The appointment of a newly qualified teacher with an extra-curricular love of music is reaping rewards for pupils at a specialist school in Northumberland.

Multi-skilled musician, Tom Rand, has been using his talents to help deliver music-based therapy sessions and activities to pupils at Cleaswell Hill School since joining the teaching staff full-time in November 2018.

Employed primarily to teach the school’s younger pupils, Tom has been able to extend his musical reach to students of all ages to give them a platform through music to express themselves.

“Traditional music therapy uses a range of techniques to help address a person’s emotional, physical, cognitive and social needs and behaviours. What we’re trying to do in school is mimic some of these techniques to facilitate the children to be creative and enjoy music in a safe, fun environment,” said Tom.

“For many of our non-verbal pupils with complex disabilities, this has been really effective. By playing around with action songs, tones and sounds as well as alternative instruments that make noises you wouldn’t expect, we have been able to establish a different way of communicating with the children and essentially give them a voice.”

Research has shown that participating in musical activities can have a profound impact on a person’s mental and physical health and wellbeing and can help with the development of social skills, self-esteem and confidence.

To help drive these benefits across the school, in addition to his therapy-style sessions with the younger students, Tom has been teaching some of the upper school students about songwriting and music production.

“We place a really big emphasis on school productions at Cleaswell Hill,” Tom added.

“Our Christmas and summer performances are incredibly popular and we always make sure that every child has a role to play. With some of the older students, we have been helping them to understand the basics of live sound mixing and lighting so that the pupils can get involved with these tasks that are usually handled by one of the teachers.

“Using some of their new skills, a handful of the students have also been working on writing a school anthem which we are hoping to record and release in time for the school concert in July.”

Mike Jackson, headteacher at Cleaswell Hill School commented:

“Tom has been a welcome addition to our teaching staff. His unique skill set has enabled us to broaden the range of value-adding activities we can provide to our pupils, many of whom have complex learning and physical disabilities.

“The children have responded really well to the music therapies so far and we’re looking forward to seeing how their confidence progresses throughout the year.”

Cleaswell Hill School supports over 180 children aged four to 19 with a range of special educational needs.

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