Video: This song was created and performed by two young women, who took part in our Music Minds programme in 2016. 

Jenny, aged 13, was in the ‘top five’ of students with challenging behaviour in her school. She would regularly argue with staff, and disrupt and distract other pupils during lessons. She was unable to stay on task or to focus, and refused to take responsibility for her actions.

Her head of year encouraged her to join The Music Works’ Music Minds programme which was taking place in the school. Music Minds is a programme to enable and empower young people – particularly those at risk of self-harming – to improve their mental health through music. It involves: a whole-school assembly to raise awareness of mental health issues particularly self-harm; parent and teacher sessions; a taster music day for interested young people; and then ten weekly sessions of music making in groups, led by an experienced music leader who specialises in working with young people in challenging circumstances. The aim is to destigmatise mental health, and introduce music as a means of communication, expression, and self-help/coping.

Since the Music Minds programme, things have changed for Jenny. Her Head of Year says that now she ‘is not even on the list’ of young people with challenging behaviour, let alone in the top five. The school’s behavioural log shows a reduction in incidents during the programme, and this has continued. Her Head of Year says: “We had significant concerns about her behaviour leading up to Music Minds. We wanted to try something different. She had no confidence, and her way of dealing with it was misbehaving. Since Music Minds there’s been a significant improvement in her behaviour. She is now more focused in lessons – and although there are still some issues, there are not nearly as many as previously. Her attitude and ability to take responsibility for her actions has also improved. She does not argue as much with staff and will follow instructions first time.”

Music Minds is currently in its pilot phase and will be available to more schools from early 2018. Read more about Music Minds. An interrim report is available on request. The pilot has been funded by Youth Music, and funded and developed with NHS Gloucestershire clinical commissioning group and Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning (part of Gloucestershire County Council). Other funders include Make Music Gloucestershire, the county’s music education hub. The programme is part of only two national pilots in an Arts Council-funded ‘Cultural Commissioning Programme’ which is looking at how arts and music can help with health and wellbeing.