CBSO's Music & Ability Project

  • by CBSO

    Friday, 20 January, 2017 - 17:56

The CSBO's Music & Ability programme will engage with three special schools over five terms through a series of residency projects, in addition to providing inspiration visits to a further six schools. This prgoramme compliments our annual Relaxed Concerts for special schools given by a 10 piece mini-orchestra and devised specifically for SEND pupils.


The CIty of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has been working with two special schools on short term residency pilot projects over the last two years. The activities and delivery model developed over this period of time to include more live performance, an increased number of CBSO players engaging with activities, and a more confident and skilled workforce due to embedded CPD and additional mentoring. As our programme developed so did the impact that our work had on the young peole with PMLD who were participating. Over the course of just 8 creative sessions we saw participants growing in confidence, demonstrating increased musical awareness and working more effecitvely within a group.

The scale of the imapct an 8 week intervention had encouraged us to be more ambitious with this programme, and with the support of Youth Music and local trusts and foundations we will be expanding this project, not only to work wtih three schools, but to work wtih them over five terms.

From January 2017 to July 2018 the Music & Ability programme will provide one cohort of pupils with weekly sessions for the duration of the project, and a further five groups in each school will engage with activity for one term. All workshops combine live performance, group creative activities, improvisation, musical games and one-to-one interactions, and each term will conclude with a sharing event, engaging the wider school community through interactive performances, and enabing participants to share their learning with their peers.  Engaging wtih the teaching staff is also a priority, and by the end of the programme classroom teachers will be delivering activity alongside the CBSO musicians to ensure that there is a legacy within each school after the end of the programme.

In addition to the delivery in schools we are also working to develop a group of SEND orchestral animateurs, developing their skills in delivering effective and engaging creative music making activities, but also increasing their knowledge and understanding of the educational context in which schools and pupils are working. The programme is being delivered by four Lead Artists, all of whom have experience of working in special schools wtih PMLD pupils (although their experience varies greatly), who will be working alongside seven Support Artists who are new to SEND activity. This approach not only enables peer learning, but develops the mentoring skills of the Lead Artists, and working alongside their orchestral peers provides a level of security and trust for musicians coming to this type of activity for the first time.  

Working with the teaching staff is also a key priority for this project, to support them to build their confidence and skills to use music more creatively, and regularly, with pupils throughout the school day. Our ambition is that by the final term of this project, the teaching staff who have been working with the CBSO msuicians for the preivous four terms, will become co-deliverers within workshops thus giving them the skills to continue working in this way after the end of the project.

Alongside these residency projects we will also be providing six Birmingham special schools wtih opportunities for inspiration visits. These visits provide schools with an interactive performance by a small ensemble of CBSO musicians, and a creative workshop which provides an introduction to our work. These visits will enable us to begin to build relationships wtih more schools, providing them wtih signposting to other activities that their pupils could beenfit from and engage with, as well as sharing our learning and experience beyond the three residency schools.

Throughout our project we will be delivering a series of twilight CPD sessions. These will be held every half term, and will be responsive to the needs identified by musicians, teachers and our external evaluator. By responding quickly to these identified needs and bringing in appropriate training (some of which will be delivered by teachers from schools involved in the project) musicians and teachers can put their learning into practice immediately, ensuring that they develop skills more quickly and that participants are getting the very best experiences. These CPD sessions will be open to all musicians and teachers from the schools involved in all elements of the programme - the residency schools and those participating in the inspiration visits. If capacity allows we will also extend these CPD opportunities to other special schools in the region.

Working within special schools can be a daunting prospect for musicians who are only used to working in orchestral or chamber music settings, therefore we are going to capture the journey that our musicians go on, to enable us to develop a toolkit resource for other orchestral musicians who are new to SEND work to help them feel more confident in engaging wtih special schools and SEND pupils.

Our programme will be externally evaluated by Ros Hawley, who will also act as a critical friend to the musicians taking part. Ros will work with the musicians, teachers and pupils to build an overview of the programme, devise and develop an evaluation framework - drawing on the Sounds of Intent Framework - that can be used effectively by orchestral musicians and teaching staff, support the creation of the Toolkit, and lead the regular reflection meetings betwen musicians and staff to ensure that these provide constructive feedback to enable the project, musicians and staff to continue to develop the programme to best support and develop the participants.

At the end of the programme of work the CBSO will host a SEND Creative Music conference style event, working wtih MAC Makes Music to design and promote the day. This event will enable us to share our learning and experiences from this project, in addition to hosting presentations and pratical training events throughout the day from other organisations delivering high qualtiy SEND creative music making activities. This event will have representaiton from providers from across the UK, not just the West Midlands, and we will seek to invite as many orchestral representatives as possible alongside special school teachers, practitioners and other organisations.

Contact name: 
Lucy Galliard
Project duration: 
Friday, 20 January, 2017 to Friday, 30 November, 2018
Are the activities open access?: 
Delivery area: 
Activities will take place in Birmingham, Solihull and Bromsgrove.
CBSO Centre
Berkley Street
West Midlands
B1 2LF
United Kingdom
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