Making sure music reaches those who may miss out

This month’s piece is a guest blog by Mark Bick, CEO of Gloucestershire Music Makers (GlosMM), one of our key partners in Make Music Gloucestershire, the county’s music education Hub. GlosMM is responsible for two of this Hub’s key areas of work: inclusion work with children and young people outside of mainstream education, and vocal work (from singing to beat-boxing) in schools. Next month’s blog will be about the vocal work, but this month we focus on inclusion.

Most young people get opportunities to learn and make music, as part of their schooling as well as, particularly if they have supportive parents, through having  their own instruments, receiving music lessons, privately or in school, learning from the internet, taking part in orchestras, bands, groups and ensembles.

But many young people are particularly prone to missing out on music, and many other opportunities. This may be beause they don’t respond well to mainstream education,  they’ve lived chaotic lives and not had regular consistent schooling or parenting, they may have lived in a number of different foster care families or children’s homes, or spent periods in hospital (eg in the case of young mums).  Many but not all have emotional and behavioural difficulties, and may suffer from depression or other mental illness, some simply don’t have access to the resources.

What role does music play?

For many of these young people, music is critically important. It’s easy to trot out a list of the benefits of taking part in music, from improving self-confidence to learning skills that can be transferred to school work (see the Parents and Music changes lives pages on the main website for more information). But for these young people music can perform an even more powerful role. It can be a vital emotional outlet, can help them to make changes in their life; help them re-engage with learning and reconnect with other people; and allow them to show potential that otherwise may be hidden.

You can read more about the stories of some of the young people we work with in these case studies – including a 13 year old who attends a Pupil Referral Unit;  a 16 year old, who is home-schooled; and two primary  pupils at a Pupil Referral Unit.

Who’s involved?

We’re really proud that in Gloucestershire, we’re making ‘music inclusion work’ a central part of the Hub’s work. Work to improve inclusion is strongly implied in both the National Plan for Music Education and the brief for the Music Education hubs, and in Gloucestershire we decided to make it a priority. We developed a specific strategy  growing out of  the long-term relationship here between the formal education sector, in the form of the Gloucestershire Music, part of Gloucestershire County Council, and the informal music sector, in the form of Gloucestershire Music Makers,  which is a registered charity.

People who work with the most vulnerable young people in Gloucestershire know that music works, and helps them to achieve their wider outcomes for children and young people, not just artistic or musical ones. That’s why we’re being commissioned by, or receiving referrals from, Gloucester and Forest of Dean Pupil Referral Service;  Looked After Children Services, Youth Support Services and the Hospital Education Service.

What’s happening and what happens next?

We are currently providing five hours a week of music sessions across two Hospital Education Centres and nine hours a week across five Pupil Referral Service centres in Gloucester and the Forest, some of which is supported through a programme of Musical Inclusion work, funded by Youth Music through a partnership with two other local authorities, Swindon and Wiltshire (the ‘SWAG’ group).

We are just about to start a series of sessions with foster carers and under fives, encouraging them to enjoy music at home with all the children in their care, and are planning various family fun days with Looked After Children’s services.

Through our music mentoring programme, funded by Youth Music, we’re working with nine young people with a further three waiting to start.  Vulnerable children and young people often end up having to move around between different placements and we work very hard to keep continuity of music provision if at all possible.  The work is led by a core team of three music leaders, with another three just starting in the last 4 months.

As more and more people begin to see the progress that these young people are making, we’re finding that more doors are opening: for them, and for this work.

Working with vulnerable young people is not something that can be stopped and started as funding comes and goes. We are therefore working hard to make sure that the work is sustainable: and that means making sure that it is taken seriously, and embedded in policies, strategies, and budgets of a range of organisations and local authority departments as well as being a long term priority for the Music Education Hub.  This is challenging in the current climate of change and cutbacks, but the level of support from the services we have started working with so far is impressive.

It also means finding music practitioners with the right personal and professional skills and experience, and supporting them with CPD and training, opportunities to share effective practice (in music work, and in working with and understanding children in challenging circumstances). We have a lunchtime meeting for freelancers coming up on 20th May at Colwell Arts Centre and are planning a programme of in depth training, mentoring and practical placements.

If you know someone, or a group of young people, who could benefit from our work, or you’re a musician with appropriate skills, please get in touch. Contact me at:

Mark Bick, CEO
Gloucestershire Music Makers
Tel: 01594 836418
Mob: 07815 459468


Posted on April 24, 2013, in Music Education, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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