A central pillar, and the area that benefits from the generous support of the Hodge Foundation, is the Learn & Teach strand which focuses on increasing the diversity of young people that WNO engages with through the delivery of a substantial schools programme. The activity is primarily focused within schools from Communities First Cluster areas, places identified by Welsh Government as the most deprived in Wales, and areas identified through the Multiple Deprivation Index, with the aim of ensuring better facilities and increased opportunities for the more vulnerable members of these communities. The focus of this initiative in these areas includes improving life chances by supporting young people to do well at school and to help them to achieve their potential.
The delivery of a series of pilot projects and the establishment of a number of successful partnerships, presents an opportunity to now reflect on what the Hodge Foundation has enabled WNO to achieve during the first 18 months of support:
The Digital Teach project model was introduced in the autumn 2015 season and due to its effectiveness is now a regular part of the WNO Youth & Community programme. It is a combined digital animation and composition project delivered in primary schools with pupils in Key Stage 2 (years 5 and 6) and has been a highly successful model as it facilitates the development of composition skills, performance skills and writing skills alongside digital literacy, addressing a range of curriculum priorities.
“The children enjoyed and learnt a lot during all aspects of this project: the work of Welsh National Opera, singing and composing music, Welsh history and culture, researching WWII and some discovered ancestors involved in the war. They also worked with professional animators, allowing them to acquire new skills and work together using their own artwork and digital animation. This has been an exciting opportunity for our pupils to take part in; they learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.” Louise Maliphant, Brynmill Primary Head Teacher
Building on the success of Digital Teach delivered in South Wales during WNO’s 2015/16 season, the relationships formed with 6 of the schools have developed into ongoing partnerships with WNO, enabling the Company to increase the breadth of provision offered to young people, so that music becomes a regular and integrated part of their life and learning at school.
“We are so thrilled with the way in which the partnership is working and it is such a pleasure to see the enjoyment and enthusiasm of all the pupils. The facilitators have formed excellent relationships with our Year 5 & 6 pupils and it is wonderful to observe the progress that the children are making with them and the positive impact that this is having on their development” Jane Marchesi, Head Teacher, St Mellons Primary School
During the first year of the schools programme, WNO delivered a series of taster sessions in 3 South Wales based special schools. Taster sessions are essential for slowly introducing young people to engaging with music and singing and in this instance enabled our creative team to determine the best way of working with groups with varied and complex needs. The staff at each of the schools were highly supportive and worked collaboratively with WNO to determine how best to progress the programme of work.
WNO provides a number of schools in South Wales with the opportunity to attend dress rehearsals of WNO operas at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff and so far during our 2016/2017 season over 650 pupils have attended dress rehearsals of Kiss Me, Kate and La Boheme. The selected productions incorporate a range of themes, supporting a range of curriculum priorities. WNO arranges transport to the dress rehearsals in order to ensure that the opportunity to attend is accessible to all school children irrespective of background. The children additionally receive a talk on the production prior to the performance.
Thank you to the trustees of the Hodge Foundation for making such a significant and visionary award to WNO over five years. As you will see from the developments already made it will make a huge difference to our ability to deliver a consistent and meaningful programme of education work in Wales. Investment such as yours provides us with confidence and the stability required to develop a new approach to working which consequently has an impact on the large number of beneficiaries we reach.