The SALT Music Project

SALTMusic is an exciting Action Research project funded by children’s music charity Youth Music, which aims to explore shared practice between speech and language therapy and early years music practitioners.

The project, which is based at GYCT, developed from informal conversations between practitioners visiting the same nursery settings, who realised that they shared common ground. They wanted to know more…. what might happen if they deliberately shared knowledge and practice? Might there be better outcomes for young children and their families in regards to wellbeing and involvement, social interaction, and expressive behaviour?
And so in June 2016, SALTMusic was born!

The project consists of Norfolk based teams coming together:

The Great Yarmouth Community Trust Arts Team, led by Charlotte Arculus, who has 30 years of experience working with young children, and who has been at the forefront of understanding links between funniness, communication and musicality.

East Coast Community Healthcare Speech and Language Team, a Community Interest Company which operates healthcare services in the community in Norfolk. It runs Speech and Language services across the county, taking referrals for children and young people who, for a variety of reasons, may have speech delay or problems with speaking.

Other community partners include Lab Media, Future projects, AYCORN and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival Bridge.

Leading the findings of the project is Jessica Pitt, Ph.D, Honorary Research Fellow at University of Roehampton. Jessica’s role in the project is to set and evaluate the action research data. She has presented early research findings from the project at The European Network of Music Educators and Researchers of Young Children’s conference at Cambridge University in June 2017. The project has subsequently received an international following, which has exciting implications for early years practice and understandings. At the end of the project, SALTMusic are excited to demonstrate how their work can be replicated both in the UK and elsewhere.


Why are we doing this?

There is an issue of language delay in young children in the UK:

  • In some parts of England around 50% of children starting school do not have a strong foundation in language skills (ICan Report, 2009)
  • Poverty and cognitive development have statistical associations. Children aged 4-5 years old in the lowest income band were about 11 months behind children in the middle income band in expressive vocabulary (Waldfogel and Washbrook, 2010).

The project aims:

  • To create a transformational pedagogy which brings together speech and language development practice with early childhood music practice
  • To increase the life chances of children aged between 24-36 months by helping to prepare them to become resilient, engaged learners of the future
  • To demonstrate how this work can be replicated

How might music be helpful for speech and language?

  • Music is social and allows for interaction (Dissanayake, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2010; Trevarthen & Malloch, 2000)
  • Elements of music
    • Rhythm (Dege & Schwarzer, 2011)
    • Pitch (Nazzi, Bertoncini & Mehler, 1998)
  • Prosodic cues - the ends of clauses in speech tend to drop in pitch and syllables lengthen (McMullen and Saffran, 2004). Lullabies tend to do the same (Trehub & Trainor, 1998)
  • Bolduc & Montesinos-Gelet (2005)
    • Important to linguistic development:
      • auditory perception
      • phonological memory
      • metacognitive knowledge (for more information see Bolduc, 2008).

The sessions

The project has made terrific progress since its start in June 2016, and the Autumn of 2016 saw the first sessions take place. Children aged between 24-36 months who had difficulties expressing themselves were recruited by the speech and language service and were placed on an eight week group programme with their parents/carers. There were three groups in total; one in Norwich and two in Great Yarmouth. Each group was joined by an early childhood music practitioner, a music apprentice, and a speech and language assistant and/or speech and language therapist from the East Coast Community Healthcare team.


What we have found a year into the project

Although the project’s final report will be completed in 2018, we have amassed a wealth of information from the project in twelve months. Impact on:-

Wellbeing and involvement

Social Interactions

Expressive Behaviours