The Gallions Music Trust was founded in 2008 with the principal goal of helping to develop and support music at Gallions Primary School, a state primary at the heart of the highly deprived Winsor Park Estate in Newham, London.
The Estate, identified as one of the 5% most deprived areas in England, consists of around 95% social housing and is home to a significant number of refugee families. Newham has the second highest levels of income deprivation of all of the English local authorities and rates of unemployment, particularly for young people, and crime remain stubbornly high.
Despite these barriers, Gallions Primary School has gained a reputation as an example of best practice in a deprived area. The academic achievement of pupils at the school has far exceeded expectation, a fact that is unequivocally linked to the school’s creative ethos. Music is central to the school’s educational philosophy and this approach addresses the different learning styles that children possess, making learning particularly accessible to the 87% of children at Gallions whose first language is not English and those who have a special educational need or disability.
Music at Gallions Primary School
The Gallions Music Trust works hard to support music at Gallions, including financing enriching music projects, musical instruments and equipment, tuition costs and much more.
The school’s focus on music sees every child receive a full and inspiring music education from the moment they arrive at Gallions at the age of 3. Contrary to many other primary schools, the National Curriculum for Music is taught not only through high quality projects and class music lessons, but also through choirs, music assemblies and weekly musicianship classes. These sessions are led by music specialists qualified in the respected Kodaly approach which focusses on the development of a child’s musical understanding and enjoyment through activities involving singing, movement and rhythm.
Every child from the age of 6 learns a string instrument in small groups though the Colourstrings method, a child-friendly, Kodaly-inspired approach to learning. Through this all-inclusive programme, the children are encouraged to take part in the school’s orchestras and ensembles and have numerous opportunities to perform in concerts and events, both at the school and in prestigious venues throughout the country. Children experience live music of all genres on a regular basis and professional orchestras and musicians frequently come to Gallions to play for and alongside the children.
The Gallions music programme has many benefits to the children who take part. Through the discipline of learning an instrument, levels of concentration significantly improve and thinking skills are enhanced. Looking after an instrument gives a child a sense of responsibility and ownership. Through performance opportunities children gain confidence and feel proud of their achievements, and empathetic team players are created through group musical activities. Aspirations rise as the children are exposed to performances by professional musicians and have the opportunity to work alongside them. Children at Gallions frequently comment that music is their escape; a way of calming down when feeling stressed, unhappy or angry, and a language through which to express their emotions.
Through playing an instrument, an ever-increasing number of children are able to access out-of-school schemes run by organisations including the Newham Academy of Music, London Symphony Orchestra and Academy of St Martin in the Fields, through which they perform regularly, learn new skills and make friends from across the country. Last year alone, several Gallions children received music scholarships to outstanding secondary schools, and in the past 18 months 2 young double bassists and a violinist have each won 4-year scholarships from the Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians and another 2 children have been awarded places in the National Children’s Orchestra.
The Trust’s role within the community
In recent years the Trust’s brief has expanded from solely supporting music at Gallions. It now works to address the need for high quality, inspiring activities within the wider community to bring local people together and raise aspirations in a safe, impartial environment.
In September 2013, the Trust launched its Musical Footsteps Bursary Scheme to offer children recognised for their dedication to musical learning the opportunity to receive additional instrumental tuition at minimal or no cost, providing them with all of the tools and support that they need to excel. This is not limited to children at Gallions; those who have left the school are included in the scheme and the Trust hopes to develop the programme further to offer members of the community the opportunity to learn an instrument.
The Gallions Music Trust was instrumental in helping to financially support the construction of a new music building based at Gallions Primary School. The new facility was opened in January 2015 with an official launch event in October. Having a dedicated space in which to deliver the music programme has made such a difference to the provision the school is able to provide. We hope that this facility will become a community hub for music and aims to bring together people from all backgrounds and of all abilities.