of ‘performance’ and arts education. A conversation that will continue until facilities are on offer to service the needs of the whole community.

The future Despite all these challenges, we think the future for music is bright. Our music service has been established for over

So, what are the key benefits? Here are just ten: • It helps internalise listening to instructions • Music helps improve overall learning skills • It fosters teamwork • Music develops life skills • It underpins better behaviour • Encourages creativity • Music is for life • It’s an educational building block • Music is fun! • It’s for everyone That point about music being for life is really

important; we’re not just here to produce the next generation of musicians for the CBSO or other NPOs, we are here to instil the value and understanding of music in our community, so students know why they like the music they choose to listen to or perform. It’s great to have a virtuoso in your class, but the bigger picture is making sure they understand the power of music in terms of SEMH – social, emotional, and mental health. A great example is our Inclusive Choir, a new

SIPS initiative which I have been lucky enough to help out at; it’s a Saturday morning group for pupils with autistic and learning difficulties – but not exclusively for them – we want it to be truly inclusive. Parents get involved too. I’ve felt the benefits myself – it’s really lifted my mood. After all, when you’re teaching, you’re also performing. I love the children to all feel they achieve

something in a music lesson, and I share their joy; it’s a delight and a privilege.

Barriers Watching children develop a lifelong love for music is really fulfilling, but there’s no getting away from the fact that there are barriers to getting an instrument in their hands and delivering a lesson: funding; social and cultural deprivation; even everyday life and the multitude of other pastimes and activities that are on offer.

Guess what the key barrier is? Yes - funding.

SIPS Education is a not-for-profit cooperative. Many Sandwell schools financially support music lessons in their school, they subsidise this cost to families who may not be able to afford an instrumental lesson for their child. We value this inclusive approach to music making. We are lucky in Sandwell that many head

teachers and schools value music as part of their school curriculum, they see the wider benefits, but it can be challenging when school leaders don’t necessarily share this same view. We strive to challenge schools with this view, but it can be difficult! The second barrier is establishing a change of

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mindset in our community. Encouraging our diverse community to celebrate the joys and benefit music can bring to all our lives culturally and socially. Sandwell is one of the most culturally deprived areas in the West Midlands and is pretty high up on the list nationally; many arts organisations are working hard to change this statistic in Sandwell and culturally reform children and young people’s lives. We are delighted about plans for a specialist

Music school in Sandwell. Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust working in partnership with the CBSO (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra ) will give a real boost to music making in Sandwell and hopefully change our cultural landscape. In life, children and young people have so

many other activities to participate in as well as their academic studies, this can be a hurdle when engaging children to learn an instrument. We often see that once pupils join a music group/band, where they make music together, their focus changes and hooks them into a path of music making. However, it is challenging to have so many other distractions on their time and energy. As music educators we need to listen to pupil voice and have an offer that appeals to many, which is challenging but not insurmountable. We need to consider teacher training and how

new teachers are taught the skills and knowledge to teach music. It is often a subject where many teachers lack understanding and confidence particularly in primary settings. More needs to be on offer to support class teachers in the key skills to delivery progressive and effective music lessons in their classes. This will then promote the value of music in our schools and engage children across all settings and key stages. As a service we offer CPD on music delivery to schools across Sandwell as part of our key roles. Sandwell lacks performance spaces. More

facilities to share all of the arts would go a long way to improve the social acceptance and value

50 years, but we’re not resting on our laurels; we’ve just employed 16 new music teachers. It means we can expand our offer and teach more children with additional needs, music specialism and hopefully reach into those communities where the economic and cultural barriers exist. Something we’re also really proud of is the fact

that 35% of our workforce are ex-students; we find that ex-students who came through our system want to give back to the pupils and community where they grew up and went to school. They see the impact it had on their lives and want to share this joy! We are a family of educators; the pandemic has made us realise how important making music is to all our lives. SIPS Music and Arts Service continues to grow

and develop following on from the impacts of the pandemic. We are taking this opportunity to re- think our offer to schools and families, looking for new opportunities and initiatives to ‘spread the love’ of music across all communities of Sandwell. Working in partnership with other music and arts organisations is key to this future growth and success. Recruitment projects to re-engage pupils in

music are happening in Sandwell schools. One project is Sandwell Strings Power Up, working in partnership with an independent quartet called The Stringcredibles. This is about inspiring more children to take up an instrument with fun, engaging interactive performances. We have had several performances already, and the signs are positive. We eagerly await new DfE guidance of a

national plan for music education and hope it has the full support from government and Ofsted for its implementation across schools. If we are going to keep music alive – be that

performing, writing or simply listening and loving it - we need to continue to work on these different fronts; engage as many people as we can; and ensure that local authorities, school leaders and governments, parents, carers and communities give music and the arts as much funding and support as it deserves. Now that would be music to the ears.

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