Harmonious blend of state and private

28th November 2003 at 00:00
When choristers from Bristol Cathedral school entered the classroom of one of the city's state primaries "23 jaws hit the floor".

Tony Halloran, head of Fonthill primary, recalls the stares of his pupils whose navy blue and yellow uniforms could not have contrasted more with the red cassocks, white surplices and ruffs worn by the choristers.

The cathedral school pupils, whose parents pay pound;2,325 a term, were at Fonthill as part of a scheme to bring professional singing lessons to children in nine primary schools, all within the city's education action zone.

The scheme has so far attracted more than pound;8,000 in government funding and a choir, based at Bristol Cathedral, is expected to be formed by children from the primaries in the new year.

The children, in Years 3 and 4, have attended six one-hour workshops by David Ogden and Kizzy Morrell, two professional singing teachers, assisted by the choristers.

"The kids absolutely love it," said Ms Morrell. "At first they are really nervous and shy, but after a few sessions you can't stop them - it's incredible."

Fonthill pupil Amy Murphy, aged seven, said: "It's different to what we normally do. I like learning the modern songs."

This week, the Fonthill pupils were invited to the cathedral to stand in the choir stalls where they could win a place to sing.

For many, it was the first time they had been inside the cathedral or even seen a stained glass window at close hand.

It is the inspiration the children draw from the singing lessons - and from meeting the choristers and seeing the cathedral - which the Bristol Cathedral school hopes will unearth hidden talent and enthusiasm.

Mr Halloran said that his school is in a deprived area and does not have a specialist music teacher. "But the children are much more prepared to have a go now," he said.

The initiative is one of the 220 in the independentstate school partnerships scheme, set up by the Government to expand co-operation between the sectors.

The partnership is now in its seventh year and David Miliband, school standards minister, this week announced a further pound;1 million towards the scheme. The money will be spread over two years and bring total spending on it to more than pound;5m.

"Raising standards across secondary schools means sharing expertise from every source," said Mr Miliband.

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