Working Effectively in Partnership to Promote Creativity
Why work in Partnership?
Access to the arts is increasingly proving to be the preserve of the elite, with funding cuts often impacting access for young people with the least opportunity, as discussed in Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s interview for Black Lives in Music. Effective partnership work has provided young people in a broad range of settings with the highest quality tuition and development for several years.
As a Head of Department for Music and more recently as a Strategic Board Member of a Music Education Hub, I have pursued a personal mission of bringing the best musical experiences to as many children as I have the capacity to reach. This means working alongside the most skilled musicians and bringing their expertise directly to the young people in our school or community settings. This means taking young people out to the most exquisite performance venues and arts institutes that some may otherwise never get to visit. This often means introducing young people to arts experiences that they are unfamiliar with and showing them that there is space for them in this creative world, no matter their starting point.
We’re not always the experts
It also means recognising that no-one is an expert at everything! Carrying out a skills audit within your department or team can highlight areas of need, in terms of provision. Working with your local Music Education Hub will often provide you with access to orchestral, popular band instruments, or instruments from a range of cultures around the globe. By connecting with your local Music Education Hub, you can filter young people into appropriate ensembles and chamber music groups, providing the powerful social experience that comes from group music-making. For different arts disciplines you can apply the same process and get in touch with your local museum, performance venue or drama school.
Engaging a visiting Music Technician, Composer-in-Residence or Guest Composer allows your music department or provision to keep up to date with current trends and can open up creativity in young people, in new ways. This is also a fantastic way to encourage the production of new music and new sounds in your students.
A brief trip to The Creative Educator website highlights a lovely example of effective partnership work for the Banded About Project back in 2009. The story of the positive musical and social experiences gained from the project are beautifully articulated.
More recently, a two-year partnership with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance saw our school students sitting side-by-side with Conservatoire students in big band rehearsals, young people performing as part of the creative composition-based Animate Orchestra at the CBBC Proms and composing with live electronics. We were able to explore the possibilities of a distance learning ‘A’ Level Music course (identifying and addressing our own provision need) and a targeted group were able to achieve an Arts Award during the programme.
The importance of effective evaluation
When setting up your own partnerships remember to factor in regular slots for evaluation of the programme. It’s best to avoid waiting for a mass end of project evaluation and instead to pick up on what’s working well and what can be improved at regular intervals. The priority of this process is to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard. Talk to your young people, facilitators, guests, school-based teachers and parents. How is it all going? Are the needs of all stakeholders being met? If not, how can that be addressed?
Your next steps
So, I’ll leave you with a few questions to consider about setting up your next partnership.
1. What creative needs are highlighted in your department or curriculum skills audit?
2. Who are your priority groups? Map out the provision that is most needed.
3. Who can help you to address your needs and who do you most want to work with?
4. Who are you going to reach out to? Be brave. Take the step and reach out. Your local arts providers are waiting to hear from you!
Sheku Kanneh Mason’s Interview for Black Lives in Music: https://youtu.be/6yJuTpDyPr0?t=1145
Jenetta Hurst is a music specialist with 15 years’ experience working in secondary schools in a range of settings, and founder of The Creative-Educator.com. Jenetta is currently Head of Department for Music in a large secondary school in East London and is a former senior leader. Jenetta’s interests are staff development, CPDL, ITT and teacher induction and she graduated from UCL Institute of Education with the MA Leadership in 2019. Jenetta is also an Honorary Member of the Birmingham Conservatoire.
This blog was originally published as a guest blog on the Aspire – The Power of the Arts website as part of the 2021 Conference for Aspire Learning Alliance. You can check out the original blog and more fantastic posts here.