Skip to content ↓

Whitefield Schools Logo

Music Therapy Service

In 2010 Ofsted visited Whitefield and reported that music outstanding in every respect. They were so impressed that they returned in 2012 to create this film which explores the good practice that they found. It serves as a lovely introduction to the power of music therapy and the Whitefield approach.


You have not allowed cookies and this content may contain cookies.

If you would like to view this content please



Music Therapy

Music therapy uses sound and music to engage and connect with pupils, encouraging development, social communication, emotional expression and cognition, alongside wider aspects of development. One of the strongest features of music therapy is that sound is physical vibration creating a space which allows people to experience feelings, have or form ideas, and have conversations about - both verbal and non-verbal.

Music evokes emotion, action and thought, through listening and/or participation in music-making.  We employ a number of approaches within an eclectic model for engaging development and wellbeing at school. Improvisation is a key aspect to developing a music therapy relationship, which harnesses the abilities of pupils, their ways of being in the world and their behaviour, and transforms them into music. This music is interactive, changing as the child changes, and embodies how the child is in the world in relation to the therapist and in relation to self.  Structured music provides familiarity and routine as a means for self expression and unstructured activities built around the child, allowing the child to interact and participate at their level of communication, play and expression.

As a state registered profession, music therapy is regulated by the Health Professions Council across a wide number of settings that provide music therapy e.g. special schools, hospices, psychiatric care and hospitals, alongside other therapies linked to health care like speech and language therapy and radiography. The British Association of Music Therapy can provide further information about becoming a music therapist or further reading on therapy in practice.

Child Development

Child development in music therapy is possible through sensology, non-verbal communication and play. The music-child is evoked through play and improvisation in all forms of music therapy, allowing us to connect with our inner creativity and spontaneity in a safe contained manner. It promotes the creative exploration of the inner and outer world needed to develop through the important stage of attachment and development. By constructing music together, which promotes non-verbal communication through turn taking, initiation and imitation, the child begins to explore the world around him in a safe way, understanding how it works and is put together (cause and effect). It increases confidence and allows the child to express fears and frustrations with the world, which is perhaps not built exactly as the child would see it.

Music therapy promotes play skills in the developing child, supporting the child when he moves from solitary play to parallel play with another, whilst addressing the need to develop symbolic and imaginative play representing the world internally; allowing the child to hold a mental image of what is going on around them.  

Adolescent Development

Adolescent development is an important stage in any child’s life. Whitefield Schools cater for pupils from Foundation stage to 19 years old, making it possible to provide music therapy to those pupils needing support through transition to adult life.   Enabling the child to embrace those changes through music therapy makes a smoother transition possible. By providing the pupil with a music therapist in their final year at primary school, who links with them until they have settled into secondary school, creates an opportunity to share feelings which need to transform and grow as they become adults. Often, our pupils are living in their emotions since they do not have the capacity to suppress things which other children put aside until they are older and more mature.   Music therapy offers them the ability to express the emotions brought on by adolescence,  like striving for independence whilst completely dependent on those around them.  

Music Therapy Provision

Music therapy provision depends on the needs of each pupil and it may fulfil a number of aims for the pupil with special educational needs.  These may be many and varied and include the following:

  • To increase non-verbal interaction skills through turn-taking, imitation, reciprocating roles within a musical improvisation
  • To increase attention and awareness of others through music fostering positive relationships with peers and the wider community
  • To increase emotional insight and understanding
  • To encourage self-expression through music
  • To increase self awareness and awareness of others through the musical relationship with the therapist
  • To identify, acknowledge and affirm the emotional life of the pupil through music, which evokes, represents or embodies shared feelings between the adult and child

Pupils at Whitefield are referred for music therapy for a number of reasons, each varying according to the needs of the pupil. A referral is made to the music therapy service in order to address an educational, developmental or emotional need which might be met through music and sound.

Reasons for referral must be stated on the music therapy referral form (See music therapy policy) and this can shape the aims, duration and form of therapy employed, i.e. individual or group music therapy. It is not sufficient to say the child is musical or likes music as a reason for referral. Although this is an important consideration it is only one factor in the assessment. 

Each and every case is different but the common link between them is an interest in sounds and music as a form of motivation, play or recreation. Some Reasons for Referral may include;

  • The child has suffered a bereavement and is unable to express his feelings in the classroom or at home.
  • The child is exhibiting challenging behaviour which makes other forms of intervention difficult but is calmed/motivated by music
  • The child has limited forms of communication and has significant emotional needs
  • The child has limited forms of play but will notice sounds/music
  • A looked-after child resulting in significant emotional needs
  • Child protection concerns
  • Limited social communication skills and peer relationships  

The Music Therapy Referral and Assessment Process

The Music therapy referral and assessment process is used by staff, professionals and parents linked with pupils in all three schools.  Parents, professionals and staff make referrals through the music therapy referral system by completing a referral form; parental consent is required .  A series of music therapy sessions over 4/5 weeks will be provided and a report with recommendations made. This report will include a summary of the music therapy process, how the pupil engaged with the work  and recommendations for any future provision including music therapy aims e.g. to express anger through music which is causing challenging behaviour. 

The music therapy assessment report will include reasons for referral, confirmation of how music therapy might meet those needs and an outcome in terms of pupil progress. Further recommendations for additional music therapy will explain why individual or group music therapy is preferable.

Once an assessment has taken place the pupil will be put on a waiting list until a space becomes available.  We try to see each pupil within one academic year. The therapist should be well informed, by the key people concerned, with regard to the health and emotional well being of the pupil  for the purpose of prioritisation.

If a pupil has music therapy on his/her statement then the music therapist will provide an update on progress at the annual review until the programme is completed and a discharge report written explaining how the aims have been achieved and why music therapy is no longer required.

When pupils come from another school having received music therapy previously, they are reassessed, since needs change and much of the work depends on the pupil’s willingness to engage with the adult in a therapeutic relationship. The pupil may feel they had enough music therapy at their last school or they may need a break from therapy in order to have time to forge new relationships at school.

Music Therapy Sessions

Music therapy sessions happen on a weekly basis over the academic year. Each pupil will receive a different level of input according to their needs. Some may receive music therapy up to two years whilst others a term of work is sufficient. Intensive 1:1, addressing emotional, behavioural and developmental needs, is available for pupils who need it.  Once a referral and assessment has taken place, the music therapy service provides a range of services according to the needs of pupils. These may include

  • Individual music therapy sessions involving a therapeutic relationship which is intensive interaction in nature, looking closely at how a pupil relates and functions emotionally. The programme is linked to the IEP of the pupil with aims to support development and education.
  • Group music therapy can be 3 – 6 pupils. The size of the group will depend on the pupils' needs and the nature and/or purpose of the intervention.
  • Community music therapy projects – the music therapist will work alongside other staff to share experience of therapeutic and educational methods to support an expressive arts culture across all schools encouraging cultural and social awareness, increasing peer relationships and reinforcing the experience through the mediums of art, music, dance and drama.