Working alongside Young People in Central Doncaster
After Speaking with Fran Lightfoot of Astrea Academies, we became aware of a need to help young people in the most disadvantaged area of Doncaster, which is as it stands is the 2nd most disadvantaged area in the country. The School is host to 24 different nationalities and is very culturally diverse.
We worked with a group of 5 Young people age 8 years in the form of an after-school club. They were chosen specifically as they were identified as in need of additional support.
We joined them for six weeks for what they affectionately called “Music Club”
On day one It was obvious that there were Children with ADHD or ADD or possibly mild ASD. There was a huge difficulty in focusing and little respect for the feelings of others, they all seemed to jostle and fight when they wanted something, rather than speaking and listening. The young people engaged well, but it was clear that they needed not only our support, but an awareness of the support they were able to offer each other.
One of the challenges when presented with a group containing individuals with a hyper focus is getting them to understand that the others in the group can add value to them.
We adopt an incredibly simple method of achieving this through simple counting beats and using our “speak to me session”
We used Acoustic instruments and actively explored the building blocks of music, including Tempo, Dynamics and Melody.
The teachers came in during the second session and took photographs and commented that good progress was being made.
What we did
After 6 weeks of working together, we played together as a band, used Synthesizers and Samplers. We explored world music from India, South America and Africa, taking the opportunity to play genuine instruments from those areas.
We created music from things we had found (Including a shopping trolley and a Tape measure) We used our voices creatively and sang. We used microphones, created DJ mash-ups, and free-styled versions of songs that the children knew. We also composed beats and simple melodies which we recorded.
Collecting data for these young people had to be empirical and qualitative in its nature. I conducted short video interviews which although weren’t in depth, they showed some of the character of the children. We found it useful to collect valuable feedback from the class teachers (below)
What the teachers said about 90 Minute Music.
Over the course of the music sessions, Simon has been fantastic. He has been understanding of the different needs and cultural issues that our school faces. He has also had brilliant communication with not only me but with the children and created a strong bond with them. Each child that has attended has progressed in themselves. (We have added in italic our own 90 Minute Music notes regarding each child)
What the teachers said about the Young Peoples development
He is a shy young boy who wants attention from all adults he comes into contact with. Over the music sessions he has become more resilient and understanding of other people’s thoughts and feelings. GM has also shown a love for music and asks every day ‘When is music club?’- GM has started to communicate with other people that he wouldn’t normally, and is using vocabulary that he has heard from adult interaction. GMs mum has also expressed how happy she is that GM has found a love and talent for something.
GM was initially shy, but quickly engaged and was very stimulated by the music equipment. He had a clear picture in his mind of how the music should sound and managed to convey it well. He had a strong will for doing things his way and his way only, which we had to work on. He was always happy to join us and after a couple of incidents of pushing and pulling, he showed increasing respect for other members of the group.
Before BG started music club he had difficulty with concentration and staying in his seat. Since music club has started, he has become more focused in class and will sit down for a longer period of time. This is a big improvement for him. BG has had an improved attitude and behaviour towards learning and school.
(BG) Has really made the most tangible progress, he has a passionate interest in using synthesizers to sculpt sounds and shows great communication skills and empathy. He has taken on a Zen like calmness and shows a lot more patience with others in the group
AR has poor attendance in school. Since the music club, AR has increased his attendance and has become excited to come to school for music club. AR also struggles with anger. Since the club, he has become calm and able to communicate how he is feeling and when he needs time to calm down.
(AR) Initially Seemed very competitive and reflected a negative attitude towards the only girl in the group. After dealing with a couple of small incidents he became more relaxed and apologised to the others. He showed a more compassionate side in the later sessions and was an enthusiastic member of the group.
DD has low self-esteem and confidence. The club and Simon have been able to build on this and have welcomed her with open arms. DD is now smiling a lot more and is willing to talk to a mixture of different people that she comes into contact with. This has also impacted her communication.
(DD) was timid and quiet at the beginning, she gave the impression that she needed an environment which was less chaotic and competitive than the one in which we started, we were able to offer that, she thrived, became more talkative and was always smiling.
TS has struggled with communication and interaction with other peers. Since going to the club he has started to communicate with peers in his class and some from other classes. He has also started to use stronger vocabulary when interacting with adults. We have seen an increase in his participation in conversations and class activities.
(TS) began quite introverted and felt uncomfortable engaging in the hustle and bustle of the first session. He went on to create his own space within the group and favoured the log-drum which is a type of marimba. Using the instruments allowed him to find a voice.
‘I love using the drums and making loud noises’ AR
‘The equipment is brilliant. I want to do more music with Simon.’ BG
‘Making new sounds is great. I like using all the buttons and microphone.’ GM
The impact after 6 weekly sessions has been truly life changing for these young people. They communicate better, are more resilient, they have a real love of music, and they flourished in an environment where they didn’t have to fight back or bunker down, giving them healthier routes to conflict resolution.
Although it wasn’t a typical teaching environment, for these children it was a catalyst for learning and development. The children were able to retain a lot of the things we did in previous weeks and were always repeating the one rule of 90 Minute Music “We don’t waste our time”
All the children wanted to do more 90 Minute Music and we have discussed with teachers the possibility of doing this as they would like to roll it out across the School.
Thanks to our funders.
The impact of this investment goes far beyond positively changing the lives of the young people. It transcends to a more positive family life and has led to integrating and celebration of cultural differences creating stronger more resilient communities.
As a company the funding has offered us an opportunity to be sustainable after coming through the Covid-19 Pandemic. Over the past year we have built capacity supporting over 1700 young people.
Thanks again to Isla Foundation and Well Doncaster.
Thanks to the Staff at Astrea Atlas Primary for inviting us into their School and for making us feel welcome.