Teaching at Fairbeats – Abigail Bailey

In the relatively short time I’ve been teaching at Fairbeats I’ve been exploring a very different approach to the previous decade or so of music teaching. I come from a predominantly whole class wider opportunities setting and more recently small group KS1 rhythm work as well as large scale KS1 choir work. With Fairbeats I’ve been exploring a much more pupil-led approach in a small group KS2 setting, and I think it’s fair to say I’ve been swept up into the ethos that Fairbeats promotes, including lots of pupil choice in every session.

This contrasts a lot to the whole class setting, where it’s just not as feasible to tailor the repertoire (for instance) to everyone’s taste. As a result the sessions feel really collaborative and often spontaneous, which in turn makes for fun! We use musical games each session and definitely focus on fun musical experiences, with technique as almost subliminal.

With regards to choice in the sessions, this can be as subtle as who would like to choose a chord for us to play, or even as far as who wants to choose a song to learn? It’s interesting to open up sessions to the children as much as possible and see which way the path takes us. Each week the music leaders get together to have a 15 minute chat/debrief after the sessions and share how they went, which is definitely a positive experience for me. Many years ago (before massive cuts to the arts) I used to teach within a duo, which was great in so many ways as there was another leader to bounce ideas off and get creative with.

Fairbeats always have enthusiastic volunteers and trainees/research students taking part in the session with the children, which is a great way to model technique, and to also show adults learning which I think can be hugely inspirational for children to see. I feel that Fairbeats prioritises community and people and each week when we share our experiences it feels like we are a team – something which is so often lacking for solo leaders.