I started working for the music service in 1993 and have always thought that our purpose is to be there for every child. I believe we’re about more than just developing skills on an instrument: we’re using music to encourage and engage children. We’ve always strived to make pathways for every child, and we’ve always had remissions schemes, but we didn’t really talk about it openly. Now, inclusion is a thread that runs through all our work and is central to our business plan. Embedding equality, diversity and inclusion is a strategic aim with a key objective being to prioritise removing the unfair barriers that prevent some people from confidently connecting with us. 

However, the challenge is to avoid being tokenistic. And I think there is a fear factor – are you getting it right? Thankfully Holly is available at the end of the phone at MAC Makes Music (MMM) when I have a question. MAC Makes Music have given us confidence, and meeting with other hubs through the Music Education Hub (MEH) Strategy Group to discuss, learn and consciously think about different aspects of inclusion has been very helpful. We must remind ourselves that changing people’s mindsets can be a long journey. It can challenge you: and we do challenge each other in meetings within our team. We’re now able to do that while being very open, and respectful that not everyone will have the same opinion. It’s talked about organisationally – from how we recruit people to how we treat them – not just about a project of music activity. 

"It’s opened our minds to working with different organisations, because we’re confident to work with a range of young people and outcomes."

I used to be a county Music Education Leader and knew of the MMM work, but it wasn’t until I became Director of Learning at Severn Arts in 2018, that conversations became more co-ordinated, more about the organisation as a whole. The training MMM has provided over the years has definitely opened people’s eyes to a different way of working. And PRUs and special schools now see us as an organisation to come to for support. 

All of our inclusion work has grown – who we’re reaching, how many teachers we’re training, our training offer – 2017/8 we worked with 14% of Alternative Provision schools in Worcestershire and by 2020/1 this had increased to 57%. It’s also more coordinated: we identify gaps and needs and meet regularly as a steering group to move things forward. We’re now working with most of the Worcestershire PRUs and special schools through our Lead the Beat programme, our two Open Orchestra’s Open Orchestras - accessible youth orchestras and the inclusive choir we run in partnership with MAC Makes Music and Soundabout. Currently the services are free to schools, although some schools are now paying for extra hours. It’s important that we don’t just run a project and then leave – so we try to contribute Hub funding to keep the work that we are doing going and also build in some sustainability through other funding sources.

"It’s about having a network and the space to ask questions that make us question what we’re doing and why – not just thinking ‘we’ve always done this’."

We want to introduce a wider range of genres and more music technology. We worked with Leicestershire Music Service to develop our Turntablism Whole Class programme for primary school years 5 and 6. Our Music Box will help us introduce music technology to a range of ages and our inclusion lead has been trialing technology in classes with young people who aren’t engaging in school and it’s going down really well.