Hubs And Spokes | Reborn! The Case for Great Music

St. George’s wanted to serve its pupils, parents and community better. Learn why the headteacher chose music as the heart of its rebirth.

Schools

St. George’s Primary desperately needed to revitalise its academic offer. From “Inadequate” in 2012 to a star within its academy trust today, Amanda Stone, Headteacher put music at the heart of its transformation. Find out how.

St George’s RC Primary School in Eastfield, Scarborough is one of the flagship delivery sites within Sing Education’s school’s music project in partnership with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation.

In this case study, we explore how our specialist music provision is running within the school, as well as the impact that it has had on individual musical skills development, pupil mental health and wellbeing, not to mention overall school life at St. George’s.

 

All Change at St. George’s

St. George’s School is a co-education day school, educating 120 pupils from nursery through Year 6. Situated just south of the picturesque North Yorkshire moors near Scarborough, the school opened 50 years ago and continues today as a Roman Catholic voluntary aided primary. 

Guided by values such as hope, courage and justice, St. George’s is proud of its mission to “help children to develop their social and moral code, as they build their sense of uniqueness and self-worth as an individual.” 

Despite its proximity to the harbours, bays and sandy beaches of the Yorkshire coast, it has not always been smooth sailing for St. George’s. 

An “Inadequate” Ofsted rating in 2012 was quite a turning point for the school, marking a difficult time in the school’s history.

During the ensuing decade, the school put forth a truly herculean effort to effect its academic turnaround – with a series of Ofsted monitoring visits and additional inspections following. Simultaneously, significant leadership, curricular, safeguarding and classroom management changes were realised.

Download the full case study here.

Transformation Under a New Academy Umbrella

As part of their recovery strategy, St. George’s converted to an academy in 2019 under the leadership of the St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Academy Trust (SMCCAT). 

With the senior leadership team making great strides – supported by teachers, governors, parents and later SMCCAT – standards improved dramatically over the three years from 2012-2015, with pupil achievement levels rising concurrently. A first indication that lasting change was well and truly afoot.

Following the 2022 dissolution of SMCCAT, St. George’s has become part of St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic Academy Trust, merging its educational management with 14 other diverse schools across Hull, East Riding and North Yorkshire. 

In their executive leadership role, SCRCAT’s ongoing mission has been to deliver upon a challenging commitment – to honour the distinctive nature, setting and promise of each of its schools, while setting  academic standards of which all Trust members can be proud:

“The key strength of all of (our) schools is that they are all distinctive and rooted within their parish communities. We intend to maintain the distinctive nature of each of the schools whilst sharing recognised good practice across the board to build an established Trust of excellence.”

By any measure, that’s a lot of change for one school.

Recommitting to its founding vision, setting new academic goals and revitalising the professionalism of its delivery, was a tremendous undertaking for St. George’s. 

And a project which might have overwhelmed schools 10 times the size – and with 10 times the resources of St. George’s – instead brought the academy’s best and brightest strengths to light.

In fact, we’ll show you how 2022 was not the last word written on success at St. Georges. 

Much to the contrary, it was just the beginning.

 

Download the full case study here.
Primary school governors sat around a table discussing budgets and music provision
Glockenspiels laid out for a primary school music class

A Region and School System At Breaking Point

But first, let’s start our story with a little context.

From rural schools to urban four-form-entries, Yorkshire primaries educate nearly half a million children each year.

Hand in hand with that figure is the fact that “more than a third of children in Yorkshire and the Humber are living in poverty, new figures have revealed, with the region seeing above average levels of young people living below the breadline.” 

Moreover, “[a]n increase of some 5.8 per cent in poverty levels has occurred over the past five years.” YP

It’s no wonder then that Action for Children’s director of policy and campaigns, Imran Hussain, found these statistics  “deeply worrying.” Mr. Hussain went on to say that the “figures reveal the true extent of the hardship facing families across Yorkshire and the Humber – even before the pandemic hit.” YP

ITV News also weighed in, reporting that:

“Before the pandemic, 4.3 million children across the UK were living in poverty, up 200,000 from the previous year – and up 500,000 over the past five years. Overall child poverty rates in [Yorkshire and the Humber] have risen by almost a fifth – from 28% to 33% – over the last five years. 

With child poverty rates rising, children in the region are among those most exposed to the devastating economic consequences of the pandemic.” ITV

The cause?

Stagnating family incomes.

The repercussions?

Local educational authorities and academic trusts feeling the economic pinch as well, reducing school funding for even core subjects such as music.

And as we know – for primary school children in particular – one of the biggest threats to strong educational attainment, good mental health and well-being, as well as long-term adult success, is poverty.

But as we also know, what are some of the biggest contributors to those same four outstanding outcomes? 

Musical skills development and performance opportunities.

 

Music at the Heart of the “New” St. George’s

Although Ofsted has shown renewed interest in school music, teachers often lack resources, time or backing to deliver inspiring music. 

Such was the case at St. George’s.

Though improving dramatically since 2012, the school continues to be strongly impacted by its local economic setting – an area of fairly high deprivation rates, with a lack of cultural opportunities for the children.

School data confirms that 83% of St. George’s children live in an area classed as being amongst the 10% most deprived in England, with 22% receiving free school meals and 42% attracting Pupil Premium funding.

At the school there has also been a long history of low parental involvement, low attainment upon entry and persistent issues with pupil attendance and punctuality negatively impacting educational achievement. This perfect storm of adverse childhood experiences stemming from poverty, lack of parent involvement and poor school engagement was confirmed by local leaders at a school’s showcase event in the Autumn of 2021.

The solution? 

If a “new” St. George’s was to emerge and better serve its pupils, parents and broader Eastfield community, the SLT knew they needed to put a whole new face on their academics, especially music. 

What they needed was a complete music programme overhaul.

Download the full case study here.

 An in-depth consultation with headteacher Amanda Stone revealed several music education approaches had been tried in the past but had not succeeded in adequately engaging students – namely online music lessons and a visiting choir leader. 

The staff at St. George’s also had the desire to give their children experiences that they might not usually have access to, as well as a solid curriculum foundation.

And lastly the leadership team hoped that a new approach to whole school music and community outreach through music would make a positive impact on parents, guardians and carers, helping them reconnect with the wider school community.

Out of Crisis a Beautiful Partnership is Born

In 2021 the Richard Shephard Music Foundation (RSMF) joined forces with Sing Education to address a recognisable need for more primary school music across schools in North Yorkshire, particularly in areas of deprivation or isolation.

St George’s School became one of the flagship delivery sites within the school’s music project with RSMF.

Established to recognise and build on the work of Dr Richard Shephard, RSMF’s ambition is to help children in disadvantaged areas to experience the transformative power of music, as well as to help them develop their musical talent.

To that end, RSMF in its first years aimed to bring the joy of music to 3,500 children across 20 schools in York, Ryedale, Scarborough and Middlesbrough, increasing that reach to 5,000 primary pupils as the project embraced future growth.

Download the full case study here.

And Sing Education’s contribution?

To ignite the aspirations of all students – including the high achievers, those with special educational needs, as well as children with English as an additional language. 

We know that music is an academic subject that all pupils can access in an equal way to express themselves. Music also provides a boost for children’s wellbeing and an emotional outlet.

That’s why we ensure our pupils have the chance to display their musicianship skills and understanding of the key musical elements through demonstration and discussion during lessons and beyond.

Children understand with increasing confidence, the cultural impact of music on the world around them and the role that their own culture has contributed to this.

Lastly, we equip our students to go on to the next stage of education with detailed and foundational knowledge that will help them to pursue music in the future should they choose.

A partnership between the RSMF and Sing Education was formed
Sing education music specialist is giving a music lesson to primary school children

A New Model for Music Education

In light of the St. George’s needs and its journey towards becoming an outstanding educational setting, Sing Education had to create a bespoke curriculum to address four major requirements:

  • The need for regularly timetabled specialist music provision
  • Quality learning materials which engaged the children and stood up to Ofsted scrutiny
  • Fun, high-energy classroom experiences of music-making
  • Performance opportunities to draw in parents and the wider school community

At St. Georges, music curriculum lessons are delivered by a specialist teacher, Amanda Bond, from Sing Education. Amanda creates a positive learning environment through positive classroom management, and singing led, child-focused lessons.

Children receive access to high quality music resources and instruments to reinforce the ambitions of the curriculum. Each class in the school has their own weekly music lesson and the music curriculum is made up of half-termly units, with step-by-step progression.

In addition, Sing Education teachers use the Kodály method of teaching to ensure subject matter is presented logically and building on the children’s previous experience with music. This helps students to consolidate earlier learning and link new concepts to previous knowledge.

Download the full case study here.

Where Are St. George’s Today?

According to the school’s latest Ofsted inspection report, “pupils now make good progress and achieve well in reading, writing and mathematics throughout the school, from their different starting points.”

Moreover, “school leaders and governors have a clear view of how well the school is performing and where it can do better. They have worked well together to improve the quality of teaching and this continues to raise pupils’ achievement.”

And the music curriculum?

Now in their fifth term of music specialist provision, programme results have been both positive and dramatic as well.

Music lessons are monitored by Amanda, school staff and Katie Brier – the Yorkshire Teaching and Training Coordinator from Sing Education,

using a variety of strategies such as lesson observations, staff discussion and regular ‘Pupil Voice’ surveys. Feedback is used to inform improvements in the implementation of music.

Reporting on Sing Education’s success, St. George’s Headteacher Amanda Stone shared:

“The children seem to have blossomed. They are happier and more engaged in lessons. 

They look forward to assemblies and other activities involving singing such as the Christmas Carol Concert and a sharing assembly where the Y5 and Y6 shared their WW2 songs with the school. 

We are confident the children are receiving good quality teaching which is of a much higher standard than what they would receive from our non-specialist teachers.”

 

To learn more about Sing Education, including how our curricular provision, 1:1 and small group instrumental lessons plus at music learning resources contribute to a well-rounded music programme, please visit www.singeducation.co.uk/schools

H3: For even more info, practical tips and guidance, click below to download your FREE Case Study from St George’s

Download the full case study here.

About Us

Founded in 2014 and serving more than 16,000 children each week, Sing Education is a first class provider of primary school music education. Focusing on high-quality, singing-led tuition, we deliver a complete solution for schools which includes teacher recruitment, training and management, bespoke curricular resources and educational consultancy services. 

Through music lessons, singing assemblies, choirs, after school clubs and instrumental tuition, Sing Education works with students from Nursery right through to Year 6. Our core philosophy is that “Every Child Has A Voice,” and, as educators active in the classroom, our directors and teachers know firsthand how much young learners benefit from exciting, rewarding music education. 

#SingEducation #HubsAndSpokes #MusicForAll

 

Sources:

  1. Third of Yorkshire’s children living in poverty, “deeply worrying” new figures reveal Yorkshire Post YP
  2. Third of children growing up in poverty in Yorkshire and the Humber as rates rise by a fifth ITV News ITV
Primary school children taking part in a singing assembly

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