All blog posts are subject to regular editing as I think more about what I have written!
When GCSE results were announced last year, it was clear from ours that children from low income families (known in our school as FSM students) had underachieved in comparison with their peers, a situation that seems to be of national concern according to news reports, a couple of examples of which can be found HERE and HERE.
At Monk’s Walk the school responded in several ways. Firstly, across the school, teachers are now expected to demonstrate how they support our FSM students in every class as part of our ‘access to learning’ planning. Then to try to engage parents who may not always feel comfortable coming into school, they were invited with their children to social events held at the school hosted by teachers. And finally, funds were made available for departments to buy resources to support the learning of these students.
Our Music Service runs a remission of fees system for FSM children to access funded instrumental lessons and the head of music decided to try to encourage more students to take advantage of this. The school agreed to fund the purchase of instruments for them. However it soon became apparent that this isn’t as simple as it sounds!
There seems little point in investing in a scheme like this if the take up is low, there is a high drop out rate or if the students don’t attend or don’t practice. This made me think about whether the system as it currently runs in our school is suitable and adequate for these students and if not, what changes could be made that could benefit all students in the long run. In addition, are our instrumental staff equipped to work with these students and if not how could our Music Hub support them and our students and parents to address the issue? And finally could our team of visiting instrumental tutors play more of a part in mentoring and supporting students thus developing their role within the school.
We plan to expand the scheme to engage and support other targeted vulnerable students including those at Risk of Exclusion, CAMHS Service users/school refusers, BME and students with SEND working with our SEN and behaviour support teams.
In partnership with Herts Music Service, funded by Youth Music as one of the Breakthrough Projects that are part of HMS’s MusicNet East Musical Inclusion network, we will be running a pilot scheme this year with a view to exploring this further. We will share the outcomes and the changes we make to our instrumental provision as a result as we go along – we envisage this having a positive effect across our instrumental system as a whole! We are starting with 5 hours of instrumental teacher time and an iPad. Let’s see where this can take us!