Guest blog: Arts Award and Music Education Hubs, by Jacky Craig

13 November 2017

Guest blog: Arts Award and Music Education Hubs, by Jacky Craig

As Lead Officer for Music Partnership North, the music education hub in Northumberland and Newcastle, Jacky supports and delivers many aspects of music education, both in and out of schools, from whole class music lessons, instrumental tuition, ensembles, workshops, projects, and continuous professional development. In this blog, she explains how Arts Award helps to broaden musical opportunities and enrich the lives of children and young people. 

We offer pupils the chance to take part in Arts Award at many levels, to widen their knowledge and experience of the arts, and over the last few years, 20 tutors from Northumberland have been trained in delivering and assessing Arts Award.

As a Music Education Hub, one of our roles is to give every child an opportunity to learn a musical instrument in a whole class setting. We encourage schools to take up this opportunity for a full year. During this time, participants learn about different aspects of music, including singing, rhythm work, reading music, improvisation and composition, as well as learning to play and listen to music. 

We've found that Discover level Arts Award fits well into a whole class project. This gives pupils the opportunity to recognise other art forms that surround them every day, that they already engage with, or that they'd like to explore in the future. Completing an Arts Award gives pupils a sense of achievement and formally recognises the effort they have put in. Being awarded a certificate in assembly is something for themselves, their family and their school to be proud of. Last academic year we had just under 300 pupils who successfully achieved a Discover level Arts Award, and this academic year year we're on track to deliver more than 200 Discover, 120 Explore and 12 Bronze Arts Awards.

Other roles of a music hub include encouraging progression and giving ensemble opportunities to pupils. We embed Arts Award into our work, such as our brass project, which is currently running in 14 schools across Bedlington and Ashington. This involves creating mini bands in schools, giving pupils a progression route and an opportunity to play in an ensemble. Pupils are being given the opportunity to work at Discover, Explore and Bronze level as they progress through the project. 

This year, we'll be working with Woodhorn Museum to deliver part B Explore level Arts Award. The pupils will visit the museum and investigate the archives, looking at how the museum interacts with its local community, as well as those further afield, including the artists it showcases. Students will play their instruments in different venues around the museum, such as the old winding house for the coal mine shaft, to see how they sound under different acoustic conditions.

We've offered pupils that take part in our county ensembles the opportunity to work towards Bronze and Silver level Arts Awards. As pupils are already taking part in an arts activity, they can chart their progress as part of the award. We've seen pupils achieve Bronze level from our concert band, Northumbrian Ranters, Northumbrian Pipe Ensemble; we now have pupils working towards Bronze award from Northumberland Youth Ensemble, and Bedlington Youth and Community Brass Band.

We've supported schools who are on their Artsmark journey by helping them develop Arts Award opportunities for pupils, as an Arts Award supporter. We'd like to give pupils the opportunity to achieve Silver level in the future and are looking at how we can better support them in this process. We'd also like to look at ‘Discover in a Day’ for some large-scale events. We've spoken to other music hubs about the opportunities Arts Award can offer to pupils. Newcastle has recently trained more than 15 tutors to be able to deliver at Discover and Explore level. Many of our instrumental tutors have found exciting ways to help pupils look at the arts in a new way through Arts Award and have enjoyed the process of guiding pupils along the journey.

As Music Education Hubs start to engage more with cultural partners to broaden their reach and opportunities for the young people they work with, Arts Award provides an excellent platform for partnerships across art forms to emerge and strengthen. The impact on young people involved in the programme is clearly evident through their sense of achievement in their portfolio creation, and their performances. Arts Award opens pupils’ eyes to the many different opportunities the arts can offer as a career path, and into college or university.