The Diocese of Salford has recently won a successful bid that will allow it to join the National Schools Singing Programme.
The programme was founded in January 2021 as a means of providing high quality teaching on singing and music education to schools up and down the country.
With a financial backing of the Hamish Ogston Foundation, the diocese of Salford has received £75,000 which will allow them to fund a new choral director.
Alex Patterson is the current director of music at Salford Cathedral and will work alongside the yet-to-be appointed choral director in order to provide the programme to the children across Salford.
Alex said: “It involved music staff from the Cathedral going out into schools in the diocese and completing around 30 hours of teaching per year which is around ten sessions per term doing high quality singing education.
“We started with a little bit of a pilot project in the Cathedral primary school up the road and with other schools that we work with it’s still early days and we are still trying to pin down the scheduling and are hoping to start in January.”
Alex has over ten years of experience within teaching singing in schools and he is hopeful it will be a positive step to bettering the lives of Salford children.
He said: “I think there is a lot of apprehension from some schools about singing because some teachers like singing but don’t have the correct skillset in terms of getting the kids to a level of high-quality singing quite quickly.
“It’s just really great to be able to go into schools and see kids and hear them respond to it and engage with it.”
The programme is based off of a project from the Leeds Diocese which has been in operation for more than 15 years.
Ben Saunders, the lead consultant for the National School’s Singing Programme, expressed how important it was for children who may not have received music education that they are able to get the opportunity to do so.
He outlined how the programme fits well alongside regular study as it is tailored to be taught during the school day as part of the national curriculum.
He said: “The sessions are tailored to suit every individual class and year group.
“They can include music for school assemblies, school productions and in faith schools this would also include school litages.
“These opportunities are blended with interactive music education and games.
“The sessions are broken down into different modules so one module for example might teach the children what are called musical dynamics so in normal language that means what is loud, in music we call that forte and what is quiet we call that pianissimo.
“Another session might cover music notation because the idea is that music has to be taught with the same rigour that maths and English are taught so music notation is the language of music, how do you write music down, what does the tune look like and then there’s the opportunity for children to write their own and songs and melodies with the support of the class choral director.”
Ben delighted in the fact that the programme allows children to be educated on music from as young as six, believing it will set them up in good stead for the future.
He remarked: “The thing about music is it provides a lifelong opportunity, if you go to a child at the end of high school or sixth form collage that’s had no real engagement with music it’s very hard to reach that child and even harder to reach adults but if you start with a child that’s six years old and teach them to sing, teach them to learn music then it’s a gift they can carry through their entire adult life.
“The great thing about singing is it spills into other areas of education because you’re learning to read music and words – that helps English.
“Music is also like maths, it’s very structured, the different sections add up, there’s a logic behind it all that can help science and maths and all these other sorts of areas of the curriculum and its often found that children that have participated in music in a structured way go on to do very well in later life.”
There have been many success stories from the Leeds project upon which the singing programme is based of which both Ben and Alex are keen to replicate within the Salford area.
Ben said: “Its modelled on our programme here in Leeds so we’ve had three boys in the past year that have joined the singing programme when they’ve been at primary school.
“I’m mentioning boys in particular because often singing is not considered to be a cool thing for boys to do and one of these boys I remember telling me when his friend said where you going now he said I’m going to basketball practice – he wasn’t, he was coming to practice in the boys choir.
“Through that he learned to play the piano then the organ and now these three boys have got organ scholarships which are like musical apprentices at Oxford and Cambridge universities and two of those were hoping to get jobs when they graduate so it’s a whole sort of cycle that can change children’s life chances.”