Bristol Plays Music – Winner 2016

Bristol Plays Music

At the heart of Bristol Plays Music (BPM) is great music making and learning. Whether it be through singing, strumming or dancing, our education work sets out to encourage participation, engender a sense of civic pride and instil a lifelong love of musical culture. We were really honoured to share the Major Prize with Portsmouth at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, and for two areas of our work to receive particular praise from the MEC.

The National Plan for Music Education set out to ensure “Children from all backgrounds and every part of England should have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence if they wish to”. BPM’s “New Ambition for Inclusive Excellence” is investing £617,000 in transforming music education in the West of England for children with SEND, and for children in care. We are very proud to say that, through this programme, every Special School has its own orchestra or ensemble. With funding from the National Foundation for Youth Music, BPM works with a coalition of partners to support new technology, training & pedagogy and industry employment opportunities for young musicians with SEND. Partners include: South Glos, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset music education hubs, British Paraorchestra, BBC Music, OpenUp Music, Attitude is Everything, Live Music Now and University West of England. In 2016 we announced the next phase of this work, a National Centre for Advanced Training for young musicians with SEND. The purpose of the centre will be to support the most talented disabled young musicians from across England and to help them into higher education and the music industry.

Also receiving praise was the Bristol Music Curriculum, which received the Music Teacher Award for Excellence 2017 prize for ‘best print resource’. Twelve months of School Music Education Plan interviews highlighted that schools with a strong commitment to timetabled curriculum music were the most musically engaged with core and extension roles. The reasons cited for little or no curriculum music were uninspiring and outdated resources and a lack of skills and time.  We decided to develop the Bristol Music Curriculum. The Bristol Music Curriculum is written by Bristol music teachers. It is completely free, and fully resourced. The Curriculum has been downloaded more than 200 times and is the most widely used resource in Bristol schools.  To accompany the Curriculum there is a comprehensive CPD programme to support non-specialist teachers. To further support the development of listening skills we have licensed Sound and Music’s Minute of Listening (MoL) for every school in Bristol and are in the process producing our own MoL pack created by schools and Bristol composers.  Jenny Taylor Head Teacher Horfield CEVC Primary had this to say about the curriculum, “This inspiring and innovative curriculum has driven forward our music teaching in school and has had an enormously positive impact on teaching and learning across the school. It has allowed teacher’s to rethink their approach to music teaching as well as celebrate the strong tradition of music within the city.”

Building on this success, Paul Hamlyn Foundation have awarded BPM £60K to develop a ‘Bristol Cultural Curriculum’ in a collective citywide movement with the Bristol Cultural Education Partnership,  working in close partnership with Bristol Old Vic, Spike Island, Theatre Bristol, Arnolfini and UWE’s City Campus.

The National Plan changed the way music services are delivered throughout England and its implementation had major repercussions for the entire workforce. The biggest challenge for hub leaders has been navigating this turbulent time and finding ways to build confidence and support those working in music education. CPD and training has been critical in delivering a new spirit of collaboration here in Bristol. Central to BPM’s ethos and way of operating is ‘collective impact’, a form of partnership alignment which when used properly allows for partner individuality in pursuit of a shared outcome. The conditions for collective impact are: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support organizations. Collective impact provides a framework for different types and sizes of organisations to work together on complex challenges. BPM’s New Ambition for Inclusive Excellence relies on the principles of collective impact for its success.

Applying for the Music Education Council award meant reflecting on the quality and value of our work and in particular making sure it supports those in greatest need. Winning the award felt like validation for our direction of travel.


Phil Castang, Head of Bristol Plays Music

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