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Restoring music in schools
Restore the Music UK is a newly launched charity which seeks to reinstate access to music for every child in primary and secondary schools across London. Polly Moore, charity CEO, explains what can be offered to schools
The charity delivers private sector funding via £10,000 to £20,000 grants for the purchase of musical instruments and tuition, thereby reestablishing music as a birthright for every child, rather than an option for the privileged few.
RTM UK has, to date, funded 20 schools across nine London boroughs, with a total reach of over 16,000 children and the need for its financial assistance has become increasingly clear as the decline in state funding leaves no option but for the private sector to plug the gap.
Without this, schoolchildren in state education face the very real scenario of an education devoid in musical tuition and all the benefits which that bring.
Why does music matter?
For those already signed up to the need to keep music on the curriculum the benefits are myriad, obvious and compelling but it is worth reminding ourselves of what exactly they are and, conversely, what education without music looks like.
There are schools for whom music enrichment is a key element of a learning programme, bringing with it significant benefits which help all aspects of school work and enable children to fulfil their full potential.
This, in turn, has been proven to raise aspirations and ultimately academic attainment standards - something hard to establish in areas devoid of opportunity and goals worth striving for.
The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada summed up the impact of music on education through neuroscientifc research.
The research found that it speeds the development of speech and reading skills, giving children better ability to distinguish subtle details of speech, leading to improved reading and comprehension.
Helps train children to focus their attention for sustained periods, developing strong cognitive and social ability.
It also helps children to gain a sense of empathy for others, giving them a means to express themselves and unleashing their creativity.
And in the words of Julian Lloyd Webber, “what’s not to like about a school subject that develops areas of the brain related to language and reasoning, encourages memory skills, increases hand- to-eye co-ordination, expands creative thinking, builds self-confidence, and has been proven to help children with their other school subjects?”
What does a life without music look like?
One recent study found that the average Briton listens to 3,500 songs per year and spends more than a tenth of their waking hours enjoying music.
The huge variety of music festivals to attend are also a very obvious indication of our desire to combine leisure time with a full on immersive musical experience. Music is embedded in our daily lives with social media and X Factor-type programmes only deepening this engagement and yet we forget that our instinctive understandings of the complex notions of rhythm, pitch and tone start pre birth with the unborn child hearing the mother’s heartbeat.
From birth, a baby will quickly recognise the pitch of its mother’s voice and we soon become immune to, and oblivious of, the daily rhythm and sound in our lives - birdsong, dogs barking, ringtones, car horns, police sirens, aeroplanes, trains, alarms, drills - the list is endless.
We inhabit a rich tapestry of sound where most will use music to brighten their day, to pull themselves through sadness and despair, to herald celebration or simply to find solace after an emotionally draining moment in their lives.
If we want to encourage young people to find ways to help themselves feel good and to learn a skill set that will allow them to engage and communicate with other people in this increasingly diverse world, we need to provide from the start the facilities that will enable continued engagement and progression with music.
In short, it is clear that, for music education to be available to all, the likes of RTM UK are needed, if not required, in order to engage with the private sector and to offer themselves up as a conduit for funding on an issue that resonates deeply with many individuals across all sectors.
It’s important to note at this point that music can quite often be the only real draw for a student who, for whatever reason, has disengaged with school life. Music, for that individual, will be the difference between them identifying future goals and aspirations, or facing a lifetime of untapped potential.
Music education can never be discussed without attributing its real impact to those who deliver it - the music teachers themselves. They are the real heroes. In the case of RTM UK, it is almost always the Heads of Music who first make contact with the charity - in their increasingly desperate search to find alternative funding streams to keep their departments alive.
This is followed up with an in-depth meeting (between RTM UK, the School Principal, and the aforementioned Head of Music) where eligibility is assessed (deprivation indicators incl. FSM, Pupil Premium, ESL are all taken in to account), and is followed by an invitation to submit a proposal to the Board in the Annual Application Round (next in May 2018).
This detailed proposal will map out the the vision, the strategy and the deliverability of the funding request, accompanied by a detailed wish list/ shopping list that reflects the exact needs of the department. To be clear - this is a fully bespoke funding strategy where teachers are invited to map out a vision which 100 per cent reflects the interests/ skillsets of their demographic and draws on the existing facilities within the department. We welcome plans for all types of ensembles but the emphasis is very clearly on instrumental performance as opposed to music technology.
Following a successful grant application (currently one application round per year), the grantee is responsible for the purchasing and maintenance of the instruments and the school is fully accountable for every penny in its annual financial report which must be filed each and every year until the funding has been spent. Note: the grant must be spent within three years
The vision of the Head of the Music is critical here as the individual who best understands the true value of a well equipped music department and what it can do for the morale and the motivation of their students. They know firsthand what a passion for music can do to change the destiny of their students.
Of course, inspirational teaching is always helped by well equipped departments, but we all remember how a certain teacher will have shaped our fondness for a certain subject and music relies on this more than most.
To inspire children without adequate resource is an impossible task and it is for that reason, that, following the grant delivery, RTM UK continues to reach out to the schools in its programme through value added opportunities with the likes of Steinway and Arsenal.
The aim of RTM UK has always been to deliver the best to its grantees and highlights of the past few years have seen Masterclasses at Steinway, as well as the annual Battle of the Bands to showcase every school’s talent and composition skills. In addition, thanks to Arsenal in the Community, we have enabled on pitch performance opportunities at the FA Cup Final at Wembley and personal recognition of the students in the reach of RTM UK from music industry greats including Bryan Adams and Pulp.
Restore The Music UK welcomes applications at any time from any state primary and secondary schools across the 33 London boroughs but, in particular, from those who would otherwise be unable to provide this level of music facility for their students.
Please follow us on socials #restorethemusicuk @RTMusicUKFurther Information: