Friday, 25 September 2015

Social educational benefits of music education - In Harmony Opera North & Opera North Singing School

Children of Windmill Primary School in Belle Isle participate in a workshop with the Chorus of Opera North, as part of In Harmony Opera North Photo Credit: Simon Marshall
Children of Windmill Primary School in Belle Isle participate
in a workshop with the Chorus of Opera North, as part of
In Harmony Opera North. Photo Credit: Simon Marshall
Some time ago, at a press conference for In Harmony/Sistema England Julian Lloyd Webber said that as a music teaching enterprise In Harmony/Sistema England was extremely expensive but that as a social enterprise it was good value for money. It is important to bear this in mind when considering the various In Harmony enterprises. And the news from Opera North bears this out, two of the schools which take part in Opera North's intensive education programmes (In Harmony Opera North and the Opera North Singing School) have seen significant rises of up to 20% in their K2 SATS results this year.

Windmill Primary School, Leeds takes part in the In Harmony Opera North programme whilst Bude Park Primary School in Hull takes part in the Opera North Singing School. In Harmony Opera North began in January 2013, and every child in the school participates in up to 3 hours musical activity per week during curriculum time and many children attend Opera North ‘After School’ music sessions three times a week. Most of the 362 pupils play a string instrument with weekly group instrumental lessons and orchestra sessions; everyone sings in an age banded choir. All of the children give regular performances to family and friends and they have all had the opportunity to perform at several events with the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North; initiatives which helped parental engagement with the school rise from 7%-39% in 2013.

Children from Bude Park Primary School performing at their 2015 End of Year Concert Photos Credit: Darren Casey
Children from Bude Park Primary School performing at their
2015 End of Year Concert Photos Credit: Darren Casey
A community choir takes place every Friday lunchtime to encourage adults living locally to sing together and perform alongside children at the school; while at a local Children’s Centre there are weekly Opera North Early Years sessions for 0-4 year olds and their parents and carers. The programme is now being extended to a second school, Low Road Primary, from September 2015. As can be imagined, such activity does not come cheap but it is important to understand the gains to be in social cohesion and education rather than purely musical, and the results at the school bear it out.

In Harmony Opera North’s sister project, Opera North Singing School, is based in Bude Park Primary School, Bransholme, Hull, where the programme has been running for one year. Since September 2014 children at the school have received up to 3 hours a week of singing and performing arts sessions related to opera and, like In Harmony Opera North, have had regular performance opportunities; some of these have been with members of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North.

Andy Gamble, Executive Headteacher at Windmill Primary School in Belle Isle, Leeds commented: "We have observed many significant effects on the pupils’ skills such as teamwork, co-operation, social skills and self-confidence. It is my belief that the cultural enrichment provided by In Harmony Opera North over the last three years has had a direct impact on the positive learning culture here at Windmill and subsequently contributed towards these improved results for our children."

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