Swans, schools and statistics – taking things forward above and below the water

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There’s a metaphor about swans that keeps coming into my mind when I think about the work of the Hub in Gloucestershire – it’s the one describing how all seems quiet and calm above water, but underneath they’re paddling furiously to propel themselves forward. That’s certainly what we, the Commissioning Team, have been doing since our last blog: there’s been a lot of progress, some of which won’t be seen publicly quite yet, but it has propelled us forward rapidly.

Working with schools

First of all, we’ve been making great strides in our talks with schools. With around 306 maintained schools and academies in our county, that’s no mean feat! But we’ve taken a pragmatic approach, working with small groups of heads and teachers who can help us shape plans so they really do respond to what they need now and in the future, to support their teachers and pupils to make sure all pupils benefit from music education, and meet their potential. Some of the results have been:

Schools Music Education Plan – this is the plan that Arts Council England/Department for Education asked all Hubs to create, to map out how we’ll work with schools. We created the plan with the help of a working group of teachers, and are now carrying out the actions including …

Singing Strategy – we’re being encouraged to be more strategic about supporting schools in ensuring all pupils sing, so we’re working with two groups of schools representatives, one for secondary schools, the other for primary schools, and they’re leading us in our work on this. One of the first activities will be a short piece of research to find out what’s actually happening in schools around singing. The teachers involved for secondaries, are: Jenny Cameron, Millbrook; Omar Khoker, Severn Vale; Beth Hayes, Balcarras; Julia Bishop, Chosen Hill. Members of the primaries group will be confirmed soon.

What makes an effective music lesson? – we know locally, and from national evidence, that senior leadership teams (SLTs) in secondaries can find it hard to know what to look for in effective music teaching. We’ve completed our pilot study (three secondary schools looking at how the Hub might support music departments and SLTs in ensuring music is valued, and promoted in schools and good teaching practices recognised and encouraged), and we’re now disussing the next steps in rolling out this approach.

Involving teachers in supporting each other – we’ve had many discussions, through lots of different forums, about how we can work in a smarter way to make the most of the expertise in schools, for the benefit of all schools, and plans include a ‘paired teachers’ CPD initiative, involving teachers as advisors to schools,

Collecting information from schools, and sharing back to schools – see ‘statistics’ below.

New funding for schools and community groups

To helps schools and community groups (eg amateur music groups) to reach more young people with group music making, and help those already involved in music to progress, we’ve launched a ‘rolling programme’ (you can apply anytime) of small grants (up to £1,000). You can find out more here:

Schools grants brief & application form
Community grants brief & application form

Funding for the Hub from Department for Education via Arts Council England

We’ve all been on tenterhooks following the announcement from DfE earlier this year about ‘extra funding for music education’. The figure was announced as £18 million across the country for 2015/16, but as always, the devil is in the detail, and we will find out exactly how this translates to individual hubs and to Gloucestershire shortly.

What we know for now is that Hubs won’t get all of that money, and it may well be short term gain for long term pain – ie we’re getting an uplift in funding for this year, so we can invest in making sure we’re sustainable for the cuts that may follow. We don’t have any information yet on the likely funding for April 2016 onwards, but even though that makes it tricky planning for the future, we will be working hard on more ‘below the water’ conversations, planning and strategy to make sure that the work and partnerships are robust and sustainable.

Working with music educators

Following on from our partners meetings series earlier in the year, we’ve put together a series of workshops to help us all learn, and share our knowledge and experiences on topics that are critical to the future of music and arts education in the county:

Outcomes and impact workshop report
Income generation (25 Nov 2014)
• Relationships with schools & curriculum update (27 January 2015, sign up to the music educators enews to hear when booking opens)
• Getting commission-ready (TBC)

The other great thing about this series is that we’ve developed it in conjunction with Create Gloucestershire, Real Ideas Organisation, and Make Music Swindon, so it also has the benefit of being a first practical step in us working with the first two organisations, which we’re sure will lead to further partnership working.

We’ve been talking with other new partners about how we can make the most of our shared purposes, ideas, energies and resources. One of these is Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning who work with schools to improve pupils’ health and wellbeing. We’re agreed that music can be an important means of reaching young people as well as improving their mental health and emotional wellbeing, so we’re working on a number of plans for next year.

How we’re doing

Perhaps the ‘boring but important’ part of this update: we’ve also been collecting statistics and other information so we can report to Arts Council England and Department for Education – and can understand ourselves – what we’re achieving in terms of the National Plan for Music Education, and also begin to map what’s happening and what’s needed. Earlier in the year, we asked schools what they wanted to know too (particularly about what other schools are doing) and following this launched an online ‘data collection app’ (currently closed while we draw down data and clear ready for 2014/15 data) to make it easier for schools and others to include their information. We’ll be sharing this information very early next year.

There’s a lot more work to be done (and in fact much more to tell, but that’s for future blogs). The Commissioning Team and the school and music education partners we work with are all very aware of this, and are sometimes keen to move faster than is possible. But we have built some strong momentum, and we’re looking forward to the next phase with continued enthusiasm and determination to reach more children and young people, and improve the quality of their music education experiences.

Anita Holford, freelance communications advisor, and member of the Hub Commissioning Team.


About anitanee

I'm a freelance copywriter and communications practitioner based in Monmouth, Wales, UK. I specialise in working with music and arts organisations with a social or educational purpose, as well as small charities. Find out more: www.writing-services.co.uk Visit our music education research site: https://musiceducationworks.wordpress.com Get free advice and resources by signing up to my enews: https://mailchi.mp/b5bcbbbe98b7/writingservicescommsbundle Read the blog: https://inspiredbymusic.wordpress.com

Posted on October 31, 2014, in What's happening and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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