Treloar School Triumphs with NASS ‘Breaking Barriers’ Award

The National Association of Independent Schools & Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS) has awarded Treloar School the 2023 award for ‘Breaking Barriers’, in recognition of the music department’s work to teach their students to learn and play music using Clarion.

Working together with Open Up Music, Treloar’s has been teaching students to play the ground-breaking instrument, Clarion, which allows the musician to play with any part of the body, including eye movement. The instrument adapts to the musician, not vice versa, making it a creative and accessible way for physically disabled students with complex disabilities to express themselves through music and progress to high levels of performance skills.  

Using iPads and PCs, students at the Hampshire based school can all play the instrument using their own particular abilities; each student can play Clarion in a different way. Treloar School has won the NASS award

Lisa Bond, Head of Treloar School, said: “Treloar School provides expert and compassionate care and learning for students with physical disabilities, many of whom also have communication needs, sensory impairment and / or learning difficulties.  An example of this support is the curriculum and innovative practice from the music department. The music team and students alike are determined that their disability should not prevent them from expressing themselves through music. All students across the school are provided with music sessions which provide a powerful and creative outlet whilst enriching and opening up opportunities and interests for the future.”

Treloar’s currently has two orchestras, the Treloar School Open Orchestra and the Treloar College Open Orchestra, and offers students one-on-one Clarion tuition. The orchestras, each made up of up to ten students, have performed at internal and external concerts, including at the School’s Christmas concert.

Clarion enables the students to develop their musical skills with the same progression route as that of a typical orchestral instrument. A total of six pupils and former pupils have been accepted into the National Open Youth Orchestra, and after Treloar’s took part in ABRSM Pilot workshops, Clarion will now be part of their formal assessments.

Martin Ingram, Principal of Treloar School and College, said: “Years ago, students would not have had access to such great technology, and forms of expression. By breaking down these barriers, musical education at Treloar School has created a fantastic opportunity for the students here, which we hope will inspire teachers and young people across the country. Clarion has helped us to make huge leaps forward in making musical performance accessible for our students and it is a pleasure to see, and to hear, their progress!”

Jocelyn Watkins, Director of Music, Treloar School and College, said: “Clarion enables all our students to take part in musical performing, and composing, in a meaningful way; the instrument is flexible in its set up which means our physically disabled students can access the instrument fully and it allows for progression, as on more traditional instruments. Clarion adapts to the student, rather than the other way round, and can be played on iPads, using eye gaze technology as well as by using smart navigation.

Since taking part in the Clarion pilot many years ago, we have ensured that all students have access to Clarion and staff are trained on how to use it and support students playing it. We have students who have never been able to play a musical instrument independently, who now find that not only can they play with great control and expression, but they can take part in the wider world of music and its community.”