Choirs at Special Needs Schools

Watch in full! With a Smile and a Song – Music of Life concert at Birmingham Town Hall, June 2022, with participation of 5 Music of Life choirs and students from 11 special schools taking part in Music of Life programme.

Music of Life has been working with state special schools since 2012, forming choirs and inspiring communities. Our approach is to run weekly singing sessions led by highly experienced professional musicians for several years during term time delivering steady musical progress and other measurable benefits, from improved communication skills in individuals to positive changes in overall school community environment. Participating schools report significant and sustained improvements in behaviour in students with considerably lower number of outbreaks of aggressive and challenging behaviours.

We also train the staff at schools to help them integrate the legacy of the Music of Life sessions into the wider curriculum using effective techniques that stimulate students’ development in such areas as literacy, numeracy, coordination, speech and social interaction.

Here you can listen to one of our special school choirs performing at the end of term concert. The soloist is a student with severe learning disability, who was receiving 1:1 singing lessons with Music of Life teacher in addition to attending weekly choir sessions.

Testimonials from Music of Life school workshops programme:

Pupils are generally more enthusiastic towards music and are more able to learn and remember songs, particularly the melody as a result of Music of Life workshops. Much more confident and enthusiastic in lessons, leading to greater participation, pupils have developed skills in singing, listening and memory. They have had an insight into the musical world e.g. music as a profession, music as a positive experience. Pupils are able to identify features of musical elements more easily.

Head of Music (at a special school for students with moderate to severe learning difficulties, autism, profound and multiple difficulties and associated complex needs)

Some of the workshop outcomes are curriculum outcomes such as turn-taking, counting, working in a team, learning vocabulary, understanding the context, literacy and numeracy. Workshop leaders use terminology and key words that reinforce learning in the classroom.

Member of School Staff

Pupils have shown greater confidence in lessons throughout school.

Head of Music

I found out I was brave like taking part with the singers, and say what I feel.


We value music immensely at Woodlands. It’s important for everyone’s
enjoyment and wellbeing and it should be accessible to all. Music of Life brings the
opportunity for our school to have a fully inclusive choir. Anyone who wants to be
involved can be. The youngest pupils in our choir are 5 and the oldest 19. The
range of abilities and needs is vast but they are all included. We have pupils who
sing everything; some who join in with the songs that they choose; others who like
to move to the music; and those who make choices using alternative
communication such as symbols or Makaton signing. Pupils join in at their own
level, whatever they are comfortable with. And if they need to leave the room,
they can; if they can only cope with 10 minutes of the session, that’s fine.
Music of Life is totally inclusive. It is one of the only times in school that we have
pupils from across the school choosing to work together and enjoy each other’s
company. The Music of Life sessions have helped to develop an identity for those
involved in it and the relationships between the pupils, the staff, the workshop
leaders and, importantly, the audience.

The sessions bring so much: the sense of community for both pupils and adults in
the choir; the participation; the collaboration, both working together in school and
with the other schools; the opportunities for the pupils to perform, when the
parents get to see and hear them, not something that is always available to
children with additional needs. We believe it to be very important and strive for it
to happen but we do know that it’s not always the case. Music of Life brings that
to our children. We passionately believe that young people should be given lots of
choice in their life and through many of the different songs and activities they get
to choose and take the songs further, so in their own way they are doing some

Lizzie Godwin, Assistant Head, Woodlands Special School