Secondary music - Perfect combination

28th November 2008 at 00:00
Working collaboratively in music often yields the best results. Lis McCullough tells you how to develop effective partnerships

Take 300 primary school children in Chester Cathedral; a samba drumming workshop in Kendal; a group of primary teachers in an arts workshop in Lincolnshire; a transition project led by a secondary school for its primary partner schools in Birmingham; and two special needs music peripatetic teachers in Leeds. What do they have in common? They are examples of effective partnership working.

These examples feature in a new book from the National Association of Music Educators (NAME), Music and the Power of Partnerships.

The book looks at how to make working as a partnership a reality, with case studies and practical tips from musicians and teachers on how to work collaboratively in music education.

One such project involved the Royal Opera House and Kent County Council, where schools wrote and performed an opera from scratch.

With the unusual starting point of "the smell of TCP", children created a story about a mother and son who go on holiday to recover after the son has been bullied at school.

They make judgements about who they would like to get to know on holiday. As it happens, their initial impressions are not reliable, which leads to the opera's title, Don't Judge People by the Way They Look.

Developing effective partnerships is hard work, according to David Price, project leader of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation's Musical Futures and Learning Futures projects, but ultimately the whole should be worth more than the sum of its parts. He believes the following are prerequisites for effective partnerships:

- Is there a clearly identified problem that needs fixing by coming together? Simply working together is not enough.

- The problem shouldn't have an obvious answer, or a solution that can be achieved by any one organisationpartner. If it has, someone ought to have fixed it by now.

- Each partner may have differing levels of contribution to make in fixing the problem, but they must all have an equal commitment to the need for a solution.

- Partnership isn't a spectator sport - each partner needs to have a clearly identified role to play. Partnership isn't a competitive sport either - if we are going to worry about how big our logos are in the marketing material, for example, what are the prospects of a good working relationship?

- An effective educational partnership needs to have the needs of young people as its driving force.

For more partnership ideas, visit the Teaching Music website, where you can access information, reflect on practice, connect with others and contribute resources. See

To order a copy of Music and the Power of Partnerships, edited by Helen Coll and Kathryn Deane, visit or contact Helen Fraser, NAME administrator, at musiceducation@name. Cost is Pounds 11 (Pounds 9 for NAME members) plus Pounds 1.60 postage.

Dr Lis McCullough is a freelance music educator and researcher and chair of the National Association of Music Educators.

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