A note from our new Chief Executive

Welcome to our first Annual Review which is a collection of stories, memories and highlights from this year.

Birmingham is an enormously exciting city with a population of more than 1.1m of which 260,000 are children – close on a quarter of the population and 5% above the UK average.

This young population is both an opportunity – and a responsibility. They deserve the very best that collectively, we are able to provide.

It is a challenge that Services For Education – as one of the city’s largest education charities – is enthusiastic to embrace.

We are a unique organisation – that uses the power of learning and of music to create and build confidence amongst children, young people, our communities and, increasingly, adults.

We are privileged to work closely with the leading music and cultural organisations across Birmingham – such as being the lead partner of Birmingham Music Education Partnership (BMEP) – and to provide a diverse and exciting range of opportunities in all aspects of education and learning.

Despite funding pressures on education, skills development, the arts and music, we have continued to develop and extend our range of services, so we now engage with more people than ever.

Our Music Service is recognised as one of the most innovative in the country enabling some 38,000 Birmingham school children a week to enjoy quality music lessons and have free access to instruments no matter their background or where they live.

Our School Support Service works with more than 570 schools providing bespoke school improvement consultancy, innovative training and inspirational professional development to improve teaching and learning for children and young people.

Sharon Bell

We are grateful to the support of Arts Council England alongside several other organisations, trust and grant making bodies, as well as numerous individuals, for supporting our work.

I joined as Chief Executive in October 2019 – following the retirement of my predecessor, Martyn Collin who dedicated so much of his life to Services For Education – and I am excited to be working with such an enthusiastic and passionate team of individuals.

I am proud when I sit and hear the vibrancy of our orchestras, bands and ensembles as they perform in front of live audiences. I am also proud of our respected reputation in delivering specialist training and consultancy services to schools across the West Midlands.

7.5 million income
247 staff employed
we employ 230 trained teachers
Training over 1,200 staff
Developing 536 NQT's
Providing free instruments

Xhosa Cole, BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018, tells his story of how the Music Service set him on a career path towards becoming a professional musician

“I have been extremely lucky to grow up in Birmingham.

It is a beautiful city with a richly diverse mix of cultures from across the globe and amazing opportunities at every turn. I owe a great deal to several community arts organisations, as it is through their generosity and support over the past 15 years that I have been able to grow, develop and enter the life of a professional musician.

One of those was Birmingham’s Music Service (now part of Services For Education). Through them, I was able to have free instrumental tuition, free instrument loans and access to free coached ensembles ranging from their Big Band through to their Symphony Orchestra. They equipped me with all the tuition and tools that I needed throughout my ten-years with them completely free of charge.

My first experience was through Handsworth Area Ensemble, led by the amazing flautist and music educator Cormac Loane. From there I started having free saxophone tuition from Andrew Isherwood at my secondary school.

I later went on to play baritone saxophone in the Birmingham Schools’ Wind Orchestra led by Adrian Taylor – where I discovered a real love for large ensemble playing.

I used to cycle to Wind Orchestra with that baritone on my back (I still wonder how a 16-year-old got away with that). But I soon discovered that the flautists not only had a much lighter load to carry but also weren’t subject to sitting right in front of the trumpets, which could sometimes be a bit of an earful!

After a year of hard work, I got my flute playing to a standard that could keep up with the amazing Wind Orchestra flute section and volunteered to play piccolo.

My aspiration was to make it to Birmingham Schools’ Symphony Orchestra and tackle a mainstream orchestral repertoire.

A vacancy for a flautist in the Orchestra arose and I was fortunate to be offered the chair. I felt out of my depth; playing the works of Shostakovich, Ravel and Rachmaninov to name but a few was a real undertaking for any youth orchestra.

I fell in love with this music – with the majesty of the sound, especially that feeling of being slap bang in the middle of the orchestra.

We went on tour to Germany – my favourite trip abroad. To be playing this music and hanging out in Europe with friends was a real dream (I should say that my costs were supported by the amazing Friends of Birmingham Schools Ensembles; thank you so much).

The Music Service has opened so many doors and given me some of the best moments of my life.

It is hugely important for the welfare of our city

In times where arts and the education are feeling great strain, the Music Service’s role has become even more important. Music education can be a life changer and a lifesaver; it can level the playing field and provide the skills needed to tackle challenges and demanding work.

I am now studying at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance on the Jazz Course – and I recently won The Parliamentary Jazz Award for ‘Best Newcomer’ – organised by the All-Party Jazz Appreciation Group in Westminster.”


Our SCITT Podcast, available on our website, also helps potential trainees work out whether this is the best route for them.

Services For Education not only helps the teachers of today – but also helps train the teachers of tomorrow.

As an accredited provider of Initial Teacher Training (ITT), we work with a partnership of primary schools across the West Midlands to provide high quality primary teacher training, leading to qualified teacher status (QTS).

Whilst some future teachers choose a university-based approach, our ‘School Direct’ School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) training route provides hands-on experience throughout as Laura Cullen, one of our SCITT trainees, explains:

“I already had previous experience working in a primary school – so I knew what the day-to-day running of school was like but for those changing career or new to teaching, taking part in SCITT gives you the chance to be full-time in a school environment and helps build up confidence.”

Services For Education Initial Teacher Training is delivered with its partner school, Greenholm Primary, based in Kingstanding.

In their most recent assessment, OFSTED said: “Services For Educations leaders and partnership schools share an ambition for excellence and demonstrate high levels of commitment and dedication to ensuring that trainees are thoroughly prepared for their careers in teaching.”

Children in a classroom playing drums, sat on the floor. Child smiling into camera. Symbolises Inspiring Sounds

Music can be hugely significant to those with additional needs. It is often the only way those with severe and profound learning difficulties can communicate. 

Music can also help to promote motor skills, emotional and social outcomes as well as providing opportunities for children and young people to work together and achieve. Music is easier to process than language and therefore is vital as a communication tool in special education, not forgetting of course, the simple joy that music making can bring.

Nationally the offer for special schools is not equitable with their mainstream counterparts. Many special schools believe in the importance and the value of music for their students but increasingly these schools cannot provide the funding to source music specialists.

While we have invested in developing our workforce, we have found that special schools do not have the resources to fund highly qualified practitioners to work with their children, which further exacerbates the existing gap in musical provision for these settings.

To begin addressing this gap in provision last year, Services For Education launched ‘Inspiring Sounds’, a new pilot project seeking to:

  • broaden access to music engagement for children aged 3-19 years old, attending special schools in Birmingham; and
  • build the confidence of teaching staff at these schools in the cross-curricular delivery of music activities.

Since September 2018, 120 pupils from six special schools have participated in a programme of group music lessons and training for teachers. We deliver a bespoke programme of weekly group music lessons and use the skills of our seven teachers who have completed the PGCert in Music and Special Needs.

With funding from the Foyle Foundation, ‘Inspiring Sounds’ has given students in Birmingham’s special schools access to meaningful, and quality, music-making and we are already seeing the benefit of our work.

‘It has been fascinating to see the Inspiring Sounds project with my class of Year 3 children. The children are consistently engaged with the musical activities and really enjoy the lesson. In the term that they have been following the programme it has been interesting to see the development of their listening skills in the lesson, and the development of their responses to the musical activities. ‘

‘Class 2T were lucky enough to have Katy work with us. During our sessions children who were normally reserved and who struggle to pay attention during work time, got involved, playing instruments, imitating noises and copying actions in songs. It was amazing to see!’

Our ultimate aim is to deliver ‘Inspiring Sounds’ for at least one academic year in all 27 special schools in Birmingham.

Find out more about our Inspiring Sounds project.

The Health for Life programme promotes an ethos and environment which encourages a proactive approach to developing a healthy lifestyle.

We focus on growing food, healthy eating and cooking, physical activity and try to involve families as much as possible in the process.

Education Advisers will work with schools to use the curriculum to embed an understanding of how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

The Health For Life Programme has:

  • Won the national award from FDF in Health and Wellbeing
  • Featured at the International Symposium on Healthy Lifestyles, Granada 2013 & Chicago 2016
  • Won the Regional Big Tick for Developing Sustainable Communities (twice)
  • Was shortlisted as a finalist in two national Health and Wellbeing awards.

By working with lots of schools we are able to share good practice and give you lots of ideas and support. Find out which schools have taken part so far, here.

Our Cookathon – 2018

On 23rd October, our Health For Life schools took part in a cookathon to promote healthy living. The cooking is demonstrated by award winning chef Marcus Bean. You can watch the video and download the recipes, below.

At Services For Education, our mission is simple: to use the power of learning and of music to create and build confidence amongst children, young people, adults and communities.

That mission is exemplified by our charitable projects. One project that we are particularly proud of is our Community Choir.

From its inception in May 2018, it has been wonderful to see the choir grow and flourish.

In January 2018, our Head of Music, Stuart Birnie, was approached by a producer at BBC WM based in Birmingham asking if we would be interested in collaborating with them and a community choir in Wolverhampton for their BBC Dementia Awareness week.

The remit was, to form a choir (approx 50 strong) and to launch it in May as part of a BBC WM project in the Community based around dementia and raising the awareness of living with dementia.

The collaboration between ourselves and a community choir based in Wolverhampton was to be a 7 week project culminating in a performance if possible. We launched the sign up on BBC Radio WM’s Sonny & Shay show and underwent dementia friends training. The choir was around 45 in total from Birmingham and about 40 from Wolverhampton.

Rehearsals were led separately over 7 weeks and it was remarkable to see the journey some of the members made. We had an age range of 16-91 and everyone who turned up saw the sessions as a social building exercise and a great way of making new friends and talking about their stories.

In the meantime, we organised for the choirs to collaborate on some massed songs with the view of performing in Symphony Hall foyer as part of our pre-concert performances at our Services For Education Youth Proms Series in Symphony Hall during five nights in July.

Unbeknown to the choir, they were also going to be singing on the stage of Symphony Hall!

The choirs sung together beautifully in the foyer whilst being filmed for the BBC and then went on to sing in our first Youth Prom in July 2018 on Symphony Hall stage that same evening.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience and never thought for one minute they would be able to do such a thing.

Since then, Services For Education has kept the choir running on Wednesday evenings at Holt Court in Aston and this has been important to us as a service to continue bearing in mind the enjoyment and confidence it has brought to the members.

A lovely quote from one of our members….

“I joined the community choir having previously been involved with the Dementia Choir. I enjoyed that experience so much that I was hoping there would be an opportunity to continue!

What I enjoy about being part of the community choir, is simply the opportunity to do something that is fun and uplifting. We are a really diverse group and I love the camaraderie, the respect for one another and the development….it may not have sounded like it, but Emma (conductor) has done an amazing job in really getting us to think visually about music, so that we can collectively produce a more cohesive sound as a group.

This is an amazing accomplishment given that many of us including myself don’t read music and only ordinarily sing into shampoo bottles in the shower! Our confidence has also grown immensely and again that’s down to Emma’s skill encouragement and tireless patience!

Singing in short makes me feel grounded, happy and energised. I work in quite a pressured environment and singing is a wonderful release! Wednesdays are the highlight of my week even though I do some fabulous things most other nights too!!I think in terms of me as a person,  the choir has simply given me a new love, it’s like the Friday feeling on a Wednesday! When I think of choir, I smile and that says it all really. Professionally, I’m very aware of social prescribing and how well singing fits into this discourse, the community choir is an amazing opportunity for personal development in an environment which is diverse, supportive and fun!

I am feel incredibly privileged and thankful to be given this wonderful opportunity , to be involved in all of the projects that we have and will be, to receive such great teaching and leadership from Emma and of course more latterly to be joined by the wonderful pianist Maria!”

For the past two years, Services For Education’s Music Service has implemented music provision so that all Year 4 pupils at ‘Birmingham Virtual School’ can choose to play a musical instrument – of their choice – and have weekly one-to-one lessons.

Birmingham Virtual School is the Children in Care Education Service (CiCES – formerly the Looked After Children Education Service).

The Birmingham Virtual School coordinates education services for children in care and works in partnership with the child’s school to make sure they are supported at all stages of their education and have the best opportunities to be successful in their adult lives.

Children in care attend schools and education providers across Birmingham and other local authorities. The Virtual School monitors their attendance and achievements and ensures that their education success is a top priority in care planning.

As an organisation, we want to widen our music provision and extend our reach and for the past two years, we have worked in conjunction with the Birmingham Virtual School to enable all Year 4 pupils to have the opportunity of playing and enjoying music.

These lessons form part of their Personal Education Plan (PEP) and all our staff at the Music Service have undergone training to enable this provision to happen.

The results have been stunning – for both children and teachers!

All Year 4 pupils have received lessons across the year culminating in an invitation to take part in a workshop day at The MAC, Birmingham. The children were involved with vocal leaders from Welsh National Opera and Samba sessions from the Music Service.

The day finished with a performance for carers and school staff.

“We are passionate about providing this opportunity to the children as they move into Year 5,” says Stuart Birnie, Head of Music Service at Services For Education.

“We now have around 70 Virtual School pupil learning an instrument and with support from individual donors, this important work will develop and carry on for years to come. Supporting children in their musical journey and letting them flourish in something they show an interest in is really important to us.”

The Year 4 programme is supported through part-funding from the Virtual School and the Music Service has raised funds to enable the children to carry on their music lessons in Year 5.

Find out more about our Music Cares project.

Three new websites for Services For Education have been developed in just 12 months, our social media presence has been significantly enhanced – and the results have been speaking for themselves

Services For Education – Main Website

Our totally new main website was launched in January 2019 and has resulted in a 27% increase in the number of visitors – up from 43,469 to more than 55,000.

Adopting a user-centric, evidence-based approach through tracking analytics, the site is a single source of information for our offers.

In just 12-months it recorded product and service sales of more than £500,000, an increase of 17% on the previous site whilst maintaining its SEO rankings.

SFE Music School – Sub-Website

Our new Music School website launched in late-2019 and has generated exposure for our recently launched Music Schools enabling us to reach our Year 1 target of 108 lessons.

SFE Charity – Sub-Website

Meanwhile, our new fundraising site, launched in January 2020, enables supporters (funders, friends, families and alumni) to view current work and donate online.

In the first month it enabled a successful application for Google grant funding of £95,000.

birmingham chamber of commerce award logo services for education

2020 Finalist
Excellence in Sales & Marketing

2019 Finalist
Excellence in SEND for Music and Drama

birmingham chamber of commerce award logo services for education

2019 Winners
Excellence in Training and Education

2019 Winners
Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community

Birmingham Awards - Services For Education - Music Service

2018 Winners
Contribution to Education

Music Teacher Awards For Excellence Logo - Services For Education

2018 Winners
Music Education Council Major Award

Brass bands england award logo, won by services for education

2018 Silver winners
Birmingham schools' brass band championship sections

ERA2019 Finalist Logo. Services For Education are finalists in 2019

2019 Finalists
Education Resources Awards THE EDUCATIONAL BOOK AWARD

birmingham chamber of commerce award logo services for education

2018 Finalists
Excellence in Contributing to the Community

2018 Finalist
Birmingham Post Business Non-Profit organisation award

As an accredited provider of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) we support and train those at the very earliest stages, leading them to their teaching qualification. Supporting newly qualified teachers through our Appropriate Body services and registration to ensure they meet all the required Teachers’ Standards and pass into schools as confident, competent, skilled and knowledgeable professionals.

Our work, however, does not stop there. We continue through programmes of centre-based continuing professional development (CPD) and in-school bespoke sessions to provide growth and develop skills enabling teachers to meet the academic and wellbeing challenges of the teaching profession.

Our subject leader networks aim to engender leading edge practice whilst providing a supportive community of practice.

Schools are able to ensure they meet the vital statutory requirements of safeguarding and assessment through up to date and expert led briefings and training sessions.

We also support schools in their improvement journey, working with headteachers and senior leaders to review practice and performance, develop curriculum and prepare for the rigours of inspection.

We work too with governors to ensure that effective governance and accountability structures and mechanisms are in place and fully implemented.

Imagine a musical journey through Birmingham with the city re-created by sound.

Taking in the city’s extensive canal network, the Asian music of Sparkbrook, the Caribbean sounds of Handsworth, the classical music of Symphony Hall and the performances at The MAC, we will transport our audience on a musical journey spanning hundreds of years.

Imagine all that on the stage of one of the world’s most famous and revered performance arenas: The Royal Albert Hall in London. 700 young people, aged between nine and 17 from across Birmingham, will deliver this musical extravaganza.

‘Brum to Bertie’ – one of the Music Service’s most ambitious music undertakings will see talented children of all backgrounds rehearsing and then performing in front of a UK-wide audience as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the charity Music for Youth.

Following a competitive application process, Services For Education has been selected to be part of these very special 50th Anniversary celebrations.

The challenges we face now to make Brum to Bertie a reality are not only logistical issues of rehearsals but also enabling 700 young people, supervisors and a production team to travel safely and securely from Brum to Bertie – and back again.

We have already started our fundraising campaign to raise £25,000 – a sum we must secure to ensure the fulfilment of the extensive planning and implementation, so that our children have the opportunity to perform, and for Birmingham to be showcased in such a prestigious venue at such a prestigious event.

Watch this space.

Tiger Tiger, Burning Bright

Music is often the only way those with severe and profound learning difficulties are able to communicate – but until now many people over the age of 18 with special needs have been deprived of creative music and arts activities for special needs groups years.

Enter Tiger TigerThe Birmingham Sensory Project – a programme of weekly multi-sensory and creative activities for up to forty individuals from Birmingham with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism.

“The majority of music provision is focussed on school-aged children – which leaves many young adults and their carers struggling to access appropriate activities,”  explains Services For Education’s Inclusion Lead, Sophie Gray.

“Our goal is to use music as a way of opening communication and interaction with the wider world, promoting motor skills, emotional and social outcomes and enabling participants to work together, forge new friendships and gain a sense of achievement. And we also want them to have fun!”

Invitations to take part are being issued to Birmingham day centres, colleges and special schools that offer provision for young people who are 18 years and over.  Recruitment will start as soon as funding for the programme is in place, and will be organised on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We have places for up to 40 participants each year with the opportunity available for individuals to continue engaging over subsequent years if they wish.  We reckon that half of any year’s cohort will continue to the following year – so we expect to engage up to 80 individuals across three-years.”

A small charge of £5 per session will cover some of the costs of the programme and encourage participants to commit to engaging with the programme over the course of the year.

“We want to make this accessible to all regardless of financial circumstances but have learnt from experience that a small charge gives the activities a value thus reducing the likelihood of individuals dropping in and out of weekly sessions and ultimately improving the continuity and development of the creative experience for all involved,” says Sophie.

“We’ll also offer volunteering observation sessions for local musicians and students interested in doing this kind of work.  That will help secure the future of and expand our pool of practitioners – as well as helping to spread the word of the work that is happening, its benefits and impact.”

Page Last Modified:  09/12/2022 13:31