In May we delivered our first ever Grantholder Gathering in the North East. Our gathering, in the wood paneled, sound isolated Northern Rock Foundation Hall (home of Northern Sinfonia) gave us the perfect opportunity to meet new Grantholders, share learning and practice from existing projects and to communicate the important policies and procedures of Youth Music.
The day was a fantastic opportunity for us here at Youth Music to meet the people behind the projects, understand the essential work being delivered, as well as the chance to introduce ourselves on a personal level and let grantholders know who to contact at Youth Music to help support their grant.
We had representation from over 15 diverse organisations in the room working on projects spread across the region from Middlesborough, in the South, to Northumberland, in the North, and over the duration of the day we discussed information essential to the administration of Youth Music grants, use of the Quality Framework, the implementation of sound evaluation practices, useful communications tips and how to get the best out of the Youth Music Network.
We were even compelled onto our feet for a musical energizer involving musical and rhythm body percussion techniques and the use of our body parts to achieve this — thanks to Adam from Jack Drum Arts for facilitating.
What is quality?
There were some interesting and useful discussions around what constitutes quality, recognising this and how we can quality assure projects in an appropriate way without making personal judgements or criticisms on music delivery professionals.
Some attendees suggested creating a smaller handout version of the Quality Framework specifically for Music Leaders and many were using the Framework as a checklist management tool and as a good structure to assist with partnership development to assess how well projects are developing.
We discussed the difficulties in interpreting responses through the course of evaluation as a great deal of the information gathered would depend on the context of the young person’s life. We recognized limitations do exist and the group discussed the importance of interpreting both the qualitative data as well as the quantitative, which can often be more useful to show how individuals reflect on their development.
As part of the discussion groups we asked attendees to share some honest accounts of their work, recognising the gatherings as an appropriate space to do this. We asked about:
- an element of their work that their organisation does really well
- a challenge that their organisation has encountered or an element of their work that their organisation would like to improve
We recognized that strengths resided in the Music Leaders and Youth Workers involved in the project but integrating these different skillsets in a way that was complimentary was nonetheless a challenge. It was suggested that exploring ways in which different professionals could learn from each other and share practice would be beneficial.
In some cases, such as Early Years provision, it has really helped to enable a shift in the way staff think about music making projects. Changing the perception of music being a fun activity to also being seen as a valuable learning tool has proven the impact and demystified what musicians do.
Elsewhere geographical challenges of operating across a large rural area such as Northumberland mean it can be challenging to recruit experienced and skilled staff. Paid positions with proper training could be offered to young people with promise, as young musicians need opportunities and this can help organisations ‘grow their own’ skilled workforce.
There was broad consensus across the board about the benefits of adopting a whole-family approach. Exploring full music activities that the whole family can enjoy (such as working with a Gamelan or allowing parents to play and learn alongside their children) and taking time to get to know and understand the parents, carers or guardians was seen as hugely beneficial.
Achieving Arts Award doesn’t have to be presented as ‘doing a qualification’ and can be done in more creative ways. One example was recording everything and documenting a young person’s journey through tools such as a “Memory Booklet” can be a useful way to achieve Arts Award.
Additionally planning moderation effectively and providing the option for work to be moderate towards the end of the project was a good way to ensure it doesn’t disrupt the project and helps respond to the needs of the particular young person and coordinates your Arts Award delivery in a creative way.
Schools and Music Hubs
Many recognised challenges around engaging schools. Identifying a need and linking your project to a problem that it could help to solve was one method used to engage Head Teachers. Offering a bespoke package was seen as key to achieving this. Better engagement with Music Hubs was also seen as being a route into engaging further with young people and whilst this was seen in some areas as a challenge those who are working with SEN young people will provide support in any way that’s possible.
It was noted that taking the time to build relationships and develop the work/infrastructure/talent whilst upskilling partners was essential to this work. Further exploration on progression routes for musical progression, wider progression and employment progression was also needed.
Some of the key issues discussed centered on joining up the expertise and resources in the room around how we engage with young people, the involvement of parents and implementing Arts Award in creative and innovative ways.
There was an agreed commitment to share knowledge, expertise and best practice on challenges and strengths and, until the next gathering, the North East Regional Discussion Group is a great online forum to do this.