*** DEBUG END ***

Education: Striking the right note for learning

18 February 2022

Music in schools is under threat, but Pat Ashworth learns of a new scheme in Yorkshire

Richard Shephard Foundation

Pupils from St George’s RC Primary School, Overdale, Scarborough, enjoy a music lesson

Pupils from St George’s RC Primary School, Overdale, Scarborough, enjoy a music lesson

PRIMARY schools in disadvantaged or isolated communities in North Yorkshire are enjoying music classes provided by the Richard Shephard Foundation, established after the death of the composer and educator in accordance with his vision.

Music in schools has experienced a steady decline over the past decade: one in five report no regular music provision, and under half have no music specialist.

“The risk is that a generation of children will grow up with many excluded from the experience of music and the opportunities for development and educational achievement it brings,” the foundation’s general manager, Cathy Grant, says.

Richard Shephard FoundationPupils from from St George’s RC Primary school, Overdale, Scarborough, take part in a singing lesson  

“When pupils have a music class, it takes on a whole different atmosphere. Not only do they sing together with greater confidence, their musical knowledge has also vastly improved. They learn music from around the world, fundamental musicianship skills, and play a variety of musical instruments together.

“We hope these building blocks will mean they’ll enter secondary school with an increased level of confidence and understanding that will encourage more of them to study for music qualifications, or seek out opportunities to further their musical skills. It makes them feel happy, and it’s a whole different way of learning.”

The foundation, through its partner, Sing Education, provides music in Easterside Academy, Middlesbrough; St George’s RC Primary School, Scarborough; Gillamoor C of E Primary School, and Slingsby Community Primary School, both in York; and the Community Primary School, and St Joseph’s RC Primary School, in Pickering, North Yorkshire. As the work grows, they hope to expand more widely across the county and region.

Richard Shephard FoundationJosh Cadman and Katie Brier, from the education partner Sing Education

“Regionally, there are potentially more opportunities for secondary-school pupils, but it does feel like primary schools have a real challenge in having enough music specialism on board,” Mrs Grant said. “The good news is that there are a lot of organisations trying to change that. It just takes a lot of energy to have an impact on the region.”

All the head teachers with whom the charity works are enthusiastic about embedding music into their curriculum.

Duncan Lomax/Ravage Productions Commercial PhotographyThe late composer and educator Richard Shephard

Music in schools has suffered further with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic: children have not been able to sing for two years, and teachers have noted a decline in the quality of collective singing. “It’s really gone downhill,” Mrs Grant confirmed. “But it’s amazing when we see how our kids have developed after just a few weeks.”

She describes the charity as a small organisation “with a big intention”, whose growth and development will be determined by the amount of money it can raise. “We have been lucky to start with some good private funders and supporters, and we’ll be looking into the future for ways of sustainable funding.”

The foundation has attracted the pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason as its patron, and hopes the links that Dr Shephard forged with professional musicians will encourage others.

“They absolutely love the sessions,” the head teacher of St George’s, Amanda Stone, said; while a Key Stage 1 pupil encapsulated the experience as: “When I go into music, I’m quite tired. But when I come out, I’m full of energy.”

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)