The discrete disciplines of Music, Art and Drama share common goals within the “Expressive Arts” arm of the college’s curriculum. In addition to the ten teaching staff, two Technicians are assigned to help maintain and repair stock, monitor resources and support lesson and enrichment activities.
Three full-time teachers make up the Music Department and each is expected to be able not only to accompany music students as they prepare for instrumental exams with ABRSM, Guildhall and Trinity exams but also cope with the demands made by recital and composition realisation at GCSE, BTEC and A-S/A2 levels. The music teacher’s own performance standards must be on show in enrichment activities.
FORMAL AND INFORMAL CURRICULUM
A broad and deep Music Curriculum is delivered across the full ability range to mixed ability classes (c.250 students in each of Y7, Y8 and Y9) in one 60-minute period per week over KS3, five per fortnight at KS4 (both GCSE and BTEC groups) and nine per fortnight for each AS and A2 Advanced Level Music Group.
The exploration, acquisition and (if possible) mastery of acoustic and kinetic music-making skills are paramount at Rainford and eclipse all other routes to subsequent click-driven electronic or technological capabilities. We promote the belief that attitudes to music are caught rather than taught, so our music teachers are expected to be first-class practising musicians themselves, capable of being as competent in and excited by A-level ‘Harmony and Counterpoint’ principles at one end of the spectrum as they are at lower school class singing, mixed ensemble music-making and SEN demands at the other.
The Music Department strongly advocates flexibility where musical taste is concerned and versatility when meeting the differing musical needs of students head-on. All this means that, for example, in a lesson on Scottish music, the teacher plays a strathspey (or reel or jig) on the accordion so that students hear and see what is required before they tackle the assignment themselves.
We extend the Music Curriculum from the formal to the informal by helping to supervise an ever-changing diet of enrichment activities. Although the department may see changes in personnel, we have music workshops, showcase evenings, master classes, concert trips, musical productions, wind band, choirs and various ‘gigging’ rock bands, recitals, concerts and festivals will take place as required and/or desired.
We are careful to separate ‘process’ from ‘performance’ when it comes to public events; a Y8 class, say, who may have been practising in lessons as part of their curricular learning, could present their item in a concert if their work becomes sufficiently musically refined.
Further performance opportunities can occasionally be provided on House ‘Welcome’ evenings for Y7, Presentation Evenings, Assemblies, Christmas festivities and in musical productions or shows. Teachers view assistance with our informal Music curriculum as an exciting and crucial element of their work at Rainford, but it is never seen as compulsory; statutory requirements take precedence and it is in the classroom where most musical energy is expended. This includes hosting and delivering cross-borough Post 16 conferences and workshops with partner colleges on themes such as “VocalWriter”, “Kidsynth”, “Audio Mulch” and, more recently, “The Human Voice”. We also involve students in trips to local CLCs for even greater hands-on learning and regularly arrange visits to Manchester to sit in on rehearsals by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Arts Theatre, focal point for much of our concert performances, displays, festivals and productions (West Side Story, Annie, Grease, Calamity Jane, Wizard of Oz, Bugsy Malone) stands conveniently alongside the Music Block, allowing us in such ventures to work closely with the Drama Department. Access for all students to our informal curriculum, regardless of ability or aspiration, is a vital factor in determining our enrichment programme year on year.
Links with local or feeder Primary Schools mean that our students, by arrangement, can form concert parties to entertain younger children at their schools.
ACCOMODATION & RESOURCES
Situated currently in the centre of the school campus, Music principally operates in a self-contained two-storey block consisting of two whole-class teaching rooms, with a further large classroom behind this.
The department has built up an impressive stock. Students can access an array of constantly used class instruments embracing folk, rock, ethnic and pitched and unpitched varieties (ukuleles, flageolets, recorders, accordion, 3 full drum kits, 3 timpani, double basses and ‘cellos plus over 30 electric, acoustic, semi-acoustic and classical guitars). Furthermore, our ‘Schemes for Learning’ ensure that students use our Macbooks, VSS samplers, drum machines, computer technologies, a Roland MIDI baroque harpsichord, various keyboards, prac./pro. amps., PA gear, microphones, hand-held Edirol stereo audio recorders and Alesis Video recorders.
Recording and group-listening equipment abounds together with multi-track recording facilities, karaoke machines for each classroom and full-size stereo headphones available for every student and mini phones for use with Macbooks and ipods.
We have an office housing a library of text and reference books, scores, CDs, learning videos, burn-able CDs and DVDs, videos, CD-ROMs, worksheets, film strips, magazines and manuals for all the electrical equipment. Staff and students alike work in here and it is a particularly important resource and teaching space for A-level students, as well as being a base for Achievement Certificates, Student Progress Records, I.E.P.s, policy documents, examination materials, stationery and miscellaneous teaching aids, especially “Raft” lesson materials. There are 8 pianos around the site. Since we are in the process of building a new school (BSF), which will give Music a brand new suite of rooms, practice room space can be limited as units are demolished/moved.
Visiting private Instrumental Tutors (to whom fees are paid directly by parents) support our work. Since St. Helens MBC ceased its provision of centrally run orchestras, training bands, jazz groups and such like, the onus is on the Music Department here at Rainford to secure the services of the best Instrumental Tutors available.
A wide range of instruments are catered for…
- Oboe and Bassoon by our WOODWIND tutor,
- French Horn,
- Tenor Horn,
- Baritone and Bass by our BRASS tutor,
- Viola and Cello by our orchestral STRINGS tutor,
- and we also have oversubscription in terms of student numbers for our Piano/Electronic Keyboard, Drum and Vocal tutors.
- The Music Block is at full stretch now in terms of space and time, especially since we also offer Folk, Classical and Rock Guitar tuition.
A schedule of our Autumn Term enrichment and tuition provision can be download here…