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Hail to the Halle
One of the UK's top orchestras has announced a truly brilliant initiative. It is a genuinely liberal, educationally pioneering, project which could do more for social mobility and the spreading of happiness than any number of grammar schools.
The Halle wants to open an all-through school in Stoke-on-Trent in 2020. Pupils would spend 40% of their time in specialist music classes, working with the Halle Choir, The Halle Youth Orchestra and Halle for Youth. The orchestra will work with the academy trust, City Learning Trust, to set up the school as a government free school.
John Summers, the orchestra's CEO, predicted the project would use music to "raise aspirations" across other academic subjects. This collaboration between schools and orchestras has been tried successfully abroad. Pupils would have masterclasses from musicians, access to concerts and artists in residence.
Summers said, "Through our expertise we will also help develop music in the curriculum as a means of supporting academic achievement and aspiration."
Why is this so significant? Music belongs to us all. Musical talent is not confined to those in independent schools yet, currently, the vast majority of pupils attending the specialist musical schools come from the independent sector. Likewise those who gain coveted places in eg The National Youth Orchestra.
This may be only the overture to a full symphonic score but it is a most welcome one and deserves unstinting welcome and support.
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Bernadette John, our Director of Special Educational Needs, despairs at yet another pointless idea from The Department of Education. The school admissions system is, apparently, now taking the blame for the lack of social mobility which is blighting opportunities and depriving the nation of much-needed talent.
One criticism of grammar schools is that they take a disproportionate number of children from privileged backgrounds. A far smaller number of grammar school pupils receive the pupil premium than pupils in comprehensive schools.
Buttle UK is a charity which supports disadvantaged children. One of its more imaginative and bolder initiatives has been to fund places at boarding schools for children who are thought likely to benefit from the opportunities this would provide. The project has been sensitively designed so as not to create divisions between children and their own families and social milieu.
The initial furore over National Offer Day is over - although, of course, the next one - Primary School Offer Day - is only six weeks away and we'll have to go through the whole miserable experience again. We, at The Good Schools Guide, along with everyone else, get worked up on behalf of children who are not allocated their first choice school or, far more worrying, children who get offered none of their six choices. It isn't good enough and shouldn't be happening.
Viewers tuning in for the Downton slot on Sunday night will have got something of a jolt – instead of cosy escapism, they were confronted by a brutal tale of death row executions and family betrayals (Undercover, BBC1).