Thinking Ahead to September


Thinking Ahead to September


With the publication of the DfE guidance last week, schools are focusing on the planning for a full return to school in September. The logistics for this are clearly complex in terms of maintaining bubbles and allowing students full access to a broad curriculum. It has been really important to have had the message from the DfE that:

‘The curriculum remains broad and ambitious: all pupils continue to be taught a wide range of subjects maintaining their choices for further study and employment.’


Clearly there will be challenges for class music teaching, extracurricular and instrumental teaching around how each school is approaching its logistical plan for a full return in compliance with the DfE guidance.


Some of the main areas here for music will be:

  1. Maintaining social distancing and the seating/grouping of students/learning activities.

  2. The use of resources and the cleaning routines required between classes

  3. Groupings for instrumental lessons related to year group bubbles, instrument types and room sizes/social distancing.

  4. The running of extra-curricular groups again related to year group bubbles, instrument types and rooms sizes/social distancing.


Some further areas for classroom learning with a full return will be:

  1. Addressing the gaps in learning - students who have engaged well with online learning and those who have not.

  2. Addressing the gaps in learning - disadvantaged students - maybe trying to engage with the learning but with little support at home - parental and technology based.

  3. Continuing to complement the curriculum with online learning or to build online learning as the curriculum expectation (also important in terms of the possibility of disruption to face to face teaching with a spike in the virus).

These are all areas I have recently discussed with Heads of Department across a number of schools. I would like to share the outcomes of these meetings with you and hope you find the thinking / practice useful when working on your own curriculum planning.


‘Back in the Classroom - social distancing/hygiene/learning activities’

  • Using schemes of learning for different year groups that ensure the use of different class resources.

  • Where equipment is shared between classes, providing time within the lesson to clean instruments using sprays/wipes. The classroom expectation being that all students help with the cleaning process between classes.

  • Classes sitting in register order or register boy/girl class order. Noting down the seating arrangement to be able to inform school about children who have been close to students showing COVID symptoms.

  • Within year group bubbles no social distancing is required between students (so students can be less than a metre from each other) - teachers will need to be two metres away from their students though - this will allow students to be able to share keyboards or IT equipment and to work in pairs and groups.

  • For students using computers/IT equipment ensuring that they use the same machine each lesson. (this approach will work well for KS3 as well as KS4).

  • For practical work in open spaces, setting the class in a horse shoe arrangement (therefore not face to face). With a 4 metre diameter allowing the teacher to keep two metres away from students.

  • Group learning activities will be fine, though for the teacher to social distance, interacting with these groups will be challenging. Teachers will need to keep to the front of the class and stop the class to hear individual groups/provide feedback.

  • An alternative approach to teaching here is working with the class as a whole e.g. adapting schemes of learning and teaching through the model of a whole class ensemble. The learning taking place with the teacher modelling, directing, questioning and students performing as a class, discussing and sharing thinking for developing ideas, with the teacher providing feedback and moving the learning forward.


Addressing the gaps in learning and reengaging students

The key focus areas here discussed with Heads of Department were around ‘catching up’ students in terms of differing levels of engagement with remote learning. Focus areas discussed were around current Year 10, Year 9 and Year 8. Year 9 and Year 8 in terms of options.

  • Where engagement has been mixed differentiating teaching between students in a class that have engaged and made progress and students where engagement has been low.

  • For students with gaps in their learning due to low engagement (or disadvantage), supporting with short learning tasks to scaffold skill and understanding.

  • At the same time, for students who have engaged and made progress remotely, support with longer learning activities that build on the fundamentals from the online learning provision.

  • To promote music as a good option for GCSE/RSL/NCFE.

  • Build in ‘live’ streaming of performances e.g. Hamilton and link to learning

  • Accelerate learning with pre-listening/guided home learning with explicit detail of what to listen for and then build on this further with classroom activity.

  • Build in some of the successful online approaches to class learning e.g. Cahoot - inserting video clips to open up discussion about topics. Using Cahoot in this way for students to also analyse musical excerpts and discuss.


Continuing to build a ‘robust’ online learning programme as part of the curriculum expectation for music

It is possible that there could be a spike and a need to be ready again for a blended learning approach if students have to engage in some remote learning due to a localised lockdown. Also a blended learning approach to support music teaching where specialised spaces are not being used in September. Here ‘guided learning’ at home could be used to complement class teaching.

  • Be explicit with instruction of what to listen for.

  • Use different types of pedagogy to engage the children with the learning e.g. elaboration or dual coding.

  • Set the class practical learning activities in Teams - this could relate to learning a song.

  • Setting one/two/three practice tasks related to the song.

  • Use screen cast to model and lead the learning.

  • Students practise and then record and upload video of their performance.

  • Teachers feedback on this for progressing further.

  • Will need clear structuring - with chunking and modelling.

  • To further develop remote learning consider carefully how to develop students ‘oracy’. The chance for students to discuss, think, question.

  • Using the ‘chat’ function in Teams - posing questions and asking students to respond,. Set up themes for discussion beforehand to focus ‘chat’ around.

  • Use ‘Flipgrid’ in Teams (teachers can set up for each of their classes) - set an assignment through a video tutorial on Flipgrid. Students can upload their own work too, view each other’s work and comment on work/feedback. Bandlab can also be used in this way sharing, listening to work and providing feedback.

What extracurricular ensemble provision is possible

According to the DfE guidance ensemble provision is possible though only in groups of up to 15 and with social distancing or ensembles running within a year group bubble. This clearly creates many challenges when ensembles are often greater in number and across multiple year groups.

To ensure there is ensemble engagement to help progress instrumental and ensemble skills and keep students committed, one possibility shared:

  • Set up a group/ensemble in Teams

  • Choose an arrangement and send all the parts home for practise at home

  • Provide clear instruction about a particular passage of the music to work on

  • Use screen cast to model and lead the students with this practice

  • Ensemble members practise parts

  • Ensemble members record video and of the extract and sent in.

  • Teacher provides feedback to progress playing further

  • Possibility of later producing a split screen recording of arrangement for the ensemble


I hope that you have found the above ideas useful in terms of your thinking for September. I am sure the guidance will continue to change and of course, as excellent practitioners I know you will then be flexible with your approach.


I will continue to share practice as we move in to the autumn term. Please do get in touch about your own provision and school situation if you would like to.