Claire Rodi is a year 6 music teacher and music coordinator at Market Habrorough C of E Academy in Liecestershire. We asked her about the school’s leavers’ musical celebrating primary school life and adding some stardust and a lot of humour to round off pupils’ time at school.
What would you say are the benefits to the musicals that you’ve staged with your leavers?
The year 6 leavers’ musicals we use are actually about school life, which gives pupils the chance to look back on their time in the school and engenders a real camaraderie among the teachers and the pupils. Children can releate to the teachers and each other and poke fun in a light-hearted way, especially with songs like ‘The Nits Blues’! And while it does take a fair amount of hard work to put on a production, after the pressure of SATs, pupils enjoy the chance to break away from the academic side of things.
The unique thing we found with the leavers’ musicals that we’ve staged is that they’re a great way for pupils to relive their school lives, celebrating and rounding off the seven years they’ve been with the school. They have a ‘coming of age’ aspect to them that really resonates with pupils.
What’s more, school don’t have to worry about keeping the costs down for this type of production as they already have the costumes, props and most of the set.
Do you think musical productions help students develop a variety of skills?
Musicals allow students to take a more creative license, offering ideas on how to make the script translate to the stage, how lighting can be used to create a certain mood or how small costume details can help create characters. Musicals also encourage student collaboration, working as a team, sometimes rehearsing in their spare time, to bring the whole production together.
We use Edgy Productions for our year 6 leavers’ musicals. The scripts perfectly capture school life and the funny things that can happen. The packs also make it incredibly easy to rehearse. The way the scenes are split means that you can take groups of students to rehearse rather than rounding everyone u[. You can put on an excellent production by following the packs exactly, but these also include suggestions for schools so they can put their own individual slant on things.
What do students enjoy about taking part in musicals?
Musical productions level the playing field and teach the children to be disciplined and focused, a skill that equips them well for life. They are inclusive for all children, allowing each individual pupil the chance to shine outside of their academic abilities. It’s a great way of unearthing some hidden talent for dancing, singing, drama, costume/set design and lighting/staging. Each year, I always find that there’s one child who really surprises you.
At our school, the year 5s are mixed with the year 6s, so they get to take part in the leavers’ musicals too, usually forming the chorus. This gives them a preview of what to expect for their production so that start anticipating taking on certain roles and are excited for the year ahead.
The leavers’ musicals offer year 6 pupils the chance to say goodbye to their classmates, many of whom they might not see again when they go on to different secondary schools. What’s more, after taking part in ther Year 6 leavers’ musicals, we’ve had many ex-pupils go on to join local drama groups and take dance classes. I’ve watched them perform in productions at our sister secondary school qnd it’s great to see how their talents have grown. I think a large part of this is the fact that the performance is about them, it gives them a sense of ownership and means they take to the performance with loads of enthusiasm.
Do you come up against any problems?
Having the time to rehearse as time tabling conflicts sometimes arise. Having space to rehearse can be an issue too, especially in a school of our size, where at any given time several teachers could want to use the assembly hall or the music room. You just have to be organized and prepared to clear the table and chairs away in your classroom to create another rehearsal space.
Top tips for your leavers’ musical
Cast carefully, rehearse often, and give the children ownership of the production, using their ideas as you go along. There are so many rewading moments when it comes to staging a musical, but watching the children in their final performance, knowing how far they’ve come since the first auditions and early rehearsals, not to mention how far they’ve come since their first day at school, is the best bit. A light-hearted look back at school life rounds their time at primary school off in a lovely way. For me and for so many pupils, the Year 6 leavers’ production really is the highlight of the school year.