Wednesday, March 29, 2017

‘World class’ orchestra to open its own state free school


The Halle orchestra
The Halle orchestra is planning on opening its own free school

Manchester's symphony orchestra, the Hallé, is to become the first in the world to open and run its own state music school, it has emerged.

The ensemble is planning on opening the Hallé Music Free School in Stoke on Trent that will cater for pupils aged between seven and 19.

The orchestra has partnered with a local academy sponsor, The City Learning Trust, and will expect students to spend at least 40 per cent of their time taking "specialist masterclasses" in music and singing.

Music at the heart

The school will benefit from classes delivered by members of the Hallé orchestra, as well as having a rotating "musician in residence", a feature more generally seen as a preserve for well-heeled private schools.

John Summers, Chief Executive of the Hallé, said the aim of the school was to try and place music and the arts at the very heart of what students do, alongside traditional academic studies.

"Everybody at the school will sing and play an instrument and that includes the teachers," Mr Summers said. "When I was at school at a grammar school music was a central part of what we did, and you often find that pupils who progress well in the arts and creative subjects, do well in other academic studies."

Mr Summers added that the 40 per cent of students' time spent on music and singing, would include extra-curricular lessons in learning an instrument, but added that "pupils would be likely to have a longer day".

It is hoped that students that have a serious ability in music will continue to study through sixth form, but all pupils will be encouraged to stay on to take their A-levels at the school.

If approved to open by the Department for Education, the school will follow in the footsteps of the East London Academy of Music, a specialist music free school set up by one half of the DJ duo Chase and Status.

'World class'

Ministers are committed to a target of opening 500 new free schools by 2020, as they look to increase the number of "good" school places in England.

But concerns have been raised about the free schools policy, after the National Audit Office revealed that the Government was spending billions of pounds on the new schools while existing school building were left to deteriorate.

The NAO report showed that the Department for Education was expected to spend around £2.5 billion just to acquire the land to build the new schools, and had already spent £836m on sites in the last five years.

But Carl Ward, chief executive of The City Learning Trust, a sponsor that runs around 10 academies and free schools in the area, said the school, which is aiming to open in 2020, will provide pupils with an opportunity to train with a "world class orchestra".

"The music free school curriculum will focus on skills transfer and career prospects, while stretching our students technical skills and encouraging their creative thinking," he said.

Toby Young, director of free school charity New Schools Network, said the move could lead to more arts-based organisations opening their own schools.