Services For Education has achieved a sensational three honours in the prestigious National Music and Drama Education Awards – announced in London last night (March 24, 2021).
The Birmingham-based charity was declared overall winner in ‘Outstanding Music Education Resource’ for its pioneering Music Online Educational Resource – a totally new online platform developed in-house during the pandemic – and in addition, two of the organisation’s music teachers were honoured for their compassion, flair, and creativity during the pandemic.
“These are outstanding accolades for our charity. All three relate to the pioneering work undertaken during the pandemic and are a great reflection and tribute to all our 250 staff,” said Services For Education Chief Executive Sharon Bell, speaking immediately after the awards were announced.
The two Birmingham teachers who have been recognised are Charlotte Buxton, Deputy Head of Music Service and Head of Ensembles at Services For Education who received the overall prestigious Goldstars Award, and Naomi Stevenson, a brass and piano teacher who was Highly Commended. Charlotte and Naomi were selected from just six finalists in the national Goldstars Award and were the only ones to receive honours.
Charlotte was praised for her creation of Services For Educations’ Virtual Youth Proms Festival: four nights of concerts, delivered live, weaving together individual performances from ensemble members performing in their own homes presented on consecutive evenings in July via the web. The concerts were complemented by four daytime programmes for children at school and in their own homes, including masterclasses in woodwind, brass, and percussion. Amongst the celebrities that she engaged were violinist Nicola Benedetti, saxophonist Jess Gillam, Birmingham Conservatoire principal Julian Lloyd-Webber and the Royal Marines.
The judges said Charlotte had shown “formidable impact and reach. The judges were impressed with the scope of her ambition and vision and remarked on an amazing achievement in challenging times”.
Naomi was highly commended for her extraordinary energy delivering more than 20 hours of online music lessons to children each week during lockdown – despite extreme family demands. Five years ago, her husband Mark was diagnosed with cancer and has had to self-isolate at home throughout the pandemic. Despite this and other family commitments, including looking after their two-years old son, Thomas – who sometimes made appearances in online lessons – she continued to ensure that every young musician received their normal lessons. When regulations allowed, Naomi has also delivered music training in schools one-to-one and in small socially distanced groups.
Services For Education Music Online Educational Resource – an online portal for schools – was created wholly during the pandemic delivering, within weeks, 800-plus video tutorials and 380 hours of tuition. The portal required 540 hours of recording undertaken by 197 Birmingham music teachers – and 144 hours of editing. The online service was offered to 410 schools in Birmingham with 229 schools subscribing in the first two weeks alone. It is now thought to be the largest resource of its type in the UK.
The judges commented that the initiative was a “brilliant response to the circumstances of the first lockdown and was of a quality and reach that ensured it made a significant difference to the lockdown experience of many students.” The award was presented by Simon Toyne, President of The Music Teachers’ Association.
“The awards are recognition of how our Birmingham-focused charity has been so supportive of so many thousands of children in the city during the pandemic,” said Sharon.
“All those working in education, whether in the front-line as teachers, delivering training courses or in supporting functions, deserve the highest praise for continuing to deliver in challenging situations. To my mind, every one of them is a winner,” she added.
Stuart Birnie, Head of Music Service at Services For Education, said he could not be more proud.
“This has been an extraordinarily tough time for teachers, schools and parents. At the start of the pandemic, we made a commitment to ensure that no school or child would go unsupported. Our teachers and support staff have worked incredibly hard and gone way beyond requirements and expectations. These award wins are recognition of their resilience, imagination and determination to continue supporting children with their music tuition.”
The National Music and Drama Education Awards, now in their ninth year, celebrate the extraordinary contribution made by professionals, companies, charities, schools, and other organisations to the lives of others through music and drama.
Finalists in the 2021 awards were chosen by a prominent panel of expert judges with the winners announced live at an online awards ceremony presented by Alexander Armstrong.