied – not only am I trained to Teaching Diploma level on piano, but I also sing semi-professionally as a studio session singer and also with Christ Church Choir, Swindon, play the guitar, ukulele, recorders, cello, and basic drums. In my spare time, I enjoy films, reading, travelling, walking, collecting ‘Irregular Choice’ shoes, and health/wellbeing.