Green Park School Music
Green Park School is a school for children and young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) and complex health needs. As a visiting music teacher, I am very aware that I am part of a school whose wonderful staff includes teachers, teaching assistants, therapists, nurses, care workers and other professionals who work with some of the most profoundly disabled children in the UK.
According to Public Health England, there are around 10,000 children in the UK with PMLD. Whatever the nature of their complex medical needs, it is important that these children have access to the same opportunities and experiences as other children and young people their age. Green Park is one of the few schools in the UK which cater for children and young people with these very special needs, aiming to provide a suitable and relevant education which records and celebrates achievements no matter how great or small.
Learners with PMLD are most likely to be developing skills which are linked to early years learning. Green Park School focuses on developing the learner’s understanding of the world around them and of social interaction and relationships. Achievements of learners with PMLD are often measured in very small steps, so it is essential to focus on what learners can do and provide realistic targets as part of a holistic approach to their development. Music can play a huge part in this approach.
Head’s Statement Lorraine Dawny. Head of Green Park School
‘Green Park is a school where the team strive to ensure they do everything possible to enable the pupils to be happy, safe and achieve to their full potential. All of our pupils have a range of special educational needs, but every child is treated as an individual and they astound us with the things that they achieve. We support learners aged 3-19 years of age with complex and profound learning difficulties. All pupils who attend school will be under assessment or have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The school is organised into Key Stage Clusters (Green, Yellow, Orange, Red and Purple).Each Cluster has three classes supported by the Class Teacher and Teaching Assistants, reflecting the need of the learners. Children will be provided with an appropriately paced and differentiated curriculum to reflect their individual needs and strengths.’
Music at Green Park
Music by way of a song played on the p.a. starts and ends the school day serving as a reassuring and recognisable signal for pupils to know where they are, and which part of the day is about to commence.
CYPic (Children & Young People in care) Wolverhampton Music Service works in partnership with Wolverhampton Virtual School and Inclusic to deliver 1-1 instrumental lessons for pupils at Green Park.
One to one music sessions are currently delivered by Ed Davies from one of our Wolverhampton Music Education Hub partners Inclusic and myself (Rob Craner from WMS). Ed works in the specially equipped Multi-Sensory room using guitar, voice and ‘Sound Beam’. This is a device which emits a ray of light which, when broken, shapes and changes the sound in some way. Parameters such as tempo, pitch, tone etc can all be varied. This is a great way of enabling learners who may have limited mobility the opportunity to create sounds and make music.
I have used keyboard, drums and percussion as well as the interactive floor to engage learners. The physical nature of playing a drum can be great for helping with development of some pupils’ motor skills. Green Park has a good selection of musical instruments including a nice tam-tam (gong)which has surprisingly different effects on some students.
Over the course of the last few years, there have been several notable music projects between Green Park and Wolverhampton Music Service. Two of them have been ‘Our Music’ and ‘Play Together’. The ‘Our Music’ project in conjunction with Soundabouts’ Will Taggart, brought together some mainstream students into the Green Park environment to learn and make music.
More recently ‘Play Together’ was a chance for the Green Park pupils who have been working with Ed and myself, the opportunity of playing their instruments along with other colleagues from WMS. For many of them it was the first time they had experienced instruments such as a Cello or electric guitar played live and up close. The exuberance was clear to see, and a wonderfully fulfilling morning was had by all who attended, staff included!
Every Friday afternoon at Green Park there is a Primary and Secondary assembly which is a fantastic focal point for all the pupils and the staff. We have a lively opening ‘Greeting Song’, a calming reflective ‘Sitting Down’ song, a contemplative ‘Reflection Song’ and a final ‘Goodbye Song’ all of which I play on the piano for the pupils and staff to sing or dance to, move or interact to. Pupils’ achievements are celebrated and rewarded and there is a different weekly theme, usually in keeping with a current celebration, topic or event where pupils and staff will share a presentation to the rest of the school. Teams has been a facilitator in allowing everyone across the school to access these weekly enrichment opportunities. A new milestone was reached with a live assembly in person (March 2022 See photo) ) .Going forward the plan is to use a hybrid where some pupils present and everybody else views on TEAMS. Examples of assemblies have featured Chinese New Year, Divali, Christingle, Comic Relief, Road Safety, Anti Bullying and many more. Each week there are ‘Sensational Shout Outs’ for pupils as well as ‘Staff Wows’. The assembly sessions are hosted by the irrepressible Kirsty McCardle.
Well-Being Drumming Group.
Well-Being Drumming is again a weekly activity but is, I believe, quite a unique project; in that it is aimed solely at members of staff. It is open for any staff to attend, and the focus is on playing together in a relaxed ‘drum-circle’ type of environment. We use djembe, conga and occasionally drum kit in addition to a little singing too! Certain members of staff have found these sessions to be stress busters and a release valve. Every school needs a well-being drumming group!
Green Park is a friendly and welcoming environment to work in, with wonderful hard working, caring and giving staff, who thrive in challenging circumstances. It’s great to see the School which plays such a vital and often unsung role in the heart of the community realising the importance music plays in stimulating, engaging, interacting, and communicating with all their young people, and as a result, establishing it firmly within their curriculum. Hats off to Lorraine, Angie, Heather and all the staff.
Rob Craner Wolverhampton Music Service