Mrs Ruth Atkinson

Mrs Ruth Atkinson

Lecturer in Education (Music)

Plymouth Institute of Education (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)



I work part-time in Plymouth Institute of Education, teaching on the BEd and PGCE initial teacher education programmes for primary and early-years teachers. I am the subject lead for Music on these programmes as well as helping to oversee our broader curriculum offer as a whole. I am also a personal/professional tutor and I make some school visits when students are on placement.


BAHons (Oxon) in Psychology and Physiology (PPP)

I worked in primary education for many years. Roles have included: teacher, subject co-ordinator (of Science, Maths, English, Music, Design & Technology, Personal, Social & Health Education & Citizenship), Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, deputy head, headteacher, leading teacher (supporting the work of colleagues in other schools), tutor, English SAT marker, marker of Cambridge International Exams, peripatetic class music teacher, mentor, induction tutor.... oh and I taught A-level Biology for a while.

MPhil(Ed) (Birmingham University): a research Master's degree

NPQH (National College of School Leaders - now the National College for Teaching and Leadership)
I was the head of a mixed-catchment primary school in the Midlands.

CELTA (Cambridge)
I taught English as a foreign language in Donostia - San Sebastian.

PGCAP (Plymouth) including a research module on how ITE can help students to learn to teach music musically.

Grade VIII 'cello

Professional membership

2016 Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) 

Roles on external bodies

Chair of the board of the Plymouth Music Education Hub



Teaching interests

A continuing priority is to help student teachers develop a deep sense of how children learn and develop - and how high-quality teaching is founded on this understanding. Times change - and so do curricula, statutory requirements, technologies, budgets, etc - but the fundamental nature of children, their wellbeing and their learning remain constant and need always to be at the centre of what we do.

Primary and early-years music education is the focus of some of my work. This includes:
  • developing students' skills, knowledge and confidence in working musically with children
  • developing their pedagogic understanding and professional expertise
  • exploring how to plan effective lessons and how to assess progress
  • considering, from a whole-school/setting perspective, how to organise and plan things so that children's musical experiences can be progressive, with continuity as well as variety
  • investigating what is known and surmised about children's musical development
  • carrying out small pieces of new research in schools
My book Mastering Primary Music (2018) published by Bloomsbury Academic covers the first three of these areas in detail for teachers who do not have much experience of teaching primary music.

Staff serving as external examiners

I am currently an external examiner for the PGCE primary course at Edgehill University.



Research interests

I am interested in aspects of HE pedagogy that impact on the efficacy of my work with student teachers, particularly in the realm of primary music. This was the basis of my article published in 2017 'The pedagogy of primary music teaching: talking about not talking'. 

This work links with my ongoing interest in effective primary music pedagogy. My book Mastering Primary Music (2018, Bloomsbury Academic) is aimed at teachers with little experience of teaching primary music. My most recent research article investigates the role of creativity in primary schools in the current educational climate. Why working creatively is still important in English primary classrooms in 2022: an appreciative empirical inquiry 

Grants & contracts

One project I am currently involved in is being funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.



Key publications


Atkinson, Ruth (2018) Mastering Primary Music, London: Bloomsbury Academic

Key publications are highlighted

Atkinson R (2023) 'Why working creatively is still important in English primary classrooms in 2022: an appreciative empirical inquiry' Education 3-13 1-14 , DOI Open access
Pratt K & Atkinson R (2019) 'How do some primary schools in England organise and implement the broader curriculum?' Education 3-13: the professional journal for primary education 1-8 , DOI Open access
Atkinson R (2017) 'The pedagogy of primary music teaching: talking about not talking' Music Education Research 1-10 , DOI Open access
Internet Publications

Music Mark newsletter for schools January 2016:



Other academic activities

Short presentation on creativity through music project given in University Research Festival in July 2021.

Music pedagogy workshop given as part of the 'Beyond Words' conference hosted by the Institute of Health and Community, Plymouth University, March 2017.

Music workshop as an 'immersive pedagogical experience' for new lecturers at Plymouth University, as part of a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) module called 'Developing Professional Practice', June 2016

Presentation given at PedRIO conference in Plymouth, April 2016: 
'Musical music teaching in UK primary education: putting into words the need to get away from words'

Workshop given at Research in Music Education international conference in Exeter, April 2015.