What is the particular significance of evaluation in musical activity with looked after children?

Music projects with looked after children and young people can be relatively expensive. There is substantial partnership-building preparation time to factor in, there may need to be more musicians involved than in some community music projects and employed with extra hours to support team-building and reflective practice. There is also substantial commitment in staff time required from the care organisations. This costliness makes it all the more important for projects to be professional in their approach to evaluation.

Implications for practice

The practice of ongoing reflection and formative evaluation have been illustrated above. They help in refining the project’s approach and making it more accurate. They also give opportunities for monitoring impact on both young participants, foster carers, care staff and musicians themselves.

Some projects build into their activity opportunities for young participants to evaluate their own individual and collective experience and to shape the emerging pattern of the project. Not only is this empowering in itself but it can provide useful evidence to evaluate the project and to promote the work with funders not present.

The production of DVDs of performances and CDs of songs written by the group can be useful artefacts to help funders evaluate their investment.

Illustrations from practice

"I think it’s really easy to say we can’t gather the impact of the work that easily because it’s hard to dialogue the young people in this process. The Sing Up approaches to evaluation (through their Beyond the Mainstream programme and now their NCB partnership evaluation process) has proved this wrong.

"With the right process, commitment, input and partnership approach we have proved the young people are willing to provide information personally in a number of different ways. There is also a massive amount of information we can take by just observing and understanding what we are looking for and what we are seeing. This process will be a key part to how we deliver and evaluate all our work in the future."
(Project Manager, Pie Factory Music)

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