Barley Close Community Primary School
Resilience, Kindness and Curiosity

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Supporting SEN through Music

“Where words fail, music speaks.” 

Hans Christian Andersen

How do we support children with additional learning needs?

Music across the curriculum

Music is used to ‘settle’ children entering the hall for assembly and can significantly reduce incidences of low-level disruption, therefore reducing anxiety for children with SEMH needs and reducing distraction for those with ASD or ADHD. Teachers have also found it useful as a calming influence in some classrooms, playing music while creating Art for example, or to ‘re-set’ children coming in after break or lunch times. 


Researchers have found that language skills and, specifically, the ability to differentiate more easily between phonics sounds, are more developed in children who are exposed to certain forms of music, and especially to those who learn to play an instrument. This has positive implications for teaching children with below-average reading or speech abilities. Reception and Year 1 regularly use nursery rhymes and repetitive songs across the curriculum to support the delivery of lessons, which has a positive impact on children’s ability to focus and engage, as well as supporting retention and recall. This is effective for all children but particularly so for those with Communication & Language needs.


Further supporting retention and recall, musical times-tables, ‘alphabet tunes’ etc are much used with EYFS and KS1 children. Older learners also benefit from this approach and teachers often set words to music in order to help children to learn and remember key words or formulas across the curriculum. Creating raps about ‘slavery’ or ‘rainforests’ is often a favourite activity and really helps pupils to remember what they have learned in KS2. We also invite local musicians into our classrooms to develop songs together about their local History topics, for instance SS Great Britain, Blackbeard and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This has a huge impact on children's retention of the topic, as well as increasing their enjoyment of Historical learning.


Music lessons

Barley Close holds a policy that every classroom should clearly display visual timetables which are changed daily so that children can predict routines, and there is an expectation of good classroom organisation. This familiarity within a classroom is important for children with SEN and we consider room layout strategies in Music lessons, such as:

  • Seating children in a semi-circle around a piano/keyboard/djembe or other instrument to make a focus point for pupils
  • Facing all pupils within the circle/semi-circle: eye contact for those who can see is imperative, and a balance of sound for those who can’t defines and improves their listening skills. This is particularly effective in supporting our children with visual and hearing impairments.
  • Allowing all children opportunity to explore the instruments prior to practising the music supports those with C&L and S&P needs, e.g. all having a ‘tap’ for 1 minute on the glockenspiels before attempting the lesson content, to get the temptation ‘out of their system’.
  • Teachers ensure those with SEN have opportunity for pre-teaching ahead of music lessons, so they can engage with the instruments in a quieter, calmer environment before engaging in a whole class environment. This is often with a TA or 1:1 adult.
  • Teachers create specific resources for those with visual impairments ahead of lessons – for example, enlarged sheet music and paper resources.
  • Teachers provide ear defenders for those with sensory needs so as not to become overwhelmed in whole class music lessons.

“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”

- Elton John

  • Barley Close Community Primary School
  • Barley Close, Mangotsfield, Bristol
  • United Kingdom, BS16 9DL
  • Tel: 01454 867090
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