How Artsmark inspired a love of music in our pupils – and improved their learning (sponsored article)

Published on: 
19 Apr 2018

In 2017, Strike Lane Primary in Preston embarked on its Artsmark journey and began working with Lancashire Music Hub to enhance cultural opportunities for its pupils. Clare Scott and Rachel Harding, both key stage music leaders at at the school, explain how their local hub supported them

From the initial Artsmark Development Day to submitting our final "case Study", Lancashire Music Hub has been integral in growing our cultural education offer both within school and in the wider community. Our focus has been child-led, to ensure that every step of our journey would enhance the quality of arts provision throughout the curriculum. Lancashire Music Hub gave us a platform of resources to improve the confidence of our teachers, kept us informed of potential collaborations with other educational establishments across the county and acted as a sounding board when we needed advice and support.

Music hubs

Music Hubs are groups of organisations such as local authorities, schools, arts, community or voluntary organisations, jointly funded by the Department of Education and Arts Council England to work together to create joined-up music education provision at a local level.

With 600 schools in its community, Lancashire Music Hub – an Artsmark partner – is the home of music education in Lancashire. The hub’s offer brings all musical learning opportunities into one place, making it easy for our children, young people, parents and carers, teachers and schools to find great ways to make music and develop their skills, both inside and outside the classroom. This included:

  • In-school instrumental and singing opportunities
  • Out-of-school youth ensembles and orchestras, music groups and bands
  • Targeted programmes for primary, secondary and special educational needs schools
  • Large-scale, high-quality musical opportunities and experiences
  • Programmes for children and young people from challenging circumstances
  • Advanced progression for gifted and talented students
  • Inspirational workshops and masterclasses

Through the hub, we gained access to Charanga Music World, meaning our pupils and parents could tap into music lessons at home if they wanted to. Music World also had lots of useful tools and resources which helped our staff feel more confident in delivering music provision.

For us as a school, the fact that the hub was an Artsmark partner told us that it had "got" Artsmark and understood what our priorities were. It reviewed our Statement of Commitment and was on hand to offer support with our School Improvement Plans.

A wide range of opportunities

For our pupils, working with our local music education hub opened up a wide range of opportunities within our curriculum. We have been able to offer all our pupils, no matter what their circumstances, a range of cultural experiences through an Entitlement Policy. This saw our Reception class visiting the theatre, Year 3 pupils participating in a musical and our Year 6s visiting London to see a West End show – a once-in-a-lifetime trip for some our children.

A favourite with the children was watching a band, The Lazy Mondays, made up of staff from the hub, put on a live concert. Listening to, and taking part in, these activities, which were not part of the pupils' daily learning, triggered an excitement to learn and, in some cases, pursue wider participation in music education.

Through the hub, we took part in the Whole-Class Ensemble Teaching scheme – a national programme whereby whole classes get to learn an instrument. All the instruments were supplied by the hub and taught by a specialist teacher. Children could then progress through their local music centres, where they could gain further tuition to hone their musical techniques. As the hub’s funding subsidised this, costs were kept low and, therefore, it was really accessible to our pupils.

Our partnership with Lancashire Music Hub has given our children opportunities to perform throughout their school life, giving them the chance to shine and, in some cases, it has led to musical interests outside school.

A creative approach to learning

We’ve really enjoyed the creative approach to learning via the hub, which has had such a positive impact on attainment and engagement with learning. We can often be heard singing instructions to the pupils – and it’s even more rewarding when they sing back. Or one of us will get the guitar out at tidy-up time. Staff have been able to benefit from increased subject knowledge through collaborative planning and key stage themed days, which offered a wide range of cross-curricular learning.

As we progressed through our Artsmark journey, we recognised that we already had lots of fantastic arts and cultural opportunities within our curriculum. But were we doing enough? Were we singing from the rooftops about it? For us, our Artsmark journey became a celebration of our children’s achievements and successes. We became better at celebrating our wide and varied curriculum and more confident in enhancing our staff’s expertise. The children were also part of this process, recognising and developing their strengths and talents within the arts. For example, in Year 6, the children chose which musical they wanted to see in London and then performed this at the end of the year to their parents and our local community.

Within school, our policies have been reviewed. Curriculum coverage is monitored each term and evidence is collected in a “floorbook” by each year group – a large book of photographs and written comments from the children about activities that took place. We have a named governor who then shares their progress with our governing body.

Through our cultural partnerships, we have formed new links within the community and our school choir is now part of several community events during the year. Other local schools share our successes, and we theirs. It’s helped us as a school to build confidence in teaching and given our pupils fantastic opportunities.

Our partnerships are now an integral part of our curriculum, and working with Lancashire Music Hub has become second nature to our children. Something they can hopefully continue and look back on with pride.

Clare Scott is key stage 2 music leader and Rachel Harding is key stage 1 music leader at Strike Lane Primary in Preston

To find out more about music hubs, click here. The Artsmark Partnership Programme is an Arts Council England-endorsed network of arts and cultural organisations that can support schools to embed arts and culture across the curriculum. Each Artsmark partner has their own offer for schools that may include CPD opportunities for staff, digital resources or workshops linked to the curriculum for students, as well as visits to exhibitions and performances. Find out more by clicking here.

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Clare Scott & Rachel Harding

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Cultural education gives children and young people the opportunity to develop their creativity, both individually and collectively, and that's why our goal is for every child and young person to have the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts.

Darren Henley
Chief Executive
Arts Council England

It's vital that children have the opportunity to learn and enjoy arts and culture from an early age. It develops their creativity, inspires future careers and enriches their childhood.

Artsmark Award does brilliant work in schools and education to ensure young people access a broad and balanced curriculum that includes high-quality arts and culture.

Michael Ellis MP
Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism
Department of Culture, Media and Sport