National plaudits for Doon Valley school music project

An innovative music project managed by East Ayrshire Council and aimed at offering pupils in P4-7 the opportunity to take part in a class string ensemble, has received plaudits from the Music Education Council (MEC).

The Doon Valley Education Group Whole Class String Project offers pupils an opportunity to learn a string instrument and to take part in a class-based group to make quality music through the Council’s Youth Music Initiative (YMI).

Importantly, all pupils take part, making it fully inclusive and free.

Originally offered Greenmill Primary School in 2007, the project has been expanded to a further eight schools, all based in the Doon Valley area, and now has more than 750 pupils taking part.

The growth is a result of funding from the Council and the YMI fund and the weekly sessions, while teaching the basics of string playing, also has wider links to the curriculum in terms of health, wellbeing, self-esteem and confidence building.

Teachers also remarked on improved concentration and engagement in class activities. An additional benefit has been a noticeable improvement in behaviour, with pupils learning how to co-operate and work as a team as their prowess and group matures.

As the project grew, two partners joined to help develop the service – The Royal Conservatoire for Scotland and Dumfries House, offering pupils further opportunities to learn and perform to new audiences.

The work has come to the attention of MEC and has receive a national commendation from them for originality and innovation, particularly at a time when music provision in some schools faces an uncertain financial future.

Successes noted by MEC included:

  • A concert given to HRH Prince Charles at Dumfries House
  • Bellsbank Primary School taking part in the Ayrshire Music Festival after just six months – and being given an Outstanding Achievement award
  • Pupils taking part in music sessions with second year music degree students at the University of the West of Scotland.

The Council has also been shortlisted for the prestigious MEC Major Award, with judges impressed by the scope and vision of the project, in particular the opportunities given to all pupils in these areas of high deprivation.

The project will also be extended to certain schools within the Auchinleck Education Group in advance of the merger of Auchinleck Academy and Cumnock Academy in 2020 and the Council’s Cabinet is to look at possibly widening the initiative to other schools.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: Councillor Fiona Campbell, East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “I’ve followed the Doon Valley String Project with great interest and as a former teacher I can fully appreciate the benefits music can offer in other areas of the curriculum.

“To see the string project grow to nine school with over 750 pupils taking part is an amazing achievement and the MEC commendation is a perfect reward for the hard work and dedication of pupils, staff and parents for making this project such a big success.

“Such positive news really is music to my ears.”

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