ONE morning in March this year, the head of the Stock Exchange,
Xavier Rolet, and his senior colleagues had some VIP guests for
breakfast. They were pupils of St Paul's and All Hallows', a
primary School in Tottenham, north London, there at the invitation
of M. Rolet, who had visited their school weeks earlier.
A talented amateur pianist, M. Rolet had heard of the beneficial
effect of the school's unusual instrumental-music programme, and
wanted to see it in action. The multi-talented Frenchman was
particularly interested because he had not grown up in the most
propitious circumstances, and his success has been achieved against
St Paul's and All Hallows' C of E Academy, a federation of a
nursery, infants, and junior school, standing in the lee of Spurs'
football ground, is a calm, cheerful oasis in an area of multiple
deprivation. Ninety-eight per cent of the 400 or so pupils are of
Caribbean or African backgrounds - many of the latter with refugee
parents - and at least half do not have English as a home language.
Many are dealing with stressful circumstances in the past or
That said, they attend plays at top London theatres, and attend
ballet, opera, and classical music concerts at prestigious venues,
such as the Royal Festival Hall and the Wigmore Hall. Everything is
paid for by the academy, whose executive head, Sharon Easton, is
determined that they should have the cultural experiences provided
for more advantaged children by their parents.
A LARGE part of the academy's cultural programme is music, which
is taught to all pupils from the age of five upwards. In Year 4
(eight-to-nine-year-olds), all children learn a musical instrument,
choosing between the clarinet, the trumpet, and the guitar. More
than 90 are now having regular lessons.
Individual piano lessons are reserved for pupils with particular
needs, who, Mrs Easton judges, need extra attention, and the chance
to acquire a new accomplishment.
SINCE piano lessons began 18 months ago, they have been taught
by Peter James, who came to the school as a volunteer and was later
employed as a classroom assistant for four days a week (two days at
St Paul's and All Hallows', and the other days at other schools in
the Academy Trust). He initiated the original contact with the
Stock Exchange. He has also taught about 12 pupils to play the
piano - their success has had a marked effect on other aspects of
their school life.
Shackyrah, aged 11, has a huge smile, but readily admits that
her bad behaviour was a problem that had not been resolved at two
other schools. "I was bullied a lot, then I'd get angry; but, since
I've been playing the piano, I've calmed down. Now I think about
what makes me angry, and when I'm sad I play some music that makes
me feel better."
Uche, Mrs Easton says, is an able boy whose academic performance
gradually stalled. After 18 months of piano lessons, he has already
passed the Associated Board Grade 3 examination, spends hours at
home practising on a keyboard, and has recovered his academic
Ky, also 11, was chosen for the piano project not because of his
behaviour, but because he was withdrawn, and, outside school, had
more responsibilities than most children of his age. He has just
taken his Grade 1 exam, and, as he played me a little Mozart, his
musical potential was obvious.
Mrs Easton knows when any of her pupils are playing, because the
school piano is just outside the door to her study. It is placed
there intentionally, so that she can easily pop out to encourage
Piano lessons have been a lifeline to some of her pupils, she
says; and M. Rolet would agree: the Stock Exchange has now given
the academy £5000 - which, Mrs Easton said, will help to fund her
cultural programme. So, more plays, ballet, concerts, and opera for
children from one of the 12 most deprived wards in Britain.