Analyse Perceptions Of Early Years Education Essay

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The main purpose of this research project is to analyse the perceptions of Early Years practitioners and parents in one nursery school, on music in Early Years provision and its significance in enabling the setting involved to continue to develop provision for families, children and practitioners. This chapter is intended to explore the context and purpose of the study by examining texts relating the chosen area of research. The research field encompasses many areas; for the purpose of this study, four areas of interest relating to the research question have been selected and discussed. These areas are music and the early years, approaches to music, its current status in early years policy and developing provision.

Music and the Early Years

"Music is an innate intelligence. All humans naturally respond and engage in music at an early age. It depends on the environment and the support of the adults around them to nurture their musical understanding and enjoyment" Youth Music (2006). This expresses the importance of nurturing an early intrinsic response to music as "...innate music ability can disappear at a young age if not nurtured" Youth Music (2006, p.10).

Hallam links early complex functioning in the brain with music, "Changes in the organisation and functioning of the brain might be expected in relation to training in any highly developed skill and music is no exception...particularly if they began learning before the age of seven or have perfect pitch." (2001, p.5). This could explain the use of music as a catalyst in the many benefits of cross curricular learning that Youth Music (2006) have found including increased skills and understanding in communication, language and literacy, mathematical development, physical and personal, emotional, social and cultural development. These observations show huge and wide ranging development opportunities, however predicting particular effects on individuals is not clear (Young and Glover, 1998).

Philpott reminds us that despite cross curricular justification for music in education, music is of great significant in its own right, "Music is a language, with a diverse and intricate web of meaning to settle for less is to consign the language to limited powers of expression" (Music-ITE, 2008) and warns against soft justifications for the subject which may have harmful effects on the inclusion of music within the curriculum. Music Leader (2007) also urges caution in the pursuit of cross curricular outcomes from music provision in schools as it is not always known which music aspects have cross curricular transfer effects. This debate presents many mixed messages for co-ordinators and practitioners and suggests not all music provision does not necessarily build children's musical development. However Pugh and Pugh believe, "Musical and non-musical goals can be used together effectively, so long as the teacher realises which is being used and uses both in proper balance to assist students' musical growth." (1998, p.13).

Approaches to music

" is a social art, where playing and listening to others is the motivation, the experience and the learning process". Swanwick (1999, p. 95) This implies the support and resources practitioners provide have a great influence on an individual's development, however Yim,H. et al (2007) claim little research has been entered into regarding music and early years practitioners. There are many different approaches used around the world in the provision of music education (, no date) despite this much controversy still exists surrounding how much access children should have to free play musical exploration compared to adult led interactions. 29s research suggested the most effective education came from input with adult participants however, 35 highlights the importance of free exploration of sound within stimulating well resourced areas both indoors and out. This suggests careful observation, planning and thought is needed to achieve the correct balance of the two activities for individual children's development. Youth Music (2006) stresses the need for provision to be regular in order to deepen children's music learning, they also warn less effective teaching provision included a shortage of expectation from practitioners, a lack of time for children to consolidate learning and an unbalance of time talking to demonstrating in sessions. As Early Years practitioners play such a key role in the development of children's musical understanding, training and development becomes vital in providing successful music provision.

Status of music in current Early Years policy

Government interventions such as the Music Manifesto launched 2004 which campaigns to ensure that provision is made for all to access high quality music education and the Sing up project (2007) providing funding for standalone music activities as well as cross curriculum projects have taken route nationally. However, Jaffrey (2006) and Ofsted (2009) still warn funding needs more targeting as provision may be meeting the needs of many but not all, particularly those in need.

Jaffrey(2006) states the case for making every child's music matter through children centred planning, ensuring music focus, delivery of services including a framework content and workforce that can fulfil its purpose. However, Youth music (2009) concludes that music is being squeezed out of the curriculum. The DCSF (2008) Early Years Foundation Stage guidance states provision must give, "...opportunities to explore and share their thought, ideas and feelings, for example, through a variety of art, music..." (2008, p. (, no date)6). This provides an opportunity for a very open interpretation on the current Early Years music provision for practitioners compared to current guidance for other curriculum areas such as phase one of the DCSF (2007) Letters and sounds teaching programme where activities to develop children's speaking and listening skills are broken down giving detailed guidance in using music and sound exploration as a key in developing language. As with DCSF (2008) Every Child a Talker strategy providing thorough guidance on creating high quality language provision and enabling environments in the Early Years in order to improve children's language skills. This detailed attention to such small areas of music development may overshadow the importance of others, as well as creating conflict between professional demands. Young and Glover state when discussing issues around using music as a cross curricular resource, "Music seems to have been missed out in terms of recognition as an avenue of children's creativity which has validity of its own." (1998, p. 56). One explanation for this decline in music recognition may be a current climate of observable outcomes. -ttrb 56- (date) lay blame for the erosion of individual arts and humanities entitlement with "policy-led belief that breadth and standards are incompatible" (date, p. ) however Pugh and Pugh (1998) warn, "Enshrining the requirement to teach a subject in law may be helpful but legislation can be changed to match political whims, fashions and expediency." (1998, p. 1) suggesting that the success of increasing any music provision will depend on the quality of what is offered.

Developing provision

Ofsted (63) lays some blame in the variety and inconsistency of music provision on a lack of music teaching knowledge, understanding and week assessment by practitioners. This may be the reason for the low status of music in education and music having its lowest take up rate ever at GCSE in 2007. (Little, 65). Practitioners have been found to lack confidence in teaching this subject area and Yim,H. et al (2007) found despite music being the most frequent subject taught by teachers, it was seen as the most difficult to teach, with teachers ranking this area lowest in a confidence poll. Young and Glover believe "The challenge is not on the musical front; it is the difficulty of understanding and recognising emergent work in its very early stages and of working from the child's perspective, which is so far from the adults own." (1998, p. 56). This suggests practitioner training should have an in-service focus enabling the practitioner to be guided whist working with skilled music education providers. Pugh and Pugh concur suggesting, " training in music should be based on direct, active experience." (1998, p. 166). Sharp and Dust (1990) found artists working alongside practitioners in schools can have many personal and professional benefits for teachers, helping raise the status and increasing understanding of the value of art as well as acting as a resource, enriching and developing the school curriculum. Youth Music (2006) observed musicians working in schools gave an extra dimension to music provision for children as well as outlining the benefits of musicians working alongside practitioners, "...musicians have had an impact on improved planning, staff motivation and regularity." (Youth Music (2006), p. 31) However, Youth Music (2006) also found not all musicians created the same effects and that the interpersonal skills of musicians were vital in developing partnerships within early year's settings. This implies leaders need to pre plan and construct well designed partnerships with time to create, communicate and review shared understandings of purposes and roles (Sharp and Dust, 1990). Projects observed by Youth Music (2006) that achieved good working partnerships showed practitioners extended their abilities although they dropped back in confidence when musicians left. This again suggests the need for permanent musician input in schools and careful planning in project structure to sustain levels of music making.


There is much evidence to support the need to nurture innate musical intelligence in the early years not only due to its cross curricular benefits but as Taylor states; " has its place in its own right in the development of young children." (2004, p. 205). There is much debate in the ever changing context of early years music education and provision especially over the balance of children's free play exploration of music and adult led interactions, the apparent lack of confidence and skill with in the early years workforce.

Provision has not been focussed on early years or those in most need; conflict has been created between professional demands by an imbalance of guidance relating to different areas of musical exploration which could be explained by Sharp and Dust's observation, " is impossible to access the artistic and educational value of an artist-in-schools project because of its very nature: the experience is unique, operates on many levels and deals with 'difficult' areas of learning..." (1990, p. 92). This suggests the difficulty in recording, observing and measuring development and outcomes in certain areas of music development.

Jaffrey (2006) stresses the need to ensure provision and focus for experiencing and making music as well as creating a framework, policy, content and work force that can fulfil its purpose, providing exposure to music from the early years. A complex task for practitioners and leaders confirmed by Ofsted (63) found increased activity does not necessarily leading to improved provision. This implies improving and developing music provisions in our schools would not be straight forward. Provision development is essential for the individual and society Youth Music (2006)explains, "...musical playfulness in early years produces a lifetime approach to musical exploration and progress." (Youth Music (2006), p. 12). Developing provision may lie in schools gaining benefits from developing more regular and sustained work with musicians working alongside children and early years practitioners despite challenges to this work.