NMC Local Authority Music Education Awards 2010
Report by Robin Osterly
In this, my first year of having the privilege of chairing the National Music Council Education Awards panel, I have been bowled over by the difficulty of separating the great applications from the merely good. Whilst we would have been happy to have seen more detail in some areas, and some submissions did hide their light under a bushel somewhat, I am gratified to report that we have had no submissions about which nothing positive could be said. Indeed I am informed that the quality has probably been at its highest this year, reflecting well on the hard work and indeed hard cash that has been going into music provision in Local Authorities this year. The Tune In Year of Music initiative in 2009/10 has undoubtedly raised the profile of music provision during the year in question, and as I write the Henley Review is to be welcomed as a long-overdue “all ends up” look at the good points and bad points of the music education system in England.
UK music education may well be the best in world. It is incredibly diverse, reflecting our multi-cultural society effectively in many areas. It is full of talent, whether that be in teachers, workshop leaders, pupils and even humble administrators! In the best areas it offers children the most amazing opportunities to make music and to compose. It benefits from an extraordinary amount of attention from so many people, and an enormous amount of research is going on into the holistic benefits to pupils provided by musical education.
And yet there are still some Local Authorities who don’t “get it”. The National Music Council Awards are lucky enough to reflect the best practice in the field, and hold a mirror up to those Authorities and their Music Services who do the best work in the best way, and benefit their children accordingly. Getting the message across to those Authorities who are less successful in these areas is a whole different matter, and one that we hope the Henley Review will address.
My grateful thanks go the panel who have put countless hours of effort into assessing the applications. This year they were, in alphabetical order, Leonora Davies, Kathryn Deane, James Hannam, Fiona Harvey, Ben Lane, Alok Nayak, and Alistair Salmond.
And we are also very grateful for the continuing association with the PRS for Music Foundation, who are once again offering their awards for provision in creativity and new music, and Jazz Services Ltd, who provide special awards for the provision of education in jazz. These awards go a long way towards to enabling us to recognise good practice wherever it occurs.
Thanks must also go to both the Federation of Music Services and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, as well as Richard Hallam, National Music Participation Director in England, for their promotion of the awards. We are grateful for all your support.
But the last word of thanks must surely go, on behalf of pupils of all ages, to the music teachers, staffs of music services, workshop leaders, and indeed all those who contribute to our world-class music education. Without you, the UK would be a much less musical, indeed poorer, place.
It was good to see an application from this small city Authority. The Music Service suffered from a 10% reduction in funding for instrumental tuition (in spite of a broadly supportive Authority) and yet have continued to provide a substantial set of opportunities and ensembles as well as supporting an Aberdeen Young Musician competition and a new City Music School for especially talented pupils. We perhaps would have liked to have seen more partnerships such as that with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Aberdeenshire provides a substantial amount of tuition in a logistically challenging environment and makes good use of the funds received from the Youth Music Initiative. CPD is especially strong and a good range of diverse ensembles are provided, with the Authority being especially strong in jazz which is reflected in the Jazz Services awards (see below). As a panel, we would have been happy to have had more detail on the scope and range of the programmes provided.
The panel was especially impressed with the way East Renfrewshire addresses issues of music technology, four major projects showing admirable commitment in this area. Concomitant with this, indeed partly because of it, was a very strong submission in the area of special education needs. Use of resources and classroom teaching was also strong, but we were a little concerned about the extent to which imaginative and exciting longer-term programmes were identified in the application, given the very strong and diverse nature of the opportunities provided.
Glasgow’s submission contained a huge range of exciting and varied programmes, ranging from a Big Band to a Victorian project, from a tech zone to a Songbook of Unsingable Songs. There is clearly no shortage of creative minds working in the Glasgow Music Service! The panel were also impressed by classroom provision and the use of technology. The submission drew our attention to the wide range of work going on in Glasgow, whether directly run by the authority or otherwise. A strong submission.
This is a small service with relatively small budget, with which they have achieved much, as their calendar of events clearly shows. The Authority clearly has many strengths in its music provision; however it was difficult to assess from the submission many of the areas that were of significance to the panel. We would welcome more narrative detail in future submissions.
Kingston Music Service finds itself in a difficult position as it is being moved towards being entirely self-funding, and as a result is having its funding gradually reduced by the Local Authority. The key to success under these circumstances is partnership working, and the panel were gratified to note the range of partnerships burgeoning in the Authority – ranging from professional providers to local community groups. We were also impressed by the creative and interesting programmes being undertaken and a strong emphasis on Wider Opportunities. This is clearly a Music Service that is on its way up, and we would be very keen to see applications in the future when even more progress has been made.
In this very large, very rural county, the Authority has been influential in creating a good range of opportunities for its pupils across the board, and is particularly strong in providing a diverse range of music, especially jazz. They have made good partnership use of SoundLincs, the county’s community music organisation. We would welcome more detail about the outcomes of some of their programmes, and would like to see a stronger range of initiatives especially in more traditional musical spheres.
As is so often the case, a very strong submission from Oxfordshire, which is lucky enough to have a relatively well-resourced and highly experienced Music Service providing a substantial and wide-ranging set of music opportunities. The application evidenced a host of exciting programmes, strong advance in music technology, and a coherent and effective LA-wide strategy. The panel was a little concerned about the diversity of music provision, and felt that the significant resources of Oxfordshire could be directed somewhat more at addressing a differing range of musical opportunities for its pupils.
We were delighted to see another application from Warrington, who continue to impress with an imaginative and strong use of a very limited budget. Their range of exciting and impressive programmes, with considerable diversity in evidence, should be the envy of many a better-resourced Authority, and the panel specially commended them for the value for money they provide. The panel would, in an ideal world, have liked to have seen slightly more provision for gifted and talented and special educational needs than was cited in the application.
Barking and Dagenham
The panel was particularly impressed with the way in which Barking and Dagenham offers such an enormous variety and quality of exciting programmes. It is true that they are located in an area which is currently the subject of much attention; but there can be few Authorities that have made such outstanding use of the resources available to them. They have established and progressed partnerships with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Barbican and with ten other music services from the London Olympic boroughs. They have a number of initiatives with Sing Up, Youth Music and Rock School. The extensive classroom offering from the Music Service is particularly strong in the area of transition from primary to secondary, with a number of imaginative programmes such as providing playing days for Year 6 pupils, a buddying system allowing older pupils to offer support to Year 7 pupils, much contact with Year 6 parents and other initiatives designed to support Year 6 pupils into secondary. Arguably musical students will feel more ready to go to secondary school than many of their counterparts who do not perform! This is clearly an Authority where the importance of the Wider Opportunities scheme has really hit home.
The relationship with the LSO has enabled Barking and Dagenham significantly to strengthen its gifted and talented programme. Talented music students are fortunate enough to be able attend Master Classes with LSO players and numerous workshops and other classes. The Music Service offered no fewer than 41 CPD sessions during the year, including Sibelius workshops, whole-class teaching, Rock School examinations, partnership working, Sing Up workshops, and much more. They are an Authority that has become very strong in almost every area.
Shining through the application from Blackpool was the incredible enthusiasm of its relatively small Music Service. This is the 12th most deprived authority in the UK, the most deprived outside London, and as such some of the statistics are quite remarkable: parental contributions to instrumental lessons have increased by 12%, indicating a significant increase in demand in spite of the recession; there has been an increase of some 15% in attendance at events; demand for musical services from primary schools increased by an average of some 20%; GSCE music candidates increased by 30% with the number of A*-C results increasing by 17%; all schools have a choir; more than 64% of pupils continue with music in some form into secondary. But beyond these numbers is a range of creative programmes designed to enthuse and excite, including a significant staged performance on average every three weeks.
Blackpool has a particularly strong focus on looking after SEN pupils. It is a remarkable fact that 25% of their Schools Orchestra have SEN; and in some cases the number of SEN pupils in schools choirs exceeds 60%. To quote from their submission: “the positive impact this vocal provision has on the pupil’s social, language and academic skills is extensive and often applauded by Headteachers within Blackpool”. An exemplary use of music for the wider good.
What stood out from the submission by East Lothian was the incredible range of programmes and opportunities provided for pupils, so many that it is difficult to scratch the surface in this limited space. There is a funded team of 10 primary music specialists who provide music lessons to all primary schools in the county. 2000 primary pupils undertook lessons in guitar. 1000 pupils received drumming lessons. 390 schools had the opportunity to participate in a Fischy music project. A large number of primary secondary schools participated in outreach and creative music projects across the Authority. A digital and podcast project moved from an after school club to the school timetable proper in two secondary schools. The Arts Service offered workshops in everything from Taiko drumming to radiophonics. It’s an incredible story they tell, reflecting the fact that the Council provides a full package of support to both primary and secondary music, with not a cut in sight!
East Lothian’s was one of the strongest submissions the panel saw in terms of technology. All secondary schools have recording studios and relevant software and a number of their projects have featured electronic instruments and equipment. If you are a young musical technophile, move to East Lothian! Another strong area for this very strong Authority was the range and quality of relationships with local community groups, individual musicians and artists, and funders such as YMI and Youth Music. This was a strong all-rounder, with many outstanding features but one of the most extensive set of programmes we’ve ever seen.
Enfield is a borough with a very high percentage of children on free school meals, a very high proportion of children for whom English is not their first language, and a very high percentage of children in its population. Against this background, the Authority has done a brilliant job of marshalling its resources to provide a particularly strong all-round performance, whether it be in instrumental provision, classroom teaching or in support for transition from primary to secondary. 48 primary and special schools across the borough took part in 15 music festivals across the borough, with around 2000 pupils participating: an increase of 43% on the previous year. Over 13,000 young people and adults receive weekly tuition: an increase of 70% over 2008/9, and 26,100 people participated in live music performances and events: an increase of 14%.
Enfield are especially strong in what might be seen as the dry subject of evaluation; but of course unless you can work out what you have done well it is difficult to see where you should continue to devote resources, and we found the methodology and practice of their evaluation procedures to be exemplary. Not only do they survey their pupils, parents and schools regularly, but they also seek anecdotal and face to face feedback at parents’ evenings, projects, rehearsals and workshops. This feedback is analysed and assessed before identifying new projects and programmes.
Underpinning all this is the strongest CPD programme of any submission; interesting as this area had been given strong attention after the 2009 Federation of Music Services evaluation programme. 72% of all of their instrumental and other staff attended CPD events during the year, and the range and scope of such provision was very wide indeed. Enfield is an Authority that is doing very well in music education.
Hampshire is a county with a big reputation to live up to in music education. It has been a consistently strong performer for many years, and this year proved to be no exception. Although relatively well resourced and with a number of demographic advantages it is clear that it does not rest on its well-deserved laurels, and is constantly striving to improve its provision and the access to its services, as seen by a major emphasis on self-evaluation during 2009. Especially pleasing in this year’s submission was to see a renewed emphasis on priority groups such as looked-after children, with the Music Service even starting their own version of the In Harmony project. Curriculum support at primary level remains free to all schools, and a wide range of other programmes are available for purchase, including gamelan, samba and West African drumming, which has led to the involvement of over 5,000 children and 500 teachers.
In our opinion, Hampshire has the strongest provision for gifted and talented of any of our winners, including awards for composition students, the now famous Hampshire Award programme which has enabled the creation of a number of new ensembles and an Ambassadors programme. Their county youth orchestra is of an incredible standard.
Finally we should mention the Schools Prom event in November 2009. Hampshire provided a choir of 800 pupils from Year 4 to Year 13 to perform a piece they had commissioned from Stephen McNeff. This piece also featured a group of advanced instrumentalists, a performance from the County Youth Choir, and drama and dance to boot. This major challenge was risen to in splendid fashion, providing a fitting centrepiece to an excellent year for Hampshire.
This year the major award is once again shared between two Authorities.
Devon is a county whose education structure is rather different from some of its peers. The Music Service, for example, sits within a Curriculum Support and Enrichment Portfolio in the Devon Learning and Development Partnership which is moving to becoming a joint venture company in the near future. Arguably this flexibility of structure has enabled Devon to establish a very wide range of partnerships to enhance its work; and the results of these are very clear for all to see. Devon is another exceptionally good all-rounder, and this can be seen in a number of areas:
- A wide range of high quality programmes including 6 new Mix4Six hubs, gamelan training for teachers, a new schools choir festival, a singing in the playground programme, a ukulele enrichment programme, extension of the Jazz ambassadors programme to other genres, partnership working with local festivals, and many more.
- A high-quality Wider Opportunities provision, offering schools a huge range of facilities and support from a number of Music Development Leaders
- An extremely imaginative and successful technology programme, including use of IT, websites and online resources to enhance pupils’ musical experience, and the encouragement of social networking to raise awareness of ensemble opportunities and promotion
- An extensive evaluation activity incorporating formal and informal feedback
- An excellent range of partnerships with local community groups as well as visiting arts organisations and individual artists and unusually strong provision for adult participants
- Very strong instrumental provision in everything ranging from ocarinas to tablas
And the list goes on. In some ways the most exciting thing about the Devon provision is that it is so integrated into the overall LA strategy, offering a model of how music provision can make itself invaluable within an Authority, obviating any possibility of it being seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. How many Music Services can claim to work closely with their Authority in supporting, say Roma Traveller Education, EMA, and deaf children? And how many can claim to be regularly consulting with the county-wide Education Forum on all matters of strategic importance? Devon certainly can claim these things, and our panel felt that they were, as a result of such a strong all-round performance, very worthy winners of the major award in 2010.
The submission from East Ayrshire was a model of good practice in the provision of interesting and imaginative programmes. Amongst the opportunities they provide for the lucky pupils in the county were:
- An international project featuring a commission involving 180 pupils from East Ayrshire and 30 from Norway and Northern Ireland
- A Homecoming concert featuring 121 pupils playing traditional Scottish homecoming music
- A rock and pop writing and performing project called Unsigned: Unlimited involving 20 aspiring musicians so far
- A social inclusion project involving 121 pupils
- A project involving 90 primary pupils, 20 African drummers from a special school, 6 jazz instrumentalists and others in the development of a new musical instrument
- A singing programme featuring 1404 pupils in 30 primary schools
- A primary strings project involving 62 pupils
- A nursery school project in partnership with the Scottish Ensemble, involving 450 nursery age children
- A showcase featuring 6,400 pupils across East Ayrshire
- A new samba project featuring 233 pupils
And so on and so on. Equally impressive is the range of partnerships developed within and outwith the Authority, with organisations such as Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Scottish Brass Band Association, Ayrshire Music Festival and many many others. The panel was very impressed with the local community organisation with whom partnerships have been struck: Ayrshire Symphony Orchestra, Kilmarnock Choral Union, and Muirkirk & District Pipe Band, to name but a few. East Ayrshire seem to have an endless capacity for striking excellent relationships with any organisation and creating a hugely beneficial and exciting project. Extremely impressive stuff.
And neither do they neglect their internal needs. The range of CPD opportunities is very great and carefully structured according to individual needs. And the Music Service’s relationship with the rest of the Authority is surely one from which many could learn. They are fully integrated with the provision of services across the rest of the Authority and as a result have a sound basis from which to carry out their exemplary work. A most impressive application from a most impressive authority.
PRS for Music Awards
Winner - Glasgow
Glasgow Music Service is the winner of this year’s NMC PRSF Award for the sheer breadth of its creative music activities.
Combining with Edinburgh Music Service, Glasgow students performed the world premiere of a new work by Stephen Deazley and Matt Harvey in two major concert halls. Another large scale performance took place following a project based on Victorian society, whereby children from years 6 & 7 performed their own compositions created in collaboration with composers Allan Penman and Karen McIver.
‘Tech Zone’ workshops were offered on Saturday mornings in order to develop students’ creative skills, whilst the ‘Paragon Improvisation Project’ improved students’ listening and performance abilities, focussing on creative thinking and compositional devices. In addition, the enticing ‘TigerStyle Fusion’ workshops enabled those with an interest in contemporary urban music to create new pieces and develop group performance skills.
5 composers worked with the county ensembles programme over the past year, including Scott Stroman, Simon Dobson, Issie Barratt, Elfyn Jones and Paul Painter.
Hugh Nankevill worked with schools in the Kingsbridge LLC for ‘Whaletone Opera’, supported by DMS and drawing on expertise from Japan. Additionally, Wren Music developed a song cycle within the LLC, celebrating local identity. The laptop project has also been expanded, giving primary school children the opportunity to create new pieces.
The large-scale Gavin Reid commission “Welcome Home”, inspired by the life, dreams and works of Robert Burns, was premiered in the Grand Hall, Kilmarnock. An ensemble of East Ayrshire pupils was drawn from 23 schools of varying sizes and localities in the Kilmarnock area of the authority, with schools from Northern Ireland and Norway also contributing.
SCO Education delivered a series of four workshops with professional composer Stephen Deazley, exploring advanced composition concepts which stimulated and supported the creation of new musical scores by pupils. All participants worked on individual compositions and teachers were encouraged to attend the sessions alongside the students
East Lothian also presented an impressively wide range of activities, including; teacher training on conducting creative music sessions with their pupils using tuned and untuned percussion instruments, composition projects for years 1 and 2, African drumming workshops, and a project run with a Composer in Residence - who assisted students in developing tools and techniques for their Higher and advanced Higher Invention folios.