Music Education Solutions

FREE KS1 Teaching Resources in partnership with pBuzz

We are delighted to have been working in partnership with pBuzz to create a brand new set of teaching resources for KS1 teachers.

Featuring 12 brand new songs by Kay Charlton, alongside lesson plans, assessment framework, and interactive teacher-development materials, the resources provide everything you need to teach KS1 music with confidence.

For a limited time it is possible to access all of these resources, including a class set of pBuzzes, completely free! In exchange you would take part in our user-testing trial, providing feedback and suggestions to help us refine and develop the resources.

If your school would be interested in being involved in the trial, please contact us via our ‘Get in Touch’ page, and someone will be in contact with you soon!

As is usual for this time of year, I have been tootling around the UK leading INSET sessions for various different music services. At these sessions have emerged two clear but contradictory themes.

Many teachers have expressed how important it is for children to be allowed to make mistakes. There is a real feeling that we are heading down the wrong road in today’s education system, in which children are forced to make linear progress week on week, year on year, and must never, ever fail at anything. The teachers I spoke to felt strongly about creating within their music lessons a safe space for pupils to make mistakes and learn from them. The purpose of this is not just to give respite from the relentless march of linear progression, but also to fit our students for the workplace, where it is imperative to be able to cope with and learn from mistakes.

It is clear that these music teachers want to create an environment devoid of blame and encouraging of useful error for our pupils. But do they extend themselves the same courtesy? Apparently not! I lost count of the number of teachers who thanked me for my ‘honesty’ when I spoke of the skills and curriculum areas that I find difficult (some impossible) to teach. Many of them confessed that they encountered the same problems but had assumed they were a product of their own inadequacy. Others started conversations with phrases like ‘I’m only self-taught’ or ‘My degree’s not in music’ and went on to apologise unnecessarily for what they perceived as their inherent weaknesses.

Why do we judge our pupils by one standard and ourselves by another? Why can we see that the demands put on pupils are ridiculous and counter-productive, but berate ourselves for not meeting a similar set of standards? Doesn’t it make you a better teacher if you have to strive to overcome problems? If you have to think creatively, imagining new scenarios and alternative solutions? If we all knew everything, how would we learn anything? If we all knew everything, how would we cope when our pupils can’t understand?

Let’s agree to cut ourselves some slack. Let’s allow ourselves to make mistakes. Let’s make our lessons a safe space for ourselves as well as our pupils.

Dr Elizabeth Stafford
11th September 2017

The programme for this year’s Singing Strategy Symposium has just been released! The day is split into five themes –  inspiration, peer-sharing, bright ideas, support systems and synthesis – and is specifically designed to support music education hubs and schools to develop their singing strategies.

In the morning, hear from Out of the Ark, Opera Anywhere, and Milton Keynes Music Hub about how their innovative projects are supporting schools and teachers, and find out about the latest vocal pedagogy research from Cardiff University. Share your successes and challenges with other delegates, and discuss how you can support each other.

In the afternoon choose between workshops from Friday Afternoons and Sing for Pleasure, and presentations from Sing into Literacy and NYCGB, and then come back together to discuss how all the themes of the day can be carried into your own singing strategies.

Booking for this event closes on 1st October, so book soon to avoid disappointment!


SingSymp 2017 Timetable

The programme for the Jersey (CI) Music Conference has now been released. Open to anyone involved in music education across the Channel Islands and beyond, the conference contains sessions for primary, secondary and instrumental teachers. Follow the links below to view the programme and download the booking form.

Jersey CI Music Conference FINAL Programme

Booking Form for Web

The Music & Drama Education Expo is moving north, and we’re joining them!

We’ll be at the Hilton Deansgate, Manchester on 4th October with lots of information about our products and services!

Visit us on our stand to browse our discounted resources, pick up a free instrument, and enter our competition to win a gin!


We must raise standards! We must ensure that all pupils get good GCSE grades!

How should we do that?

By making the exams harder!

Wait, what?

Exams must be harder! Exams have been getting easier and easier every year!

How do you know that?

Because more and more pupils are getting better grades!

Isn’t that because teachers and pupils are working harder each year to make sure that grades improve?

No! It’s because exams are getting easier. Exams must be harder!

How will that help pupils get better grades?

Because teachers and pupils will work harder to achieve better grades!

But if they get better grades at the harder exams, won’t that prove that the harder exams are getting easier?

Of course not! Stupid child! What did they teach you at school?!

Dr Elizabeth Stafford
23rd August 2017


This morning, I became embroiled in a disagreement about the assessment of young musicians that got me thinking…

As music educators, what are we striving for? Perfection or participation? Are they mutually exclusive? Is one more important than the other?

There is a myth held by the general populace that you must ‘have talent’ to ‘be musical.’ Of course this is a myth in so far as everyone is innately musical, and everyone can enjoy and participate in music to some level. But it cannot be ignored that to make a career of music you do need ‘a talent’ for it in the same way that you couldn’t be an accountant if you didn’t have ‘a talent’ for numbers.

So as music educators, are we aiming for perfection with a handful of talented students, or are we aiming for participation with as many students as possible? Are we doing both? And what if we’re trying to do both at once in the context of the same lesson?

Is it possible to have perfection in participation?

I think it is. I think that we sometimes need to uncouple our understanding of perfection from the construct of talent.

Say we are teaching 30 children the violin. Maybe 5 of them go on to take Grade 8 and achieve distinction. Does that mean that the other 25 have failed to achieve ‘perfection?’ (Ooo look, maths! Maybe I could be an accountant after all!)

I think not. I think that if the other 25 were playing at the absolute top edge of their ability, then their contribution would be perfect for them.

So as music educators yes of course we are looking to widen the net of participation to, well, everyone! And of course we are looking to help our ‘talented’ students to excel towards a career in music. But we’re also looking to help each and every one of our participants to achieve their own version of perfection. And that is where the magic lies…

Dr Elizabeth Stafford

3rd August 2017


We are extremely excited to be working in partnership with Jersey Music Service to present the Jersey (CI) Music Conference 2017!

Taking place on Thursday 28th September at the Radisson SAS on the waterfront at St Helier, the conference will feature local and national speakers and exhibitors, and is open to delegates from across the Channel Islands and beyond.

Catering for primary, secondary and instrumental teachers, the programme features practical workshops, panel discussions, and presentations from keynote speakers including the Education Minister. Download the Jersey CI Music Conference DRAFT Programme.

Delegate tickets are free for teachers employed by Jersey Schools, and cost just £50 for non-school-based or non-Jersey teachers. Download the Booking Form.

Some exhibition slots are still available. Download the Exhibitor Packages Information.

On 9th June 2017, representatives from England’s Music Education Hubs gathered at the First Access Forum to share their experiences of devising, delivering and funding whole class ensemble teaching programmes. As the event drew to a close, we asked delegates to answer these burning questions…

We asked: What are your main challenges in delivering First Access / WCET programmes?

The three main issues for delegates were issues around school engagement, funding, and staffing. Many schools buy in programmes for PPA cover and do not engage with the sessions, and some schools do not buy-in at all as they do not see the value of the programmes. Many hubs reported that even schools with good levels of engagement are now revaluating their involvement in these programmes due to budget cuts. In addition, the central funding that hubs receive represents a reduction in real terms on previous years (due to wider economic factors), so it is hard to keep the programmes competitively priced. Hubs reported that staff turnover impacted on the availability of programmes, making it hard to get a teacher of the right instrument to each school. They also noted that staff turnover resulted in a constant need for training, with many new entrants not understanding the purpose and structure of the programmes.

We asked: What are your main priorities for First Access / WCET up to 2020?

Many hubs cited continuation as a major priority up to 2020, and were looking to embed continuation routes as part of their First Access package to encourage schools to commit to providing them. In light of education funding issues, delegates felt that advocacy was a key priority, ensuring that head teachers and governing bodies understood the value of these programmes and saved rather than cut them. Many hubs were also looking at consistency of teaching, echoing the challenges mentioned above regarding staff turnover.

We asked: How can schools and hubs provide the wider ingredients for children’s musical progression beyond First Access / WCET lessons?

Hubs were experimenting with various ways to nurture musical progression beyond First Access lessons. These included logical supporting steps like performance opportunities, ensemble provision and bursaries for further study, but there were also examples of innovative practice including advocating to families, making links with community music groups, and providing online practice resources.

We asked: What other measures of progression could be collected realistically following WCET programmes?

This question caused heated debate! At present the current Arts Council England (ACE) reporting system does not capture data points from indicators other than continuation numbers (although this may change when the system is revised). However ACE do want to know about other points of impact and progression from First Access / WCET programmes. The suggestion was that case studies and anecdotal evidence should be collected and shared with ACE to give a full picture of the impact of these programmes.

Do you teach First Access / WCET programmes? Do any of the issues above ring true for you? Are there any issues that have been missed? Share your thoughts via our Twitter or Facebook page.

Music Education Solutions® launches ‘Excellence in First Access’ a new national training programme for WCET teachers.

Excellence in First Access is a structured training programme based on the latest research into the pedagogical principles behind successful First Access (WCET) teaching programmes. The programme is devised by the Music Education Solutions® team, four of whom were previously on the leadership team of the KS2 Music CPD Programme, the DfE’s national Wider Opportunities training programme which ran from 2007-2011.

The programme is suitable for teachers at all stages of their careers, and who teach any instrument in a whole class setting at primary level. The programme can be taken wholly online, or can be combined with live training, for a blended learning approach.

The programme has been developed in response to continued debate within the sector as to the purpose and practicality of Whole Class Ensemble Teaching. Excellence in First Access aims to promote national consensus whilst respecting local differences, offering a practical solution to drive best practice forward nationwide.

The programme will cover subjects such as the history of First Access, taking an holistic musical approach, integrating programmes within the musical life of the school (including with the national curriculum), collaborating with school staff, and progression and continuation. It will be fully integrated with the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators (Trinity CME).

There will be live taster events throughout England in July 2017 for teachers to find out more, with the online and blended learning programmes being rolled out in September 2017.

To book for one of the Taster Events, or to pre-order the online programme, visit the Courses & Events page of the Music Education Solutions website.