One of the enduring memories of the pandemic will be the extent to which we have used technology – as our work and social worlds have continued virtually in the midst of lockdown and restrictions.
In order to maintain music tuition during Lockdown our colleagues have adapted to on-line delivery – and so when approached by the ISSEA (International Schools of Southern and Eastern Africa) * regarding involvement in an event to celebrate music and creativity across their eight member schools, we were delighted to be involved.
Colleagues from SFE led two workshops. The first workshop considered how through technology, music could be co-created, even though the students are physically apart. Students had the opportunity to explore two software packages, MidiOnStage and BandLab – at the end of the workshop, students enthusiastically shared their plans to use these tools to support collaborative projects between schools. Tim Baptiste, Lead Practitioner, SFE reflected, “The workshops were very enjoyable and fulfilling to be part of… the opportunity to engage with students from another continent and have a real connection through our appreciation for making music and expressing this creatively, heightened the impact of the whole experience.”
The second workshop focused on composition using a ‘graphic score’ based on visual stimulus (e.g., photographs of shapes, and a cityscape scene.) There was an opportunity for group discussion and individual work, with ideas being shared over ‘Padlet’. Helen Brookes, SFE (Head of Department, Whole Class Instrumental Tuition), commented ‘I do really hope that this relationship can continue. And for all the downsides of the pandemic, this was a true silver lining that enabled new working relationships to be built’.
Thomas Reed, SFE, Assistant Head of Department, co-delivered with Helen and explained, “The students were really engaged and produced some interesting scores of their own, which we hope they will use to inspire some creative musical ideas. It was really exciting to work with students in Africa, here’s hoping we get to do it again!”
Our overseas colleague, Catherine Gillis, Head of Creative Arts reflected on the day, ‘As I looked around at our students, they were excited to explore programs that they weren’t familiar with and realise how easy it can be to make ‘good’ music…. It was so great to see our students pulling out markers, paper & instruments and really going for it. I’ve never seen graphic scores explored in such a thorough way before and I really enjoyed witnessing the way you presented the content …. I appreciate how you jumped on board with our crazy idea of running a virtual music festival and ran with it! The students thoroughly enjoyed being able to engage with learning in a slightly different way today and so thank you for sharing that opportunity with them.”
These workshops were our first experience of teaching international students music – but earlier in lockdown, our PHSE Adviser, Jo Perrin worked with pupils and Year Heads at The British School, New Delhi. Jo supported the staff to deliver the Relationships Education modelling programme, helping develop staff confidence in delivering this sometimes difficult subject – particularly in a school with pupils representing 66 different nationalities. Jo co-planned a series of 9 lessons with teachers over Teams, and then modelled the delivery of the lessons with classes and co-taught the groups in Years 7, 8 and 9. The school were very positive about their experience, reporting that the pupils had enjoyed delivery and the lessons and were looking forward to working with SFE again. Jo reflected, “working in an international context was fascinating and brought new challenges to lesson planning (including a 5.5 hour time difference!) …. Comparing what is typically taught in UK schools at particular ages, compared to the Indian/International context was interesting …. The balance needed to be struck between cultural sensitivities and a broad and balanced, progressive curriculum”.
As we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic, we look forward to growing our international work, and using technology to enable us to reach wider audiences. Having spent several years pre SFE working in the international education context, I have learnt so much from working across borders, and in different cultures. I am looking forward to seeing our international portfolio grow in the years to come.
* (ISSEA has 8 member schools: International School of Tanganyika (project organiser), American International School of Johannesburg, American International School of Mozambique, Harare International School, International Community School of Addis Ababa, International School of Kenya, and International School of Uganda and American International School of Lusaka.
About the Author
Sharon Bell – Chief Executive, Services For Education – @sharonbellSFE
Sharon Bell joined Birmingham-based education and training charity Services For Education in 2019.
For nearly four-years, she was Group Vice-Principal (Commercial and International) at WCG (Warwickshire College Group) which comprises seven further education colleges in Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
She was also College Director for two of the colleges in the Group – Pershore and Malvern Hills. Previously, she was Associate Director for the Careers and Employability Service at the University of Nottingham.
Services For Education brings music and learning to life. Employing more than 200 staff, each year it teaches music to 38,000 Birmingham children and delivers expert training and development to teaching and school support staff.