Alternative Provision Schools
Our work in APS’s across Gloucestershire — as well as national and international research — is demonstrating that music is an effective way to engage young people who struggle with learning and poor mental health, and are at risk of low attainment levels.
Originally a pilot programme run with support from Youth Music funding, our weekly one-to-one and small group mentoring has proved a success, with increasing numbers of students being referred to our music leaders’ weekly sessions in the schools. The work is now being sustained on a consistent, long-term basis with the majority of funding coming directly from schools themselves.
We currently work in the following APS’s: Joy’s Green (Forest of Dean); Russet House (Gloucester); Raikes Centre (Gloucester). We have also built up a similarly successful programme of work in Hospital Education Settings – see the separate page for more information.
We are currently working on a robust programme of impact evaluation to enable us to more effectively monitor and understand the impact that our work is having. In the meantime you can read more in the case studies on the page, and in the Our Impact or Stories sections.
Motivation and aspiration
As well as in some cases, educational attainment
Bethanie had experienced many years of very challenging medical issues when she was referred to our Music Minds teenage mental health programme. As a result, she had very low mood and confidence, and there was a concern this may escalate due to her isolation and...
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
See what people have to say about their experience of working with us.
When Hamish and Callum first met, it was obvious that Callum had a keen interest in singing. On the surface Callum was a outgoing teenager with a remarkable voice, but between the cracks, there was an ever present glimmer of a deeper struggle.
A struggle well hidden. A struggle mapped out by a history of exclusion, ducking the mainstream and avoiding traditional curriculum; a childhood spent in the margins, without a channel for his creativity. Sometimes releasing his deepest anger, often burying it.
Each week, sessions would strike a familiar refrain. Callum would enter the room wracked with angst and lethargy, showing little interest in the opportunity to make music in a meaningful way.
Then, slowly but surely, reflecting on the previous week’s successes, the energy starts to build. Crafting deep, empathetic and honest lyrics and meaningful performances. Some weeks were focussed on lyric writing, some weeks on singing covers. Some weeks were just too hard to face making music, and instead, Hamish and Callum would reflect on the journey and focus on the future, to keep the momentum going; each approach just as important as the other.
Callum quickly developed a genuine command of singing improvised melodies to improvised accompaniment. Within moments, the empty classroom became his studio, his rehearsal room, his stage, and his ‘safe space.’ He’d close the door to the outside world, and enter his own.
Hamish says: ‘I’ll always remember the day everything changed… After months of singing different pop songs, Callum began exploring his voice in ways he’d never done previously. Callum always strayed away from singing in his higher register, as he just didn’t feel good enough. But that day was different, he showed a sense of vulnerability to enter the unknown, but also the determination and strength ready to face his fears head on. Step by step, together we sang a song, continuously getting higher. For every step, I could see Callum unleash another part of himself, leaving his fears behind him.”
“When COVID-19 came to light, we were all keen to make sure we could build on the progress Callum had made – worried that it would all come to a halt. Instead, the opposite has happened; he seemed to be just getting started. Over the last month, Callum has continued working through our online sessions via video chat. He has shown a passion and drive like no other, working beyond contact hours on both written work and practical. Now Callum regularly attends sessions overloaded with ideas and songs he can’t wait to present.
Click the video above the amazing original song ‘Falling’ performed by Callum with Hamish on keys.
“Music technology is particularly good for engaging young people who are switched off to learning. The staff have a way of working with even the most anxious pupils that brings out the best in them – they’re highly skilled in music themselves and inspire young people to aim higher. They’re very professional – collaborative, thoughtful and reliable. They really care about the outcomes for each pupil and this belief and care in each pupil helps to produce great results.”
Annalise Price-Thomas, Head of Service, Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service
“Your music leader gives people that fresh start every time they come through the door, showing he’s pleased to see them, bigging them up, and most importantly empowering them to take control of their own learning. He gives them a framework but then lets them make choices about what they do and how they do it… he can tailor the project to whoever is there, and adapt on the spot. That’s been really important. He’s always enquiring about and reflecting on the needs and situations of each student.”
Mikala Batley, Support worker, Sir William Romney’s School.
“I have been so impressed with the skill of The Music Works staff and their sensitivity and flexibility. We achieved Outstanding in our last Ofsted inspection: The Music Works were part of that success and the quality of their sessions are outstanding in terms of the input of the staff and the outcomes and progress that our pupils – most of whom have mental health issues – make.”
Annalise Price-Thomas, Head of Service, Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service
“I wrote a beat and a rap, and I liked it … we used the Apple Mac, iPad, microphone and piano. The week before … I only did a bit of the beat, but this week, I feel more confident. I know I got a bit like, stressed out … but when you actually hear it, it sounds alright.”
A student, Peak Academy.
“After just one session, the change in our student was amazing. Most importantly, there’s been a change in how he sees himself. He’s doing better in other subjects and is now planning his future. It’s very good value for money, particularly because this can be done in small groups. Your music leader has made a big difference to a lot of young people.”
Emma Stevenson, Senior Support Worker at Gloucestershire Hospital Education.
“My concentration skills are better now, and I’m much happier. I really enjoy it and now I’m doing my main Arts Award. He helps me write songs, I can never find words and the words that come out are really bad, but … he’s helped my confidence a lot.”
Nina (name changed), who had been experiencing bullying at school.
Michael finds confidence, self-belief and a route back into education
Michael is a 15 year-old who was referred to Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service because he had stopped attending school as a result of an anxiety disorder. He was painfully shy – saying he was ‘afraid’ to meet people. He was unable to leave the house, experienced extreme mood swings, and was unpredictable. Struggling with day-to-day life, he couldn’t see a future for himself, and his parents didn’t know what to do to help him.
By working with one of our specialist music leaders, he gradually built trust, learned music technology skills, and his parents said that quite quickly “there was a change in how he saw himself” and he was a “different person”, coming home after sessions happy, talkative and more sociable. As a result, Michael was able to play in front of a live audience at a competition, attend classes regularly, and has volunteered in a recording studio.
His support worker said: “It’s having an impact on all areas – he’s doing better in other subjects, and is now planning his future. Before, he wasn’t thinking about tomorrow.” Michael is now studying BTEC Music Technology at a local college.
Charlie learns she can achieve and cope
Charlie was a 13-year old who’d been excluded from school and had been attending a Pupil Referral Unit. She had learned extreme tactics for avoiding learning – from swearing at teachers and physical violence, to running away and climbing on top of furniture. After working with one of our music leaders, she has found a new passion for and confidence in singing, and has completed a Bronze Arts Award. At one stage she said to the leader “You’re one of the few teachers that believes in me”. With his support, she put together a portfolio of work, carried out independent research, and taught him a skill that she had learned. She has shown qualities of patience, determination, creativity, and produced high quality work.
Now 15, Charlie has since continued to attend sessions with The Music Works team – her only education – for just over a year, in a new off-site Alternative Provision setting. It has been a long and complex journey, but the team report that there has been a complete transformation of her behaviour, her self-motivation, her engagement in English and Maths, her social skills and her resilience. She is expected to achieve a level two AQA qualification in Functional Skills English which will enable her to attend an FE course.
In a recent evaluation meeting she said “[This] has helped me feel like I can achieve, I have matured and am able to cope better with other people being annoying. It has been important having adults I can trust, staff here support and challenge you but don’t wind you up. I can talk very openly about things that I am struggling with”