Music Mark has commissioned research on Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET) in Music Education Hubs. The report was published in September 2016, with North Yorkshire Music Hub as one of the Hubs participating in the project.
The research came about as a result of the English government’s 2001 pledged White Paper, ‘Schools Achieving Success’, which stated that all primary school pupils who wanted to should have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. The aims of the research were:
- to find case studies of high quality WCET delivery
- to survey the nature of WCET programmes on offer, their roles in schools and what challenges they faced
- to investigate how WCET can make best use of Music Education Hubs specialist instrumental teaching and learning pedagogy in whole classes
The principal finding was that WCET can be implemented in ways that lead to high standards of instrumental playing and high continuation rates. The study found that teachers must have high expectations of the participants, and must be enthusiastic, inspirational, and have a wide range of strategies for teaching.
WCET was found to be more successful in schools where children had experience of high quality general class music lessons prior to WCET, and where senior and other school staff were supportive of and committed to the programme. It was also found that the children needed to be able to practise at home or school, and needed frequent performance opportunities, including those in prestigious environments.
High continuation rates were found to require seamless transition to Music Hub ensembles or other ensembles with other schools. Continuation may be through ongoing tuition (whole class, large or small group, or individual), membership of a Hub ensemble, or through independent learning.
Challenges facing WCET providers varied depending on location (urban/rural) and levels of deprivation. North Yorkshire Music Service was cited as a successful WCET programme in a rural area – the Service had offered one year’s free WCET provision, and the researchers visited St Cuthbert’s CE Primary School to observe what was happening. Two classes of Years 3-4 and Years 5-6 were observed, with children learning trumpet, trombone, euphonium, Eb horn, clarinet and saxophone. Lessons were one hour and took place for the whole school year. The head teacher described how the community had been so proud of what the children achieved that the WCET programme significantly improved local perception of the school. All children were reported to have improved their self-esteem, confidence, social skills, concentration and motor skills.
The full report and accompanying resources are available to download online at www.musicmark.org.uk/WCETresearch.