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EYFS Trainer Profile: Nicola Burke

Ahead of our exciting training event this Friday, ‘Embedding music in the Early Years Foundation Stage’, we caught up with Early Years music specialist and trainer, Nicola Burke, to find out a bit more about her own practice, what to expect from Friday’s training and what her plans are for the next year…


Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Nicola Burke, I’m a musician who has specialised in early years for 17 years, but I still feel like a newbie! I studied theatre and education at university and discovered a passion for working with young people; I wanted to weave this passion together with my love of music. After graduating from university, I worked with a company who specifically focused on music for Early Years. Whilst I was there, they were contacted by a Youth Music Action Zone, Music Fusion in Portsmouth to develop an Early Years music strand. The rest is history.


What do you love most about your job and working with music in early childhood?

Every day is different and I love that. I can’t work with routine. I love working with a range people; children, practitioners, teachers, policy informers, project managers…the variety is enormous. It’s constantly stimulating.


Tell us a bit about Friday’s course ‘Embedding music in the EYFS’ and what participants can expect.

We will make music through a mixture of practical games and activities, observe children’s music making via film footage, have lots of discussions, and explore theory and pedagogy! We will explore children’s musicality and development whilst reflecting on our own practices and discussing early childhood.


Why do you think it’s important for music to be at the heart of the curriculum, rather than a separately timetabled activity?

I feel strongly that making music is an intrinsic part of being human. It threads through all areas of life. Music making is clearly seen and heard within children’s play. I do think it’s important to have some timetabled sessions, so that adults can offer ideas, but music making should not be limited to adult led sessions. It’s about finding a balance.


What will participants get out of the course? What will they take away?

Participants will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of children’s music making in the Early Years and will take away practical ideas to use in their own practice. They will gain new perspectives and meet a rich, mixed-bag of people who will hopefully prompt interesting conversations and learning.


What would you say to those people who are nervous about making music in their Early Years settings and perhaps lack confidence?

Don’t feel a pressure to lead. You don’t have to be the one singing/leading songs. I’d say put on your music goggles and watch the children through a musical perspective lens. Observe them in their play and you’ll see and hear the music that children make.

I often compare music to visual art. When educators draw and engage in mark making they are not often intimated; they don’t expect to be expert artists to engage in children’s visual art. People often feel pressure when it comes to music. Relieve that pressure – play alongside, record and value the music that children make.


What’s your next exciting project or piece of work?

I’m in the process of writing, developing and launching new EYFS musical guidance in partnership with the Tri-borough Early Years Music Consortium and the British Association of Early Childhood Education, really exciting.

It’s also my 40th birthday next year, so I’m planning a year-long celebration, including going to see Gary Barlow at Birmingham Symphony Hall. I’m a massive Take That fan!


If you want to embed music into your own work with Early Years and gain exciting new tools and ideas for your practice, join Nicola this Friday at Toynbee Studios. Find out more and book >


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