About Musical Bridges

Musical Bridges was launched in early 2010 as a Special Initiative of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, with additional funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. From 1st September 2014, Music Mark will take on responsibility for Musical Bridges.

Musical Bridges has a dual purpose. It helps to support pupils’ musical learning when they move to secondary school AND helps primary and secondary schools to work together to improve transition generally.

Musical Bridges stems from a belief that every child leaving primary is a developing musician. The majority of pupils say they enjoy playing instruments and singing. We want to support and help them to continue this enjoyment.

Musical Bridges tackles this issue by providing information, guidance and a range of practical tools and professional development resources to help teachers, head teachers and Music Education Hubs to embed effective primary-secondary music practice.

Our goal is to ensure that every 9-13 year-old has continuous and progressive musical experiences that support their personal, social and educational development, enable them to achieve their potential, and to progress through secondary school with an enthusiasm for music learning.

The development of Musical Bridges

Early in 2010-11 we began Musical Bridges by surveying hundreds of teachers to find out how they felt transition could be improved.

  • Both primary and secondary teachers said they would welcome more information about teaching and learning in each other’s phases.
  • Primary teachers wanted to better prepare pupils for transition and be confident their pupils would build on their musical skills and interests.
  • Secondary teachers wanted to know more about pupils’ musical experiences and aspirations, to help them plan and differentiate their teaching, and to respond better to individual students’ needs.
  • All teachers were also keen to share more information about pupils and for their local Music Service/Music Education Hub to provide support to improve transition.

The full survey results are summarised in our Sound Tracks report available here. We also talked to pupils themselves in Years 6, 7 and 8 about their experiences of transition through our Changing Key research and 6 into 7 video project.

What we learned from these surveys, together with a review of existing good practice, informed the development of our Musical Bridges professional development programme, through which we tested key approaches to improving transition practice.  Teachers from over 120 schools in 16 localities across the country took part in the three pilot phases of the programme. Colleagues from music services or music education hubs played an important role in bringing teachers together across the primary and secondary phases to participate.

The independent evaluation of the CPD programme confirmed cross-phase partnership working as core to the Musical Bridges approach. Enabling  practitioners to reflect upon and develop their own practice by observing and working alongside colleagues was shown to develop self-reflection, curriculum, pedagogy, opportunities and cross-phase awareness, all focused on enhancing pupils’ transition experience.

Key tools and resources, including the Musical Bridges framework, our Transition Tracker tool and Five Tracks audio resources were developed to support teachers in understanding the key factors that influence pupils’ transition experience, and to help them assess and strengthen their own transition practice.

Many music education hubs now use Musical Bridges resources and materials to support schools in their areas to work together to improve transition.  These resources are also freely available to teachers and senior leaders wishing to consider how they can take steps in their own schools or with local partner schools towards improving the continuity of pupils’ musical learning and their progression as they move from primary to secondary school.

Until the transfer of Musical Bridges to Music Mark in 2014, Musical Bridges was led by Adrian Chappell, with Leonora Davies, Jane Bolger, Ben Sandbrook and David Ashworth making up the core Musical Bridges team. Margaret Griffiths, Paul Christmas and colleagues from Trinity Guildhall and the Open University contributed to the early development and delivery of the Musical Bridges CPD programme.

Denise Barrows, Derek Bardowell, Leonora Davies, Denise Mellion, Robert Dufton, Dick Hallam, Angela Ruggles, Ben Sandbrook, and Vanessa Wiseman sat on the Musical Bridges Steering Group.