Blackpool’s Music Service is only three years old and while the Service is clearly harvesting some earlier valuable seed sowing by Lancashire’s Music Service, the LEA have made a significant contribution to the Service with a £350.000 investment in a new music centre in addition to other contributions. Over two thirds of the total school population have participated in practical music-making workshops with ensembles. Initiatives to remedy very low levels of singing in primary schools have been highly successful, as has wider opportunities work across both primary and secondary phases. In that latter connection, we commend the practice of offering all instrumentalists a new instrument when they leave primary school providing they continue with lessons and ensemble rehearsals in the secondary school.
Highly creative use was made of professional musicians across the genres, which, coupled with the provision made for INSET and CPD is already improving the volume and spread of world musics. The Service drew up an imaginative programme of new ideas to extend and improve opportunities for instrumental tuition at key stage 2; and it is rightly proud of the wider opportunities commissioned school operetta “The Tuba has landed” which involved 600 pupils and every school with its own team of composers working with the Birmingham based composer, Robin Grant to compose several sections of instrumental music using voice, orchestral instruments and percussion.
Caerphilly Music Service provides free instrumental and voice tuition, free loan of instruments and free access to Authority-wide ensembles yet still covers 9.85% of the total school population with instrumental tuition and 22% including voice. As a result of the Welsh Assembly’s 35% reduction in the Music Development Fund those admirable figures in fact represent a reduction in provision over the previous years. The service maintained its productive partnerships with the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, the Welsh Sinfonia (out of which came wider opportunities initiatives) Welsh National Opera and the National Orchestra of Wales. And there was no let up in the involvement of professionals thereby enabling the service to register a wonderfully diverse range of music genres within its provision. Good quality INSET & CPD provision and a continued high level of commitment to supporting adult music-making were among the reasons why this service is deserving of commendation. There are two other compelling factors. First, this will be the fourth year in succession Caerphilly have been awarded a Diploma; a testament indeed to a high quality service. This is also a fine example of what can be achieved when the elected representatives of an authority make a consistent commitment to music education. Secondly, the service’s achievement in the area of creative music-making, which has been recognised by the PRS Foundation as follows:
Caerphilly’s contribution to creative music making was notable for offering a range of initiatives that provided opportunities across the board. Several of the partnerships with national organisations mentioned above resulted in some extensive composition projects including creative work carried out by Welsh composer, Mervyn Burtch with a large number of children around his new work, The First Dragon, a companion piece to Peter and the Wolf. In general, Caerphilly’s willingness to engage with outside arts organisations and professional composers in its creative projects is worthy of note.
The need for training in the teaching of composition and creative music making at KS1 and KS2 has been recognised and addressed with INSET training. Also recognised is the need to provide opportunities in a diverse range of genres with, for instance, the provision of rock and pop sessions delivered by Community Music Wales. Furthermore, similar opportunities were extended to adults, most particularly through several projects at the Blackwood Miners Institute.
Carmarthenshire as a major constituent of what was the Dyfed LEA have a flourishing music service by virtue, among other things, of vigorous cooperation with neighbouring services, professional organisations and music and arts bodies across the Country. Despite the potentially crippling reduction (of £95,000) in music development fund grant, the service provided instrumental and vocal tuition to 28% of the school population. Tuition through the Music Service is free of charge; and only a very small minority of schools chose to charge parents and that was in order to raise moneys to buy extra music service provision. The range and scope of instrumental and vocal ensemble performance opportunities were excellent (though there was a noticeable gap when it came to world musics). The take-up of INSET and CPD opportunities was good. The Service has no brief to cater for adults, yet in practice community based groups receive a lot of valuable support from Music Service staff.
The evidence of growth and vitality of vocal activity and the increase in the number of wind players at the intermediate level were gratifying to see; but the statistic which gave special pleasure was the success of a lower string initiative that saw the number of cellists rise from 56 in 2002 to 256 in 2005.
The Cornwall Music Service (CMS) maintained its commitment to traditional Cornish music as well as successfully exploiting the current popularity of the Samba by recruiting school bands from all over England to perform at a Samba Festival. The CMS music technology/ICT provision over the year was exemplary in terms both of management applications and delivery to teachers. Numerous examples of new provision for wider opportunities in music were registered in the year. And the CMS was especially active in its support for curriculum delivery much of which was also underpinned by contributions from some very high class professional musicians.
Once again we note that CMS’ collaboration with the LEA’s youth service was a model of excellent practice as was its support for adult music-making. The CMS believes that ensemble playing is at the heart of instrumental learning to the extent that if pupils have opportunity to perform in an ensemble within the first three months of learning then the likelihood of dropping-out is diminished. To that end, a week is set aside during the month of November every year when no instrumental lessons are given, but groups of schools are combined to form ensembles across the county. This “playing week” involves over 6000 young people and seems to us to represent good practice both musically and socially.
Cornwall’s submission was further strengthened by its commitment to creative music making and composition and it is this commitment that earns it a separate diploma from the PRS Foundation. Most notable was the Audioworks project, delivered in collaboration with several national organisations ranging from Youth Music to the National Trust. This extensive project provided compositional advice and training in a variety of genres for GCSE students and upwards. The course also involved an element of teacher training and the production of resources that should ensure the project has a legacy.
This project was one of just several run by Cornwall that demonstrate the Authority’s commitment, not just to creative music making, but to engaging in partnerships with outside organisations and with a broad range of musical genres. The need for teacher training in composition has been addressed, in this case by workshops delivered by professional composers.
This year East Ayrshire are the smallest education authority to report to us. The submission represents a first class example of what can be achieved with an injection of new moneys: in this instance, as a result of the Scottish Youth Music initiative, summer school, out of school learning opportunities, provision generally and diversity have all been enhanced. Scottish Arts Council support has lead to more primary choral work and facilitated new experiences of Scottish traditional music. Yet shining out here was the commitment of the education authority whose funding of £500,000 enables all instrumental tuition to be free of charge.
We noted a very real commitment to ICT/music technology, to INSET and CPD, to working with a diverse range of professional musicians; and, by virtue of effective collaboration with three other education authorities each with good performing arts track records, to participation in exciting large scale creative music works, which were commended by the PRS Foundation. For example, a large number of primary school choirs took part with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, in an original work (“Railway Mania”) by one of Britain’s most respected jazz composers, Huw Warren, and, unusually, found that their imagination was captured by that fusion of classical and jazz styles. Throughout this submission there were good examples of young people’s music-making being showcased in exciting and fruitful ways. In short, there is a pleasing vitality about the music education in this Authority.
Oxfordshire: there can’t be many better ways of ensuring that the LEA makes a commitment to music education than publicly showcasing the Chair of the Authority on her preferred instrument! One particular manifestation of that commitment took the form of a substantial contribution to the cost of a new Centre for Music. A spectacular range and number of instruments is provided for pupils to play, matched by appropriate tutors and regular ensemble playing activities in 27 orchestras, 8 jazz groups, 20 string ensembles, 19 wind bands, 7 woodwind ensembles, 4 percussion ensembles and many more!
The music service was particularly active preparing support, through wider opportunities, of transition to key stage 3. This was reflected in the INSET programme and the extent to which the experience of other LEA music services was drawn on. Indeed, INSET generally as well as support of curriculum delivery was consistent with this service’s customary high standards. We had before us the action plan for the year. In a very real sense, this plan with its accompanying summaries for the year would have provided evidence enough that this is a special service, not least because it is genuinely inclusive of all musics and contrives to reach out to all ages. Finally, we were interested to learn that the service’s work is overseen by the county-wide equivalent of a school governing body: thus, it comprises councillors, heads, and teachers, parents and co-optees which include a school governor and a special school head. An excellent, if potentially risky, way of developing the concept of ownership!
Southampton: instrument and vocal tuition numbers have increased for the seventh year running, success tailor made to justify an investment of £150,000 on new instruments. Twenty of those were mini-bassoons, indeed the LEA’s strategic approach to instrumental provision took full account of the importance of “minority” instruments. Music was not identified by OfSTED as a weakness in any of the Authority’s schools. We were pleased to note that the long-standing collaboration with the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth in the Solent Music project continued to nourish world musics throughout the schools. This service has a very good track record in the provision it makes for pupils in the more deprived areas of the city and for those with special educational needs. Provision under both those heads was in fact expanded both through the wider opportunities programme and a new pre-school music programme.
It is interesting to observe the extent to which the service is being developed as a response to the Music Manifesto. We were impressed too that one of the first tasks of the newly appointed ICT strategy manager was to undertake a full audit of staff competencies, interests, ICT aspirations and concerns.
West Sussex provide another example of the genuine added value which can result from the support of elected representatives of the LEA. This is reflected in two ways which caught our attention. First, and very importantly, the number and range of skills made available by the advisers, advisory and advanced skills teachers, music teachers, instrumental tutors and co-ordinators which goes some way to explain the high level of music activity in this LEA through interesting INSET, curriculum support and music technology developments. Secondly, this is one of the diminishing number of LEAs providing a fully-fledged adult education service and one that provides a remarkably inclusive range of day and evening courses entirely outside the provision made by the FE colleges.
A good start was made with wider opportunities provision, of curriculum support activities as well as instrumental learning. Development and indeed expansion of the wider opportunities pilot was already being implemented by the turn of the year. A commitment to creative music making and composition was another of the service’s strong points and this was commended by the PRS Foundation.
Several music services are blessed with orchestra residencies; West Sussex are enjoying a three-year collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the extent to which they have exploited that connection could be said to be a model. Thus six primary and one special schools were participating in a major project which was (and still is)
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