Unlocking the musical potential of children with special needs in the UK

Professor Adam Ockleford, Professor of Music, launches the Sounds of Intent -  a ground-breaking framework setting out how musicality develops in children with learning difficulties.

Posted: 28 November 2013

image for news story Unlocking the musical potential of children with special needs in the UK
Prof Ockelford and members of the Sounds of Intent team in conversation with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

Professor Adam Ockleford, Professor of Music, launches the product of ten years of research alongside colleagues from the Institute of Education and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The Sounds of Intent is a ground-breaking framework setting out for the first time how musicality develops in children with learning difficulties and providing coherent guidance and resources for teachers, parents and therapists. Launched yesterday (28 November), Sounds of Intent is set to transform the face of music education in the special education sector forever.

Adam Ockleford is one of the world’s leading academics and teachers in the field of music and special needs. His pioneering work has overturned current theories of musical understanding, particularly amongst children with learning difficulties and autism.

Until recently no-one knew how children with learning difficulties developed musically, so there was little professional guidance or educational materials available for those working in music settings with children with autism, or those with profound or multiple learning difficulties. Indeed the National Curriculum as it was originally set out in the Education Reform Act of 1988 completely overlooked children with learning difficulties and the ‘P-Levels’ – first conceived in 1998 to plug the gap have been widely criticised – particularly in the area of music.

An initial 10 year research project established in 2001, Sounds of Intent aimed to address this issue by consulting with more than 100 teachers and therapists from all over the UK. Today’s launch marks the result of this research: a developmental framework and assessment tool steeped in practice and grounded in the reality of day-to-day school life, which allows users to work out children’s level of musical development, record and monitor their progress and download musical activities for people of all ages and abilities. Access to information is supported by an impressive website providing a portal to a whole range of resources – all of which are available free of charge.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries attended the launch event. He acknowledged that Music Hubs could do more to support the music-educational aspirations of all children and invited further contact with the Sounds of Intent team, led by Professor Ockelford, to consider how this could be done.

Ofsted has endorsed Sounds of Intent as: “A good example of a framework that provides clear landmarks of musical understanding for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties, from which curriculum can be structured in order to asses student’s progress.”

As Prof Adam Ockelford says: “Sounds of Intent does much more than provide information about how the musicality of children with learning difficulties develops. Not only does it enable teachers, music specialists, therapists and parents to engage with music as an activity in its own right, it better equips them to use music as a scaffold to structure other learning and development.”

More information is available at www.soundsofintent.org

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