Challenging perceptions
: community music practice with children with behavioural challenges

  • Philip Mullen

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Over the past decade, and particularly since the publication of The National Plan for Music Education (DfE, 2011), there has been increasing opportunity for community musicians in England to work with young people with challenging behaviour in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and in Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (EBD) Units. This study identifies and discusses six key elements that influence community music delivery in these settings. These elements are: what the children bring, organizing structures, ideas and materials, focus and energy, reflection and reflexivity and the intentions of the leader. These elements emerged from the data collected through the study. This study combined action research and grounded theory. It employed a number of data collection methods, including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus group work and a literature review. The environment of PRUs and EBD Units are based on formal schooling but are both volatile and academically ineffective (Taylor, 2012). Community musicians, who frequently work outside the curriculum, need insights and understandings beyond traditional educational practice if they are to be successful in engaging children in these environments. Community music practice addresses not only musical but also personal and social development. This, and the nature of PRUs, and of the children within them, makes the work complex. Through understanding the role all six elements can play in shaping the child’s experience, the community musician can use this knowledge to develop programmes that address these children’s complex needs, allow them to place themselves at the centre of their own learning and encourage their ownership of their own creative expression. This can give them a sense of meaning for their own often troubled histories and may offer them a pathway to reconstructing their own self concept away from conferred negative identities as excluded children towards seeing themselves as learners and musicians.
Date of Award27 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester


  • community music
  • hallenging behaviour
  • pedagogy
  • inclusion
  • music education

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