NMC Local Authority Music Education Awards 2011


At a time of considerable change and uncertainty in the world of music education, we were delighted that this year’s NMC Local Authority Music Education Awards, presented in association with Paritor, attracted the largest number of submissions we have had for many years – a total of 29. The standard was as high as ever, with 10 authorities receiving Diplomas in additional to our Major Award winner Blackpool. It is very encouraging to see how positively many authorities have responded to the straitened circumstances in which they find themselves – seeing the new austerity as an opportunity rather than a threat. For some local authorities (LAs) music education is seen as an optional extra – a nice-to-have which can relatively easily be sacrificed in difficult times. Not so the LAs detailed in this report - these authorities have shown a renewed commitment to the musical education of youngsters as a way of enhancing their services and providing excellent value for money.

At the beginning of 2011, near the end of the financial year in question, the Henley report on music education in England was published. This was one of the most thorough investigations into the state of music education ever undertaken, and made a large number of recommendations which have mostly been accepted by Government. It is safe to say that nothing will be quite the same again in England – the new National Plan for Music Education, arising from Henley, will be published shortly and LAs will need to consider carefully how to organise music education as the landscape shifts dramatically around them. From the perspective of the National Music Council this is no bad thing – we acknowledge the huge part that Music Services play in local education provision (indeed most of our submissions come direct from Music Services) but also acknowledge that they are not the only types of providers benefitting children in a community. We welcome the more joined-up approach promised by Henley and would hope this is effectively represented in the new Plan and in LAs’ responses to it. Interestingly, it is fair to say that the range of partnership working demonstrated in the submissions has never been wider, or more comprehensive. This must bode well.

As usual however, we have had many submissions from Scottish authorities, who consistently reflect the greater funding they receive with a very high standard of submission. Largely unaffected by the sort of turmoil experienced in English LAs, they often stand as exemplars of the good that can be done if an authority is prepared to fund its music provision in a more generous manner.

My grateful thanks once again go the panel who have put countless hours of effort into assessing the applications. This year they were, in alphabetical order: Kathryn Deane, Fiona Harvey, Ben Lane and John Witchell. Our redoubtable administrator at the National Music Council, Harriette Goldsmith, provided invaluable and critical support to the process and we are very grateful to her for the huge – and voluntary – effort that went in, especially in the early stages.

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.

Special thanks this year go to our sponsors Paritor, without whom the Awards would have been much the poorer in all senses! We have enjoyed working with them to increase the number of submissions as well as create a more splendid and exciting awards ceremony. Thanks very much to Simon Dutton and Jodie Vickerstaff for their unflinching support.

But the last word of thanks must surely go, as usual, 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 place – our musical future is, as ever, in your hands.

Honourable mentions

This year, unfortunately, there is simply not the resource available to comment upon each and every one of our applicants – a reflection of the increased number of submissions that came to us. We are grateful for the time and effort put in by the following authorities who did not, on this occasion, win a Diploma. There was much to commend in each of these applications, and we look forward to receiving submissions from them all in future years:

Barking  And Dagenham
East Renfrewshire
East Riding
And Kinross

Special Mentions

Amongst those who did not win a Diploma, four authorities stood out as worthy of a special mention:

The panel were pleased to see such a strong submission from ArtForms, the body which effectively acts as a music service for Leeds. There were major strengths in music technology and in their instrumental provision; and the panel was particularly impressed with their approach to pupils with Special Education Needs. Overall a very good submission, we would have liked to have seen a little more emphasis on evaluation and perhaps involving pupils and parents more in the decision-making process. This is clearly an authority on the way up.

This was also a very strong submission. Manchester provides a huge range of exciting programmes for its population, and clearly children living in the city have access to a very wide range of opportunities. The panel was surprised, however, that there was not more emphasis on partnerships being built with the extensive range of organisations and networks in the vicinity, and also that there was little evidence of a strong strategy for gifted and talented pupils. But overall this was a very impressive submission.

Slough is a small authority with limited resources whose Music Service has as yet no track record of developing traded services to supplement its income. Further, the Music Service has only been in existence for around three years after a period of dormancy, and is clearly working very hard to re-establish its activities in a very diverse community. The panel was impressed by its submission in terms of the range of exciting and interesting programmes provided, whilst noting that it too could work harder to provide a range of outlets for gifted and talented pupils. But overall this was a good submission reflecting the upward trajectory of the Service.

Once again we received a strong submission from Warrington, who consistently show us an exciting and diverse range of programmes. The panel felt that the submission could have done more to explain the nature and effectiveness of their partnership programmes rather simply list them and could have demonstrated a more strategic approach to gifted and talented pupils. The panel and were also very disappointed in the response to the technology element of the application. This authority is clearly very close to being worthy of a Diploma; given the superb range of programmes it only requires more attention in these areas and we feel it will be successful in the Awards in the future.


A very strong submission in a number of areas from this small metropolitan authority. The panel were impressed with the fantastic use of limited resources to deliver programmes including a range of festivals, showcases, and the composition of a brand new opera! The service supports no fewer that 45 ensembles around its patch, and boasts a 93% participation rate in its wider opportunities scheme.

But it was in the area of music technology where Bolton really shone. As befits an area which spawned the Buzzcocks, Bolton has an unequalled programme of music technology for its people to use and enjoy, including making good use of Charanga, offering pupils portable recording equipment and providing an authority-wide service for schools in the promotion of new Music Technology solutions supported by knowledgeable music service staff.

Another standout area for Bolton was their evaluation process – they don’t just listen to staff, customers, pupils and parents, they actively seek out their views and act on them, using such techniques as a staff motivation audit, curriculum support, annual evaluations from teachers and head teachers, pupil practice diaries, head teacher and pupil questionnaires, annual parents’ evenings and interim and end of year reports for individual pupils, open evenings, parents support groups in each of the 4 music centres, a music centre student council, visits by senior management and one-to-one meetings with all heads and much more. An evaluation regime from which many other authorities could learn. They are not afraid to expose themselves to criticism, and this level of self-scrutiny has led to fantastic results. A great performance.

Last year’s major trophy winner evidenced another near-faultless performance in 2010/11. Although a relatively well resourced area, they have very cannily proved the extent to which a music service can make a high-value contribution to its community, and their range of offerings for children remains exceptional. But neither are they content to rest on their laurels, with some exciting new programmes this year, such as the launching of an approved practitioner scheme, gamelan training across the county, and a schools choir festival. We were also impressed with their unusually diverse range of next steps models for moving children on from Wider Opportunities; and with their major efforts in technology (as is befitting for an area that spawned Muse) and instrument provision.

But what always impresses us most about submissions from Devon is the extent to which their activities are integrated with the rest of the county. Their unusual structural position within Devon places them as they say “at the heart of the county’s work to raise standards and narrow the achievement gap” – surely something to which all music services should be aspiring. Additionally their forward-looking and accessible culture enables them to take advantage of a huge range of partnerships from around the county, ranging from local music groups to Arts Council England, from Youth Music to Dartington. They are truly a “hub” of local musical activity.

East Ayrshire
Unsurprisingly, last year’s other major trophy winner also submitted another incredibly strong application. For many years now this authority has been operating at the top of its game, excelling in areas such as special education needs provision, partnerships and continuing professional development. But it is the range of programmes it offers that always catches the eye: how about an opera for babies, a partnership with Music at The Brewhouse to bring the International “Love Music” Festival to over 1,500 children and young people from communities; a partnership with the Kilmarnock Town Centre Heritage Initiative developing musical experiences for young people; Groundbreaking use of FigureNotes Methodology supporting whole-class string experience for P4 pupils, their teachers and parents/grand parents, or The Silk Road Inter-disciplinary learning programme linking with the Confucius Institute, Tapestry Partnership, Harvard University and Edinburgh University. And those are just the new initiatives for 2010/11. If you then add in some of the continuing programmes such as choral development programmes, masterclasses, music appreciation sessions in secondary schools, rock and pop songwriting tuition, samba workshops, and so on and so on,  it is easy to see why the panel wanted to recognise them again.

But it is also worth mentioning one aspect of their application that stood out for us – their CPD programme. An exceptional number of staff hours are devoted to training and development both inside and outwith the service, and this is reflected in the incredible provision East Ayrshire provides on an ongoing basis.

East Lothian
East Lothian also deliver an incredible range of programmes for their community. In a coverage that would be the envy of many of their peers, every school in East Lothian benefits from a music teacher provided by the music service and consequently every single pupil in East Lothian can access free singing and instrumental tuition. The authority is to be commended for the fact that not only has it not cut the budget to the music service, but the music service is indeed expanding!

But the service does not just concentrate on schools. They have a nursery project, a massive range of creative projects, including songwriting, composition and storytelling, African drumming workshops, a podcasting project and superb technology offerings, to name but a few. Interestingly in the context of Henley, East Lothian have already pioneered the use of hubs, albeit on a rather more local basis than Henley was envisaging: Following receipt of £180,000 funding from Creative Scotland, the East Lothian Youth Music Forum has established 6 Music Hubs throughout the county to support and develop youth music activity for 0-25 years. The Hubs meet regularly to discuss and agree developments at a local level and various training sessions are currently being planned for members. The forum is very successful at bringing schools based music representatives together with community music representatives and really harnesses the main themes in a Curriculum for Excellence. Perhaps there is nothing new under the sun?

This was a very strong all-round submission and we are delighted that we are able to offer East Lothian a Diploma once again this year.

Hampshire is a relatively well-resourced authority with a long and honourable history of outstanding provision. They have continued upon their chosen path of deriving much of their income from traded services, and they rightly see this as a strength in such a climate of financial uncertainty. Although they are not immune from the pressures all areas are feeling, at least in England, they were able to evidence another very strong performance this year, with particularly strong offerings for the individual. We were very impressed with their programmes for special educational needs for example, providing a huge range of training and development facilities for teachers, access to instruments for special schools, and the exciting Special Event and Special Celebration musical shows. Space does not permit a full description of their outstanding provision in this area, which is complemented by a similarly full set of programmes for the gifted and talented, including offering pupils the opportunity to learn how to support others. This emphasis on tailored individual development is shot through Hampshire’s submission and marks them out as an authority with a rare sensitivity to the needs of individuals.

And they cover the basics very well too. Their range of programmes for pupils remains very comprehensive, and we were especially pleased to see a new range of activities focussing on the wider community and members of the public. Like Devon, Hampshire Music Service see themselves as an integrated part of the wider Hampshire education scene, and are offering a range of programmes that prove it, whether by training teachers, providing curriculum support, or simply offering singing opportunities to all primary pupils. If you are a pupil in Hampshire you will be benefitting from some of the best opportunities in the country. If you can afford it, you’ll probably be paying for these opportunities; but that approach seems to work, in Hampshire at least.

It was good to see an application from this strong authority after a long gap. Hertfordshire is another well-resourced area, with a massively impressive tradition of support and innovative activity. And indeed this was what stood out for us from this application: a huge range of exciting programmes. Here’s just a flavour: 12 music centres supporting over 3000 children; a personalised series of workshops and training session called the Mix, involving especially hard to reach groups; an early years vocalise programme; a chorister outreach programme in St Albans Abbey; no fewer than 8 county level ensembles including a performance of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, hardly the normal youth ensemble fare; and much much more. We were also extremely impressed with Hertfordshire’s SEN provision: they delivered the country’s first SEND programme for children with special needs, and we particularly liked the UV nightclub for children with disabilities which they partly funded.

As you might expect in an area with such a long-standing background, their instrument provision is very fine and covers a very diverse range of instruments and genres. And this is another county where joined-up thinking prevails – their Local Authority Music Plan operates as the operational music plan for the Service, and as a result they have already taken steps to establish a Forum which should, if the Government so agree, evolve nicely and neatly into a Hub. Good strategic awareness and excellent integration with the whole county’s work has always been hallmark of this very musical area.

This is another very good all-rounder, with an especially impressive range of partnerships. Although it may seem obvious that an authority in this locality can establish strong relationships with a wide range of groups, it still takes an extraordinary amount of work to create and maintain partnerships of this nature. The list of partnerships in Oxfordshire’s submission goes on for four pages, and includes in no special order: other county music services, a South African choir, instrumental ensembles from other counties, most national umbrella groups and organisations, local professional and amateur groups, the Bodleian Library, the Band of the Army Air Corps, Youth Music, etc etc.

We also liked very much Oxfordshire’s support for classroom teaching, and the thorough and effective methods with which they evaluate themselves, including a truly open and inclusive process of collecting feedback from parents and pupils. Their provision for gifted and talented pupils and for those with SEN is also exemplary. There is little in which Oxfordshire does not excel.

In contrast to their much bigger and wealthier neighbour Hampshire, Southampton is an authority with very limited resources, and a very small budget. In this context, the extent of their programmes is remarkable: good examples being the Music and Arts CPD programme which cuts across all Key Stages up to GCSE and also is now being extended to early years; the exciting intergenerational music programme bringing together youngsters with elderly people in residential care and in day centres, an extensive series of workshops and masterclasses, and partnerships with local venues such as Turner Sims Concert Hall.

100% of Southampton schools participate in the service’s Wider Opportunities programme, and transition activities are very strong, with the First Steps programme being especially imaginative and popular. For such a small authority the range of partnerships is also extremely impressive, whether it be other local authorities or national organisations such as Youth Music.

It was very good to see an application from another authority with more limited resources. Staffordshire use these limited resources to great effect and provide an extremely personalised service to their constituency, with a wide spread of activities. As an example, support for gifted and talented pupils is very strong, with such pupils receiving personalised learning programmes and individualised attention; but they also have a very strong programme for SEN pupils, including equally caring differentiation and personalisation. This is clearly an authority that has thought deeply about how to exert its influence in a most detailed way, and this is further demonstrated by its deep commitment to evaluation and listening to the voice of its customers: parents evenings, student forums, friends groups and self-evaluation by pupils all contribute to the sense that Staffordshire knows its constituency well.

We were also very impressed with the range of partnerships achieved by this authority, taking advantage of its central location to work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Manchester Camerata! And many other organisations besides, including Youth Music, many community groups, and a wide range of professional artists. A very fine all-round submission.

Tower Hamlets
The panel was delighted to see another application from Tower Hamlets, winner of a special diploma two years ago. This authority is one of the most deprived areas in the country, and their music service, THAMES, is a shining example of what can be achieved with even the most limited of resources. The reason for this success lies in their emphasis on partnership working, allowing them to create an environment where leveraging resources from other organisations allows them to create opportunities that would not otherwise exist. Among the astonishing list of partnerships created are: Spitalfields Music, Wigmore Hall, Ex Cathedra, the Guildhall School, the London Symphony Orchestra, Samay, SoundEast, Water City Festival, Westminster Cathedral, Wilton’s Music Hall, The Clerks, the Zamana Festival, the City of London Festival and more besides. The programmes and projects resulting from these partnerships are amongst the most imaginative and interesting we’ve seen, ranging from primary school singing projects, through to world music workshops in secondary schools and programmes specifically aimed at Muslim youngsters, as well some very interesting projects in secondary schools. 63% of all pupils and 100% of schools were involved in some kind of THAMES activity in 2010/11

This is a very impressive set of achievements, but the panel were also very taken with the instrumental provision in such a small borough, with nearly a third of the entire school population receiving some form of instrumental tuition, an increase of 38% on last year. And two-thirds of these hail from the Bangladeshi community.

Considering the very special problems associated with such a deprived borough, and one where over three quarters of the population do not have English as their first language, THAMES is doing a remarkable job; especially considering that the local authority was not able to offer any funding whatsoever in the year in question.

The Major Award

Given the fact that Blackpool is the most deprived borough outside London, that the music service has a total turnover of only just over half a million, that 52 languages are taught in Blackpool schools, and that the centre of the service only has two full-time staff supported by two part-time administrators, the list of achievements cited in its submission are almost incredible. To describe them we can do no better that use the brief summary provided by the service of their year’s activities:

  • a new free Early Years Music Strategy – from birth to 5 years of age ( called Tiddly Om Pom Poms)
  • a new Music Medals programme to encourage participation and continuation beyond Wider Opportunities
  • a new Brass Band and Intermediate Wind Band
  • a new Pupil Steering Group enhancing the ‘pupils voice’
  • new performance opportunities MFY and Armed forces Week
  • direct instrumental teaching in all schools
  • free instrumental loan to all pupils including 6th form and university students
  • free school based weekly instrumental and vocal rehearsals throughout the LA
  • support for school based instrumental bands, ensembles and choirs in various High Schools, Primary School Music Centres and Children Centres
  • An ensemble European tour
  • free LA ensemble rehearsals e.g. BASSO, BMS Concert Wind Band, First Beat Orchestra, BMS Brass Band, Intermediate Band and, BMS Youth Choir
  • a free extensive variety of creative music-making workshops, events and CPD
  • a community based wind band which includes adult learners
  • numerous workshops and concerts with leading professional musicians
  • 100% increased curriculum support and guidance from Early Years up to sixth form
  • in-service education for school based teachers especially ICT
  • large scale concerts involving all Blackpool Schools and central base ensembles/choirs
  • extensive sixth form support resulting in 100% improvement in A level and Btec practical examination results in 2010

In addition to this incomparable list of activities, Blackpool has an incredible emphasis on curriculum support and excellent instrumental provision. 100% of special schools participate in its activities, and all of its work is highly integrated with the overall local authority strategy. This was a submission bringing to life an incredible range of quality provision in all areas of the musical world of Blackpool. We offer them our heartiest congratulations for a stunning year of achievement.


PRS for Music Foundation Awards

PRSF Winner

East Lothian
East Lothian is the winner of this year’s NMC PRS for Music Foundation Award. The Council states that creative music making opportunities are an exceptionally high priority for them and this is borne out by the range and variety of its activities on offer for 3 to 18 year olds across the year.

New creative projects introduced during the year included a nursery music project ‘Music and Me’; Fischy Music working with children in Primary 6 & 7 who wrote, performed and recorded their own class songs; ‘King Loth’, a project composed by two previous East Lothian pupils from Charades Music Theatre Company for children aged 10 – 13; and a ‘Carnival of the Animals’ project for primary and secondary aged pupils.  These were in addition to numerous existing creative music projects for Early Years; Primary, Secondary and Special school students from creating songs and African drumming to nature- and science- inspired and digital projects. The latter included a podcasting project; an on-line resource to help senior students in their composing work with children and young people and using software to compose dance tracks for a band.

Special Mentions

Devon is committed to supporting local composers and last year they commissioned and worked with Hugh Nankevill, Julian Marshall, Peter Kyrke-Sith, David Haines, Andrew Wilson and David Flatau. Students working with these composers were able to hear their own work, understand the processes involved in composition and understand the strengths and limitations of performers.

East Ayrshire
Composer Kevin O’Connell was commissioned to write a piece for string orchestra entitled “I Know Where I’m Going” which was inspired by the heritage of Kilmarnock, both old and new.  Pop song-writing sessions are open to 14-25 year olds, delivered in partnership with the Council’s Arts & Museums Service.  As part of the new Greenmill String Orchestra string programme that engages large numbers of children in an orchestral experience, the pilot orchestras performed works that they had composed.

Creative music-making projects included the ‘Sea Woman’ project which was a collaborative work created by young people from 20 schools and music colleges involving over 150 young people; a ‘Gamelan and the Stars’ project inspired by scientific investigation of different planets which brought pupils from rural schools together to compose and perform their own new music; a project in collaboration with the Hampshire County Council Adolescent Mental Health department which was used to promote composing activity, to help 80 students explore issues of discrimination across a particular region of the county. Hampshire also provided specialist tuition in composition for 9 gifted and talented students.

Slough Music Service re-launched in 2008.  An ethos of creative music-making has been developed as an approach throughout the music service that best suits the community as there is little instrumental learning heritage, high rates of English as an additional language, and a wide range of standards in their ensembles. Wider opportunities classes are rooted in aural and creative composition and exploration of the voice/instrument; their early years programme responds to the greater focus of child-centred initiated learning/play; their Gifted musicians programme is pupil-led creative work; and they have strong links with Guildhall School of Music & Drama / Barbican Creative Learning for CPD and ensemble leading.

Tower Hamlets
The development of new music is encouraged by Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Education Service (THAMES).  Commissions included Vanessa Best’s special vocal pieces for the Spitalfields Winter and Summer Vocal Platforms; Oscar Wood’s pieces for cluster choirs and special events; and Macachu Levi’s song for 200 primary singers. Jason Rowland led the Swanlea School Project, with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra musicians and Indian instrumentalists to create a devised piece that reflected the musical and cultural influences of the participants and featured both Western and Indian classical instrumentalists. All projects in partnership with Guildhall Connect have developed new music and compositions always culminating in performances.