I’ve spent a lot of time recently moaning about how our government seems to see that the majority of our society’s problems can be solved by setting teachers more targets and by pointing out perceived weaknesses. Don’t get me wrong, I know how powerful education is and how it can change lives, I just don’t think that beating teachers with a stick is the way to go. So I was pleasantly surprised to read in the Independent yesterday about a new project that actually seems to be using education to tackle deprivation.

The project is called In Harmony, and is chaired by Julian Lloyd Webber. The plan is to give children as young as four in an opportunity to be taught to play an instrument by inspiring teachers, to be part of an orchestra and to perform in concerts. The project will be aimed at the country’s most deprived areas as a pilot and, hopefully, be spread across the country in the future. It will run in partnership with organisations such as the London Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican.

It is so great to, at last, read of a government initiative that thinks outside the whole five grade A-Cs box and that looks at raising aspirations, self-esteem and awareness of a whole world outside some children’s limited experiences. As the schools’ minister, Andrew Adonis said;

‘Music can be a powerful agent of social change. It teaches discipline and rigour, it raises hopes and aspirations, it is a source of pleasure and enjoyment and it also gives young people skills that will stay with them for life…The programme is as much about building vital life skills as about developing musical talent. The sense of achievement – from the hard work of rehearsals to the successful performances in front of international audiences – is an important ingredient…’

The programme is based on the Venezuelan programme, El Sistema, which has been lifting children out of poverty for 30 years now. It was the brainchild of musician and economist, Jose Abreu and has sparked similar projects in Germany and Scotland (Sistema Scotland, founded by Richard Holloway in 2006).

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