Just Play

Working with Croydon Music and Arts to consider a new programme of music-related activities for both primary and secondary schools.

violin large


Research background

The BMERG research team worked with Croydon Music and Arts (CMA), and considered the roll-out of a new programme of activities across primary and secondary schools.  Entitled Just Play, the programme explored training for both generalist and specialist teachers alongside curriculum resources, and built on musical learning approaches from around the world.  The project was significant, due to the impact of high-stakes performativity measures in schools which has diminished music provision.  Constrained opportunities for musical development within schools can mean that many young people have to rely on musical learning outside of school, which can be an unaffordable dynamic for many families.

Research aims

The research explored the impact and rationale of Just Play as an approach to enabling musical learning for young people.  It explored successes, areas for further development and made suggestions for practical applications to continually inform approaches to this modality of provision.  It highlighted key themes, points and questions for reflection and articulated key findings.

How is the research being carried out?

The research was formed of an iterative action research cycle whilst Just Play was in its pilot phase.  Classroom observations were conducted which consisted of multiple site visits, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with key stakeholders and expert Just Play practitioners.  All types of data were analysed utilizing qualitative approaches to enable themes and findings to emerge.




The research resulted in the publication of a report of findings in 2018.

A selection of summary findings include:

  • Just Play gives an opportunity for all young people to play together as an ensemble
  • Playing a musical instrument was shown to be accessible to all
  • Young people feel a great sense of satisfaction from this
  • Musical ability and class cohesion are developed concurrently.
  • Good CPD for primary class teachers who may have had little training in music. Just Play is not only a statement that recognises opportunities for children and young people to play music but also one which encourages the teachers to ‘just play’, to explore music and what it means to be musical. This is something not often afforded to primary teachers, and is of particular importance to those teachers whose subject specialism may not be music.
  • Teachers were afforded the time to be in the lessons with the children and young people; this helps develop a musical community within the school, and take music teaching and learning into classroom curriculum time.
  • Progression from primary to secondary school. How does the transition of activities connect across educational phases? Is there a space for progression or is there the possibility that some young people might end up repeating tasks completed at primary school?
  • Secondary teachers do not currently know whether their feeder schools have been engaged in Just Play activities. Sharing knowledge in this area would help secondary teachers plan for progression.
  • To what extent can improvising and composing be further supported? Does this require additional resources?

These were further amplified in points and questions for reflection which concluded the research report.