From this week, over 1,700 primary school pupils in Leeds will be benefiting from regular high-quality music tuition from Opera North, as Richmond Hill Academy becomes the city’s fourth In Harmony Opera North school.
Richmond Hill joins Windmill Primary School in Belle Isle, Low Road Primary School in Hunslet and New Bewerley Community School in Beeston in the pioneering programme, which is co-funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Education.
The long-term residency sees Opera North’s Education team delivering three regular structured music sessions within curriculum time for every child. From Nursery upwards, each pupil joins a school choir and enjoys weekly musicianship classes. All children in Year 3 and above receive a weekly instrumental lesson and play in an orchestra, before choosing at the end of Year 4 which of the string, wind or brass instruments they would like to continue to learn. There are also regular opportunities for the young people to perform in Leeds and further afield, as well as the chance to learn from, and perform with, the musicians of the orchestra.
Using music in this way has been shown to enrich the lives of both pupils and staff, as well as those of the wider community, raising aspirations and confidence as well as aiding the development of creative problem-solving and communication skills. An uplift in attainment and behaviour has been seen at every participating school, including a marked improvement in the pupils’ SATS results.
Anna Mackenzie, Principal, Richmond Hill Academy, said:
“What particularly attracted me about the project was the fact that every single child – and every member of staff – gets to sing and to play an instrument making it a truly inclusive experience for everyone.”
To ensure that children’s musical talents continue to be nurtured over the secondary school years, In Harmony Opera North will also be working with The Ruth Gorse Academy from later in the month. Through a variety of after-school activities, the project has been designed to help pupils who have taken part in the programme at primary school as they transition to secondary education, while also enabling them to carry on playing their chosen instrument at a higher level.