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Music partnerships at BGS

This week is Partnerships Week – a week dedicated to celebrating the positive impact school partnerships make on the wider community. We will be sharing highlights on our social media channels throughout the week, including from our Music Outreach programme, led by Music Teacher and Primary Music Outreach Coordinator at BGS, Charlie Morris. Read more about the programme below.

Our music outreach programme has seen Bristol Grammar School develop partnerships with four local primary schools – Wansdyke, Luckwell, Birdwell and Willow Park Primary Schools – offering INSET and CPD opportunities for teachers, taking music making out to the schools, and providing pupils with performance opportunities.

In March this year, Charlie Morris took ten BGS music scholars to Birdwell Primary School for an afternoon of collaborative music making and performance with Year 3. Each scholar worked with a group of children who composed their own piece of music, inspired by music from the ABRSM Classroom 200 syllabus. The scholars loved the opportunity to share their musical skills with younger children, and to inspire them to create their own music, and the primary pupils involved loved their music making sessions (you can read some of their thank you messages below).

Other projects have included musical workshops for pupils, relating to their curriculum work – for example as part of Birdwell Primary School’s ‘Under the Sea’ topic, Charlie Morris introduced them to The Carnival of the Animals Aquarium. Sixty Year 3 pupils then created and performed their own version, inspired by the animals they had been learning about. A similar project at Willow Park Primary focussed on the Vikings, the subject of their History lessons, using music as a vehicle to explore cross-curriculum learning.

As well as performing in their schools to their teachers and parents, partnership school pupils have also performed alongside BGS students. In November 2022, Year 6 pupils from Wansdyke and Luckwell Primary schools joined BGS pupils in the school’s Autumn Concert, held in Clifton Cathedral. Together they performed a massed choral work – Freedom, the Power of Song – in the second half of the concert. The concert became more than just a performance; aware that some pupils in the audience had not ever seen an orchestra, the BGS Music team took the opportunity to introduce instruments from the stage and encouraged pupils to listen out for lyrics and melodies as the performances took place, converting a traditional concert into a collaborative learning platform.

Following the success of the Freedom concert, Wansdyke Primary school pupils again joined the chorus for this year’s autumn concert, held last week at St George’s. Charlie worked with Wansdyke Primary School Year 5 and Year 6 for an hour and a half a fortnight delivering National Curriculum classroom music and teaching the children’s choir parts for our collaborative performance of Dark Side of the Moon. To ensure pupils were able to take part in the concert, and that their families were able to see them perform, we also facilitated their coach costs, and provided free tickets for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend for financial reasons.

Through his outreach and partnership work, Charlie also aims to provide primary teachers, who may feel they lack the specialist knowledge to deliver music teaching, with the resources and confidence to do it themselves. Informal INSET has been run for primary teachers providing information and resources to help them deliver music teaching in their primary settings.

To enable the partnerships to grow and develop, from September 2023, the time allowance given to Charlie Morris as Primary music outreach coordinator has been doubled. The aim is to develop a programme that supports and complements the music provision on offer to schools across Bristol and the southwest through the newly formed Bristol Beacon music hub. A key consideration is ensuring the work is sustainable – for example that schools can access the opportunities offered, rather than being prohibited by transport or staffing costs, and that it gives teachers the skills and confidence to deliver music teaching themselves, using the resources already available in their schools. Ultimately though the aim is to inspire a love of music in children and provide them with experiences and performance opportunities they might not otherwise have.