Music Education Solutions

Top Ten Tips for Artsmark applications

To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for different aspects of music and arts education each month during 2018! This month’s Top Ten gives advice on applying for Artsmark, and is written by Deborah Welch.


1 Firstly – what is Artsmark?  Artsmark is the creative quality standard for schools – it is accredited by Arts Council England and it provides a clear framework for teachers to plan, develop and evaluate arts, culture and creativity across the curriculum. The award is a practical tool for enriching the arts provision whatever the starting point.

2. Who can apply for it? It can be delivered by secondary, primary, special schools, independent schools and Pupils referral units in England.

3. So what are the benefits? Artsmark brings learning to life through arts and culture – pupil confidence can be increased with creativity in the curriculum, it can help encourage leadership skills and pupil voice and it can support children who do not find the curriculum easy.

4. How will it help my school? Embarking on the Artsmark journey will support your school in accessing practical resources as well as connecting with local cultural organisations. It will also give you an opportunity to reflect on the current strengths in your creative work across the setting and identify future plans and direction

5. But what do I have to actually do? Artsmark is all online so once you are registered you will be able to keep the paperwork in one folder – you can download the templates here. However, it is important to realise that Artsmark is very much a school development tool. It should be closely linked with your school development plan and once you begin to plan you should allow a minimum of 12 months to complete the award – the most successful schools take the full two years. You start by attending a Development Day run by your local bridge organisation. You can find your local Bridge Organisation here.

6. Loads of paperwork then? Thankfully no! You start with a self-assessment document which helps you audit the level of provision you already have. Then you attend a development day (which is free) where you will spend time considering the two pieces of paperwork – the Statement of Commitment and the Case Study. The Statement of Commitment is the beginning of the Artsmark journey and you outline your plans in a framework of six questions – you can only use 500 words for each question. Once you have completed this and had it signed by your Headteacher and Chair of Governors you submit it to Arts Council England. You don’t submit the Case study document until you are ready for a level of the award.

7. What are the levels? The levels are Silver, Gold and Platinum. Your self-assessment document will help you decide which level you feel your creativity and arts level currently reflects. It is important to remember that the level you are awarded when you submit your Case study is based on the impact your Artsmark journey has had on your school. Silver levels tend to reflect school that are emerging in developing their creativity throughout the curriculum, staff are developing expertise and there are clear results. Gold reflects schools that are really embedding creativity and developing best practice and Platinum school are those which are very much stretching both staff and young people, are able to offer advice and are making a big difference,

8. So how long does the case study need to be? Well, actually – not very! There are five questions – each one with a word limit of 500 words This is a very reflective document – you have the opportunity to explain how effective your Artsmark journey has been and outline the difference it has made to your school in terms of attainment and progress. You will also have the opportunity to highlight unexpected outcomes from your original plans

9. What else can I use to help me? You can use the Quality Principles to help you plan your Artsmark journey – they can be a useful tool while planning, delivering and reflecting upon your Artsmark journey.They are embedded throughout the new Artsmark award to better support schools to achieve their ambitions for high quality arts and cultural provision.

10. Ok – I think this might really work for my setting – what next? You can find out lots more at here and subscribe for the regular newsletter. Contact your local bridge organization to find out what support they are offering – many will do free briefings before you commit. You can also find out about Artsmark Partners – organisations who will have a range of offers for schools who are enrolled on the Artsmark journey.












Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions® Limited. All Rights Reserved.




Our February #MESis10 competition prize was a pair of tickets to the Curriculum Music Conference. We think it’s fair to say that Alyson Medley was delighted with her prize!



To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for different aspects of music education each month during 2018! This month’s Top Ten looks at running successful music INSET sessions, and is written by Dr Elizabeth Stafford.

  1. Remember that teachers are professionals. Maybe you’re the music expert in the room, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is completely stupid! Don’t treat teachers like pupils, but engage with them as teaching and learning experts. Explain why you’re doing each activity, and by all means get them to model the likely pupil outcomes, but don’t spend all session making them pretend to be 6 year olds, or they may start behaving like them…
  1. Personalise the Learning. You do this all day everyday with pupils, right? Well there is a whole bunch of research evidence to suggest that adults, as well as children, learn more, and are more motivated, when the learning is personalised. Don’t make your teachers sit through an hour-long session on rhythmic circle games if what they really want to know is how to lead singing effectively. Find out the teachers’ wish-list in advance and give them what they need.
  1. Acknowledge the fear. Music can be scary for some teachers, and singing can be downright terrifying! Create a safe space for your teachers in which it’s ok to make mistakes, and explain that almost everyone feels the same level of fear as they do! Teachers are so used to having to be perfect at everything all the time (thanks for that, Ofsted!) that it should be a welcome relief to spend an hour getting things wrong without judgment!
  1. Work on teacher skills first, pupil skills second. Your teachers may have had no music training whatsoever, so starting with how to teach music may not be the best option. Instead find out what level of musical skills each teacher has and then make sure you explain all the musical concepts you’ll be covering, in really basic terms, before you dive into how to teach them.
  1. There must be cake. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. THERE MUST BE CAKE. Not only is it a delicious and motivating mid-session treat, but you can also use your cake as a simile for how the interrelated dimensions of music work together to create a successful piece of music, like the ingredients in a cake. (Although if your baking is anything like mine then best pop to M&S for a Colin the Caterpillar or you’ll totally undermine your clever metaphor…)
  1. Let them use their phones. Writing notes only gets you so far in a practical subject such as music. Audio or video-recording the activities is a much more efficient and practical way for the teachers to capture their learning, and gives them something concrete to refer to next week when they’re trying to remember ‘how that song goes…’
  1. Your session should be practical but RELEVANT. It’s no good teaching an hour’s worth of games, songs and activities if you don’t relate them to the national curriculum, and explain exactly how they can be used in the classroom. If you don’t give teachers detailed instructions for how they can use the activities, they won’t use them. Epic Learning Objective fail!
  1. Tailor the session to the available resources. There’s no point pulling out all your party pieces if they involve instruments, software or equipment that the school doesn’t have. Find out in advance what resources are available at the school and base your session around those. If you think they’re under par then by all means throw in a few titbits about what could be achieved if you had a full class set of glockenspiels, Logic Pro in the computer suite, or an authentic Balinese Gamelan….!
  1. Leave time for questions, reflection and planning. This might be the teachers’ only opportunity to think about music this week/month/term/year. Make sure you allow time for them to ask questions and reflect on how they can implement the ideas you’ve shared with them in their own classrooms, including coming up with a plan to do so. If they leave the room with a SMART goal for revitalising their music teaching then, my friend, you are winning at life!
  1. Music is meant to be fun! Even if you ignore all the other top tips*, at least make your sessions enjoyable for the teachers. This will motivate them to want to go and ‘do some music’ with their class. And who knows? You might plant the seed that inspires one of those teachers to become a musical expert!

*Please don’t, they took ages to write!







Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions Limited. All rights reserved.

A brand new publication for primary schools launches on 12th March 2018. Primary Music Magazine is a free online publication aimed at anyone teaching primary school music lessons, whatever their level of expertise.

Published by Music Education Solutions®, the magazine provides advice, inspiration and support on a wide variety of issues relevant to primary music teaching. The publication also brings news and views on the latest music education product and project launches, helping teachers to make informed decisions on which new initiatives to sign up for.

The magazine will be published termly, and in future issues the editorial team will be looking for ‘real life’ teachers from schools and music education hubs to contribute articles sharing their own expertise and ideas. You can follow them on Twitter @primarymusicmag to find out more.

Issue 1.0 of Primary Music Magazine can be read and downloaded for free here


Primary Music Magazine Issue 1 Cover Image

Throughout 2018 we are giving away a different prize every month to celebrate our 10th Birthday!

March’s prize is a class set (15 units) of Keyboard Practice Pads. Ideal for paired work using keyboards, these resources combine staff notation and letter note names with a full-size 4-octave keyboard chart.

MU03 orange BG

To view and enter the competition pop along to our Facebook page. Good luck!


We would love to stay in touch with all our customers once GDPR comes into force in May 2018. In order to do this we need to ask you to subscribe to our mailing list. As a thank-you for your time, we’d like to offer you a free Music 7-11 Resource Pack!

Microsoft Word - MES Resource Pack - Coast.docxComposers take their inspiration from many different sources: stories, art, environmental sounds, music; the list is endless. In this topic, pupils will explore the reality of being a composer, using a variety of sources to inspire them, and thinking carefully about the effect that they want to create.

This flexible resource pack contains everything you need to teach a topic-based music project, including plans, assessment templates, and worksheets and other pupil resources. The pack is fully differentiated and covers all the skill areas for the KS2 Music National Curriculum in England.





Click here to join our mailing list and claim your free resource pack.

Throughout 2018 we are giving away a different prize every month to celebrate our 10th Birthday!

February’s prize is 2 tickets to our Curriculum Music Conference, which takes place in London on 12th March.

To view and enter the competition pop along to our Facebook page. Good luck!

To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for music teaching each month during 2018! This month’s list is compiled by David Ashworth.

  1. Why use apps?  Apps usually upload much more quickly on tablets compared with software on computers, they rarely crash, and are intuitive to use. Although Apps are becoming more expensive, they are still far cheaper than most music software computer programmes, and the added bonus of using iPad apps is that the built in microphones, speakers and camera ensure that you have everything that you need to create, record and play music!
  1. Getting the best and most from your apps. When considering apps for classroom use, try to look at them with more of an ‘agnostic’, open minded approach. The app designers will have produced their apps with certain uses in mind, but also consider how they might best work for you in supporting your curriculum work. How might the features they offer support your teaching and learning needs? The examples which follow provide some pointers to thinking and planning in this way…
  1. Bloom is a generative music application for iOS created by Brain Eno and Peter Chilvers. The software plays a low drone and touching the screen produces different tones, which play in a loop. The fact that it provides an instant display on the screen makes it ideal for working with graphic notation. It can also be used for live improvised performance and its use of simple modal scales makes it a great app for aural work with older students. The fact that it is easy to play and produces beautiful sounding melodic lines makes it an ideal application for use with younger students and in some SEND contexts.
  1. SampleToy the first thing to note is that you can ignore the word ‘toy’ in this app’s name. What makes it so useful is the speed at which you can record and play back a sampled sound. A great way of bringing more interesting unusual sounds into the classroom which are often beyond the reach of students in terms of affordability and playability.
  1. iReal Pro is a real time-saver. Simply type in chord progression for any song to instantly create an accomplished sounding backing track comprising guitars, bass, keyboards, drums etc. The songs can be played back in any key and at any tempo. Great for rehearsal, improvising, composing and performance activities. The tracks can also be played back in different musical styles. So students can get a feel for stylistic conventions and also have a lot of fun devising interesting cover versions of well known tunes. I find Scarborough Fair as a reggae number particularly engaging!
  1. MiniSynth 2 from Yonac is a simple virtual synthesiser which gives students the chance to build and use their own synthesiser sounds. This can be an excellent independent learning tool for those are keen to explore music technology at a fairly basic level. They can experiment with changing oscillator settings, filters and effects to design and save configurations for use in subsequent music making.
  1. Air Vox makes use of the iPad’s built in camera to detect hand motion gestures which can be translated into sounds. Moving the hand up and down vertically over the iPad changes the pitch of notes, played from a chosen scale. The other hand can optionally move horizontally to control the volume or tone of the sound output. This is a great app for use in live performance involving dance or movement. It is also particularly useful for SEND students with limited motor control.
  1. GarageBand is one of the all time best apps for music makers and the basic version is part of the standard iPad suite of apps. To name just two of the features, GarageBand’s ‘Smart’ instruments can be used for writing diatonic chord progressions in any key and the Smart Drums uses a unique matrix grid, allowing users to create convincing drum patterns where the degree of complexity and relative dynamic levels can be easily controlled.
  1. Thumbjam is one of many ‘virtual instrument’ apps available for the iPad. Where it scores significantly over many of its rivals is in the way it allows the user to manipulate the tablet interface to add elements of expressive control to the triggered sounds. Wobbling the finger on a note will add a degree of vibrato whilst tiling the tablet will control the volume and other settings. There are a range of articulation settings and a large choice of instruments and scales which enable the user to play musical melodies and harmonies with considerable subtlety and nuance.
  1. Although you and your students will find apps quite easy to use, it is often a good idea to enlist technical support from the experts in your school. Storage/retrieval of students work on iPads is not as straightforward as it is on computers, so find out what systems are in place to facilitate this in your school. Your tech support should also be able to advise on buying and installing apps across a range of devices. Finally, don’t forget your students! Some of them will be way ahead of the game – and may be a useful further source of advice on getting the most from your apps….











Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions® Limited. All Rights Reserved.


Congratulations to Michelle Bingham of The Oaks Primary School in Birmingham, who won the first of our 10th Birthday Competitions this year! Michelle won January’s prize, a class set of Music Notation Starter Packs, for her Year 4 class who are currently learning Xylophone with S4E Music.














Dr Elizabeth Stafford pictured with pupils from The Oaks Primary School.

To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for different types of teachers each month during 2018! This month’s list is compiled by Dr Elizabeth Stafford.


  1. Don’t panic! So you’re the only musician in your school? Or maybe there are no musicians in your school at all? Don’t tell anyone we told you, but you don’t have to be ‘a musician’ to teach primary music, in the same way that you don’t need to be J.K Rowling to teach writing! However ‘unmusical’ you feel, you WILL be able to teach primary music because it’s at a level designed for 5-11 year olds, and you are much older and wiser than that!
  1. Invest in quality teaching resources. Make things easy for yourself and invest in an up-to-date curriculum scheme and modern resources. You don’t need to create everything from scratch yourself, particularly if you’re not confident about music. Let the experts do the legwork for you and use commercially available resources that you can adapt to suit your class. Adaptation is easier than invention – shout-out to Disney and their live-action-remakes!
  1. Clear out that music trolley. If it’s broken – chuck it. If you don’t know what it’s called – find out. If you don’t know how it works – find out. If you haven’t got a full class set of instruments, or at least one between two – time for a fundraiser! You can’t teach music effectively without providing functioning instruments for your pupils to play – it’s in the national curriculum and everything!
  1. Talk to your local music education hub or service. In England your music education hub is specifically charged with helping YOU teach music better, so don’t be afraid to knock on their door for some advice. Although this is not a statutory role in other parts of the UK, music services love to develop their relationships with schools, so get in touch and find out what they can do for you – musicians love to chat about music!
  1. Get some CPD. Music is one of those subjects where it’s quite hard to learn what to do from a book. Attending a practical CPD course, or even an online course with video and audio exemplars, can be a great way to raise your confidence and give you some new ideas to try out. Even meeting up informally with colleagues in your school cluster or consortium can be enough to spark off some new ideas. Whatever CPD you undertake just make sure there is a good ratio of information to cake – it’s been scientifically proved* that you can’t take in information without simultaneously taking in sugar.*Exhaustive research by Dr E. Stafford.
  1. Read the National Plan for Music Education. This plan is due to finish in 2020, so now would be a great time to check whether your pupils are getting their entitlement under this plan! Grab those opportunities before they go, as who knows what will happen post-2020? (Fingers crossed it’s not nuclear holocaust, eh? Although I bet your ancient music trolley will survive that intact…)
  1. Involve your pupils. Don’t be worried if your pupils are ‘more expert’ at music than you – celebrate it! Ask them to be a group leader for less confident pupils, ask them to start off the singing or playing in a performance, have them bring their instrument in and use it to contribute to class compositions and improvisations. We all know that kids love being given a job to do, and playing the violin is much more educationally valuable than sharpening pencils! Although it can make a very similar sound…
  1. Film everything! Ok well not EVERYTHING, but as many activities as you can. It’s much easier to show progress through audio and video examples than through numbers on a spreadsheet. Ofsted have said that they expect to see audio and video assessment evidence for music, so make sure you have some videos and audio tracks ready for your inspection. Just think, if you create enough examples for them to look at, maybe they won’t have time to leave the room to do the rest of the inspection…
  1. Drink water. Yes, I know, patronising much? But seriously, practical music lessons, particularly involving singing, dry you out much more than ordinary teaching. If you don’t want to lose your voice, keep sipping – and remember that clear spirits* look just like water when decanted.*Definitely do not do this.
  1. Enjoy it! Music is meant to be fun! So even if it’s not your thing, try to make the experience enjoyable for yourself as well as your pupils. Consider sharing your own favourite music as part of lessons and talking about why you like it – just make sure to check for dubious lyrics first, obvs!