NMC Local Authority Music Education Awards 2009

Report by Ivor Widdison


  1. Two Major Trophy awards, two Diplomas of Special Merit, eight Diplomas of Merit. Grade inflation? Most certainly not. I have looked back at one of my reports of the mid-eighties and on the whole today’s LEA music service is delivering a better service than was the norm then. That is reflected in the volume of pupils and students in regular contact with the music service; the breadth of the genres covered, (for example, jazz and world musics are much more familiar strands within overall provision); curriculum support for classroom teachers and INSET and CPD opportunities for music service staffs are now the norm. The musical and social benefits to be had from playing with others seems to be more widely recognised and therefore more vigorously encouraged by music services. The evidence for that lies in the number of ensembles providing performance opportunities at school, district and authority-wide level (not forgetting la crème de la crème ensembles which also play abroad).
  2. How has that come about? There is a small minority of LEAs in England which make a substantial and in kind contribution to music service funding. But the lifeline for the majority is the Government’s Music Standards Fund. On top of that there is funding for the Wider Opportunities Programme and the musical instrument fund. Thus without those specific grants-in-aid it would be difficult for many music services in England to survive. In Scotland the dependence on education authority support is much greater, for apart from the relatively small grants under the Youth Music Initiative (YMI), there is no other public funding. (The situation in Wales is even more problematic for there music services receive no specific funding from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG)). Another factor in this heightened awareness of music’s power for good is undoubtedly England’s Music Manifesto. It has taken time for the important messages and supportive advice from Music Manifesto activists to percolate through to the grass roots, but there can’t now be many music education practitioners who have not benefited in some way from the doings of the Music Manifesto.

  3. The Awards Panel are keen as always to draw attention to the “Honourable Mentions” referred to in our report. It is important so to do for while they are all very worthy entries, among them are several which came very close to the award of a diploma.

  4. Our continued association with the PRS Foundation for New Music and Jazz Services Ltd is very welcome, not least because it enables us to accord even wider recognition to demonstrable good music education practice. And without the very real practical support of the Federation of Music Services and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, this scheme would not succeed; we are grateful to them.

  5. Wisdom, good humour and patience remain the virtues which characterise my colleagues from the NMC and MEC on the Awards Panel. It is therefore right and proper for their names to appear in this record! So, very warm thanks on behalf of myself and the membership of the NMC and MEC, to Leonora Davies, Kathryn Deane, James Hannam, Ben Lane, Alok Nayak, Alistair Salmond, John Stephens, observer, John Witchell and especially our Administrator, Fiona Harvey on whom we depend most heavily!

  6. And above all, our heartfelt thanks to the staffs of music services, schools and indeed all those responsible for making it possible for pupils and students of all ages to experience the joy of music-making.

Ivor Widdison
Chair, Awards Panel

Honourable Mentions

Stand-out features of Barking & Dagenham’s submission included exemplary policy and practice on live performance opportunities for pupils and students and INSET (reflected also in training provided for other LEA music services) and CPD. We noted also the high quality of the management and that the Authority’s funding of music education exceeded the total of all Government grants

The Caerphilly Music Service is wholly funded by the LEA and was responsible for a splendid spread of music and music theatre events. The Service continued to reach above average percentage of the total school population and generally maintains its position as Wales’ flagship music service.

The Enfield Arts Support Service reported an impressive number of new initiatives and development and consolidation of last year’s new programmes. Vocal work especially was taken seriously and to good effect. The Service’s previously noted good range of INSET provision was maintained.

Glasgow too registered numerous new initiatives and through Culture in Sports, Glasgow provided a praiseworthy programme of workshops and performance opportunities for adults with special emphasis on provision for those with disability. Valuable music technology INSET opportunities were available. There was a heavy concentration of Saturday morning activities in the re-furbished City Halls. The Glasgow Schools Big Band pilot was successful and the Band is now established as one of the Authority’s most successful ensembles. This submission demonstrates the many benefits which accrue to music makers when an authority makes such a substantial investment in customised building provision as Glasgow did in 2006.

Gloucestershire further consolidated an early years support project, provided opportunities for adults to play in bands, orchestras and jazz combinations at various levels (with over 80 adults learning from scratch) and established a productive partnership with Gloucestershire Brass Band Association. A fast track scheme for gifted and talented pupils gained momentum by virtue of free tuition and instrument loan for those playing “endangered species” instruments. The Service’s reach of 12 per cent of the school population was above the national average.

Among the merits of Havering’s submission was an awareness by the Service that some aspects of provision could be of higher quality. Yet there was much to applaud; for example, the breadth and volume of weekly band and ensemble opportunities made available and the fact that Wider Opportunities programmes were delivered in all primary schools.

Knowsley successfully enhanced training opportunities by initiating closer joint working with neighbouring and other music services. The introduction of “Carnivale” celebrations provided over 400 Wider Opportunities pupils with excellent performance opportunities on steel pans, violins, recorders, trombones, clarinets, guitars as well as singing. Support from borough-wide ensembles and secondary school hosting of the concerts did much to support successful transition between years six and seven.

Lancashire reported a most impressive number of new initiatives in the year. The Music Service’s contact with pupils and students was well above average as a proportion of the total school population, but the Wider Opportunities reach was on the low side. INSET and CPD provision and take-up was outstandingly good. The Service was responsive to the views of parents and was able to demonstrate successful outcomes to its long-term commitment to good quality singing

Lincolnshire The range and scope of opportunities for regular weekly ensemble/workshop activity continued to be outstanding as was the take-up of INSET provision. While numbers receiving tuition were improving from a very low base, the large majority of schools were accessing the Service for curriculum support purposes. At the end of the year new funds became available for development of provision for gifted and talented pupils.

Northumberland Despite low resources the Music Service delivered an excellent INSET programme which supported the Service’s commitment to both traditional Northumbrian and world musics, all of which was facilitated by an impressive range of instruments and appropriate tutors. The Wider Opportunities reach was high notwithstanding having to overcome a major and highly original obstacle to progress arising from a failure by the responsible body to identify the purpose of the Government’s grant!

Trafford prioritised provision at out-of -hours music centres and in the Wider Opportunities programme, the latter to good effect, not least in the resultant strengthening of curriculum support for primary schools. The dedicated funding of £73,000 to fund the Authority’s Youth Orchestra represented a welcome commitment in a year when the Service struggled with unprecedented levels of staff sickness.

Diplomas of Merit

Blackpool Music Service’s spectacular success with its Wider Opportunities programme continued with 100 per cent of primary schools in at least one initiative. The programme influenced curricular work in schools and affected extra-curricular work to the extent that virtually all primary schools provided weekly choral rehearsals. 50 per cent of pupils chose to continue beyond the initial period. All instrumentalists were offered a new instrument in year seven even if they were to be educated in other areas but chose to stay with Blackpool ensembles. A new data tracking programme helped identify those who wished to continue playing before departing to their high school and provided useful information for their new teachers. Much of the curriculum support had to be focussed on ‘problem’ schools not least to ensure that music survived as a single discipline.

The approach to involvement of parents/carers was exemplary, as was the volume of collaborative working with other music services and music organisations. The inclusivity and extent of provision for pupils and students with SEN and the outcomes of vocal programmes introduced four years ago were outstandingly good.

Bolton For an Authority with a significant South Asian minority population there was surprisingly little evidence beyond an Asian vocal project that provision was influenced accordingly. That aside, there was much to commend. Specialist weekly sessions were delivered in the special schools and outreach provision for SEN pupils in ordinary schools was introduced. Bolton’s magnificent commitment to performance was sustained with the Music Centre running 28 weekly ensembles and ten satellite ensembles notching up over 100 performances in the year. Involvement in Wider Opportunities programmes increased by 12 per cent to 86 per cent of primary schools. Year six to seven transition strategies, incorporating INSET, represented good practice. Music curriculum support was customised for individual schools, with ‘problem’ schools receiving priority support – further evidence, should it be needed, that a genuinely musical school is likely to be a success educationally!  The well-established collaboration with the Halle Orchestra continued to bear much musical fruit as did the previously noted investment in jazz education.

Devon Through an introduction to Cuba and its culture college students and primary pupils were enabled to develop Cuban salsa in dance, percussion and instrumental formats; one of several new initiatives. Yet even more noteworthy was the consolidation and development of a large number of previously successful programmes and initiatives. Over 90 per cent of primary schools partook of one of a variety of available Wider Opportunities’ models. INSET provision was high in volume and relevance terms. Six days of INSET related to curriculum music and two days were designated for Key Stage 3 transition issues. Devon are another Authority which go to considerable lengths to involve and act upon the views of parents and carers; we liked the fact that those who did not engage were consulted and as to why and that all the findings were analysed. Collaboration and partnerships with neighbouring LEAs and the several Devon local authorities and their festivals and arts activities continued to add value to music education generally, as did the close involvement of a number of professional musicians from outside the Music Service. The exceptional commitment to jazz education is referred to elsewhere in this report.

East Ayrshire’s commitment to traditional Scottish music was undiminished. And the year was further enlivened by a major project involving the Philharmonia Orchestra to excite and inspire 5000 primary school pupils about orchestral music. The Authority funded a CPD element to the project. An equally effective and fun introduction to live music was provided by ABC Creative Music: 15 primary schools heard swing, blues & and folk jazz performed by six of the UK’s leading jazz musicians wearing colourful costumes and having to cope with periodic invasions by the Kilmarnock Academy Jazz Band. That uproariously successful occasion was supported by preparatory workshops and master classes. Samba workshops delivered by the carnival percussion group, Beats of Brazil, were repeated; and through Scottish Opera Education, workshops, master classes and cross-curricular activities all contributed to discovery of the very special world of opera. By contrast, advanced pupils continued to be engaged by old and challenged by new repertoire by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. As always, there is much to admire and enthuse about in East Ayrshire and no doubt in the near future there will also be evidence of popular music on the menu!

East Lothian have an Arts Education Forum, chaired by the Director of Education (sic), which has successfully embedded the role of the arts, and raised its prominence within the primary curriculum. Music was seen as having a key role in relation to the Scottish Government’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. Indeed, the Authority, while having a rapidly growing population still has a school population of only 13,000. Nevertheless, £302,000 was allocated for the employment of primary music specialists. Several successful primary school initiatives were thus enabled, including, after a successful pilot, a nursery music training project which also provided very welcome resources. Other early years projects served to underline the truism that, certainly for very young people, music is simply fun. This fine submission was notable for some candid appraisals of existing activities. It also demonstrated that the Service was sensitive to the needs of young people. For example, as part of  a strategy drawn up following extensive consultation, a high profile rock programme was implemented, and specific provision was made for those in the 16-25 age range with social and emotional problems (the evaluation of this provision was sufficiently positive to lend hope for the development of a permanent youth music facility at the Tynecastle football ground).

And no charges were made for instrumental or vocal tuition.

Oxfordshire There is at least one thing East Lothian and Oxfordshire have in common; they both have Councils which value music education to the extent that both generously fund it. That was as well for in this year the Oxfordshire Music Service lost its Head of Service after 28 years distinguished service, was “banished” from the education department, and the music adviser, indeed all adviser posts were abolished. Notwithstanding those setbacks, it was excellent service as usual for pupils, students and school staffs. Interaction with school based colleagues was close and supportive and, accordingly, in the many examples of support (including joint INSET provision) for curriculum delivery. A new weekly rock school was set up and, having been awarded funding, steps were taken to generate yet more singing activities. Provision for gifted and talented students across the board was outstanding and was reflected in the high quality of Oxfordshire ensembles and invitations to perform overseas at the ISME conference and European Youth Orchestra Festival. Rewarding engagement with parents and carers and local arts and community organisations was sustained. We were pleased to see that the successful evening adult learning ensembles recruited yet more participants, further exemplifying the Authority’s commitment to lifelong music learning.

Redbridge A panel member summed up this impressive submission with “they haven’t missed anything out”. True indeed and yet time and resources were also found to conduct specialist music tuition at the main music centre for adults with disabilities. In the best musical tradition, entry criteria for the innumerable ensembles were based on standard achieved rather than age. While this submission missed nothing out, the reader will expect to learn something of the highlights: for much of those, the PRSF and Jazz Services sections of this report will provide. Suffice it for us to record that by various means and at various locations provision for pupils and students with SEN was extremely good, and collaboration with the youth service was exemplary. The Wider Opportunities programmes were comparable to the best in the country. And we noted the introduction of weekly brass tuition in all secondary schools (so perhaps one day soon we shall have enough trombonists to go round!) High quality INSET and CPD opportunities born of frequent audits of teachers’ needs enabled the Music Service to provide curriculum support across all key stages. We could go on!

Southwark’s Music Service’s heavy concentration on the development of the Wider Opportunities programme -  introductions, enhanced continuation, widened range of available instruments, developing skills for coping with more difficult instruments and pilots for extension into Key Stage 3 based on Musical Futures – has born fruit. Thus all primary schools and three of the special schools were involved in the programme. A range of new initiatives was introduced in the two music centres, including provision for gifted and talented pupils. We were pleased to learn that the Key Stage 3/4 Musical Futures programme, piloted in four secondary schools had had a highly promising beginning. The Authority’s decision to disband the Arts Team, with whom much of the music service’s support for curriculum delivery was provided, was a setback. That notwithstanding, support was maintained and by the appointment at year end of 0.2 per cent of a music consultant’s time, promised to be enhanced. We received evidence of sympathetic and sensitive advice and support for SEN pupils. In short, we remain in awe of the achievements of a Music Service head quarters comprising 1.6 FTE staff!

Diplomas of Special Merit

Portsmouth’s nine-year collaboration with Southampton and the Isle of Wight through Solent Music (which originally kick-started world musics in the area) continued to benefit INSET provision and was thus held up to be a model of effective joint working. Indeed, CPD opportunities comprised a major element of this submission; take-up was obligatory and provision was evaluated. It was thus demonstrated that raising the skill base of music service staff was a genuine priority. Music technology developments were outstanding in all respects, and the lengths to which the Service involved and acted upon the views of parents and carers was especially praiseworthy. Specialist and general curriculum support was provided to schools both formally and informally at all key stages and phases. Policy and practice for identifying and providing for gifted and talented pupils and students was well established. And while we were sorry to see that free tuition on “minority” instruments, a feature of the submission in 2000, was no longer available, the number and range of instruments provided continued to be substantial as did the number of ensembles. This Music Service was another Service to establish a young musicians’ council to obtain feedback and original views from young people in an organised way. And we were pleased to note that ensemble and choral opportunities for adults were being maintained.

Tower Hamlets This is a Music Service of three-years’ standing catering for a school population 70 per cent of whom live in social housing with all the attendant problems of how to practise on your instrument! Add to that faith-based issues arising from a high Muslim population, 60 per cent of Bangladeshi heritage, and it’s clear this Service faced creative and cultural challenges. Nevertheless, the Tower Hamlets Arts & Music Education Service (THAMES) succeeded in involving

  • 54 per cent of all pupils in THAMES activities
  • 86 per cent of all primary pupils in THAMES activities
  • 15 per cent of  all pupils in instrumental tuition

Though highly valued by the LEA, THAMES received no funding from them. However, at the beginning of the year in question, THAMES received £2.5m (over three years) from DCSF/DCMS under the “Find your Talent” initiative.

The introduction of a pre-Wider Opportunities programme in partnership with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama resulted in more schools signing up for the Wider Opportunities programme. A remarkably high number of new musical partnerships, both project based and longer term, was embarked upon. The relationship between THAMES and the schools curriculum was characterised by a clear six stage progression route which related both to instrumental take-up and to National Curriculum delivery Provision for the gifted and talented was taken seriously as was INSET for THAMES staff and classroom teachers. There were also numerous CPD opportunities.



THE MAJOR TROPHY (this year shared, as follows)

The Kingston upon Hull budget was used to teach 4,500 pupils and students in their schools (well above the national average); to provide a wide range of ensembles in several genres and for 700 young people (all abilities) to attend the Albemarle Music Centre each week, to run the Centre and to facilitate Wider Opportunities projects. In addition to sharing staff with neighbouring authorities the Music Service maintained productive collaborations with many local arts and community organisations and through the region’s Youth Music Action Zone delivered successful, varied music programmes targeted at young people not accessing music. Staff were employed on school teachers’ terms and conditions.

This is one of the most deprived districts in England. Music is one of the chosen anti-dotes. Thus we come to the main reason for our recognition of Kingston upon Hull. It is a sad fact that some music services seem to have to operate in something of a vacuum to the extent that the host authority neither celebrates its achievements nor acknowledges its existence. One has only to look at a random selection of web sites for the evidence. With the occasional notable exception, our awards recognise an-authority-wide commitment to music education. Repeated moves to detach schools from their parent LEAs don’t help. But most of the submissions we consider testify to the value of the Authority’s support, financial or otherwise and none more so than this one. 2008 saw the purpose-built £3.2m new Music Centre fully operational in the city centre. Accommodation consists of a main auditorium with raised, electrically operated seating for 196 people, a large rehearsal room which can accommodate a 50-strong ensemble, five further classrooms, a Gamelan room, a large percussion studio, a library, a bespoke storage system, including for instruments and office accommodation for the Music Service. And on top of that the City Council grant-aided the Service to the tune of £475,000. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Manchester Most of Manchester’s standards fund was devolved to schools. In the year, 98 per cent purchased their vocal and instrumental tuition from the Music Service. So as a result of the Service delivering tuition in virtually every school, staff were available to introduce Wider Opportunities programmes in 94 per cent of primary schools, to release some of their small group tuition time for whole or half-class weekly sessions and to extend the experience to brass, full string ensembles, full recorder consorts and a variety of world percussion combinations. We noted that the new North West Music Partnership between the Halle Orchestra, Manchester, Bolton, Stockport & Salford embraced a wide range of activities and that a major focus on the development of music technology provision in high schools and colleges had produced many positive outcomes. And the expansion to twelve music centres across the City of the free out-of-school hours programme had, among other things, lead to an increase in the number of rock bands in schools. We warmed to the reported success of the Polkadots classes held at each music centre and starting with a nursery stage to develop music skills through songs and games before children take on the technical challenge of an instrument. We applauded Manchester’s Singing School programme in 2004 and welcome the subsequent developments. The Music Service supported curriculum delivery through regular contact with the schools involving discussion of music tuition models and identification of support needs. That process was underpinned by a training package “Music in the Classroom” which comprised a year long programme of support as well as other training events. And as part of the provision for SEN pupils, an inclusive and accessible Wider Opportunities project was designed for nine special schools with options to work in partnership with local mainstream schools. And we congratulate the Service on the progress made in increasing the percentage of the schools’ population from the black and ethnic minority groups learning a musical instrument (29 per cent) closer to the schools population taken up by those groups, ie 32 per cent. The Service’s exemplary commitment to providing for all genres was largely responsible for that.