The broadening of music education is a theme of growing importance. Embracing all styles of music engages a greater number of children in making and appreciating music, and it encourages more wide-ranging exploration across traditional boundaries.
Rocksteady plays a big part in this, and Alice had a chat with Scott Monks to find out more.
Tell us about Rocksteady and its success. How many children are you educating each week in schools, and how many teachers do you employ?
In business as usual, Rocksteady teaches tens of thousands of children each week and delivers free music experiences to hundreds of thousands of children each year. We have a staff of over 200, and the vast majority of those are professional musicians employed on a full-time, permanent basis with full employment rights.
Rocksteady was named as one of the fastest growing companies in Europe in the Financial Times FT1000 2020 and in that we were 10th in Europe for Education.
Our mission is all about empowering young people through music and our real success is in ensuring that children have a positive first experience of learning to play an instrument.
Throughout the Spring and Summer terms, Rocksteady Music School is inviting all Primary schools to tune in to Feel Good Friday – free live streamed, interactive music lessons for KS1 and KS2 pupils. Tell us more about this initiative?
Wellbeing has always been at the heart of what we do, and it was more important than ever to be there for children when they need music the most.
In fact, in a survey of over 1000 Rocksteady parents whose children returned in September:
- 96% said Rocksteady improved their child’s wellbeing
- 90% said Rocksteady lessons in particular helped their child adjust back to normal school life
- 86% said it was important that Rocksteady lessons were available at school when their child returned to school
This is backed up by feedback from schools. In a survey of over 100 head teachers whose schools had returned to Rocksteady lessons in September:
- 96% said Rocksteady improved their pupil’s confidence
- 81% said Rocksteady improved their pupil’s wellbeing
Despite this, some schools were not able to return yet because of the need for social distancing, extra staff rooms and Covid isolation rooms. These schools were at risk of missing out, so we had to get creative to ensure those children didn’t miss out. So, we launched a completely free initiative for our schools to enable children to continue to have music as part of their school week.
- Our 30-minute lessons are highly interactive and are taught by professional musicians, lessons cover curriculum topics such as pulse, texture, instrumentation and much more.
- The live streams focus on popular chart songs, and require no preparation time for teachers or any instruments for the children to join in. More than one class per school can watch at once, either live or on catch up at a time to suit their timetable.
- During Lockdown teachers could also stream the lessons to their pupils who were working remotely as well as using them in school, with their key worker children. We receive amazing feedback from schools every week and it’s great to know we are making such a difference to teachers and pupils alike.
- Hundreds of our schools used the resource and it was having such a great effect that we decided to make it available to all UK Primary Schools this year.
Some quotes from teachers which explain how valuable it is to them:
“I am a Year 3/4 teacher at Seagrave Village Primary school in Loughborough and your lessons have helped massively with providing a music element to our home learning.” Olivia, Teacher, Seagrave Infants
“I think the explanations of music notation and dynamics are clear and easily accessible to the children and I particularly like the use of Makaton signs to aid the learning of the songs (I am BSL qualified, so it’s great to see signing!).” Teacher, Corton Primary
“We have been following along with your Feel Good Fridays and they are absolutely amazing. For a teacher who is remote learning with 2 young children at home it is a god send. Loving the Makaton signing too as my son is non-verbal!” Teacher, Cookham Rise Primary School
“We joined for the first-time last week. The HLTA, who usually teaches Music on a Friday, was inspired and amazed at the vast range of musical skills and vocabulary covered in one 30minute session!” Teacher, St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Primary
“I think the sessions are high quality and jam packed with so many of the music objectives we need to cover. The children have so much fun, that I don’t think they realise just how much they are learning.” Teacher, Netherbrook Primary School
“Our school have been loving your sessions and have been doing them every week since September so thank you so much. The sessions have brought such happiness and joy to the children and are really inclusive’ It’s definitely such a highlight that we all look forward to at the end of the week”. Music Lead, Newland St John Primary Academy
“Thank you Rocksteady Music School for injecting some much needed energy into a tired Friday afternoon. Tommy’s enthusiasm was infectious and my Reception class absolutely loved joining in with his fun online music lesson in class and at home. Keep up the great work and see you next week.” Teacher St Marys Catholic Primary School
Music offers escapism, resilience and inclusion which are all crucial as schools reopen post COVID. What examples have you got of changing young people’s lives through music?
We have countless stories of how Rocksteady has changed Primary school life for children.
We had a child who was selective mute who spoke for the first time in school during her very first Rocksteady lesson and went on to sing in front of the whole school. This of course helped her to get more out of academic lessons too and transformed her school life.
We had another child who had ADHD which had the effect of making it difficult for him to navigate school life. It was easier for him to develop learning behaviours during their Rocksteady lessons because they felt positive and safe and that in itself led to breakthroughs in the classroom.
Another child had severe SEND challenges and they said themselves that Rocksteady was the one point in the week where they felt equal to the other children. This gave them a massive confidence boost and helped them get much more out of their school life.
Confidence and wellbeing have always been huge themes that our schools and parents refer to when talking about the benefits of Rocksteady lessons in their Primary School.
Why do you think your schools are engaging with your service, as opposed to more traditional music education forms?
We typically don’t see schools making an ‘either or’ choice. In most cases Rocksteady is very complementary to other forms of Music education and in fact in most cases we find that having a strong music education offering increases take up across all forms of music education.
One of the things Rocksteady does extremely well is give children a very positive first experience of learning an instrument and does so in an incredibly inclusive way.
Schools also appreciate the much wider benefits that come from their Rocksteady lessons. Our methodologies are built around high quality teaching and a holistic child-led approach. In practice this means that Rocksteady children often see a huge improvement in confidence and wellbeing and that in turn really helps them to get more out of their whole school experience
We understand the challenges that schools, children and parents have to deal with in everyday life and that is so important.
How have your schools, students and teachers been affected by the COVID pandemic and what has impressed you about their response?
I have been so impressed by staff, schools, parents and children during the pandemic – it’s been really tough.
I was particularly impressed at how everyone looked out for each other during the lockdowns and supported each other emotionally.
When we returned in September schools and our staff were worried about the children most affected by lockdown. These children in many cases were children who were already disadvantaged. We decided to offer schools free places for these children and within a couple of months schools had put more than 2,500 children on the programme. It was heart-warming to see how many schools took this opportunity to support their children who were most in need.
Schools have also continued to demonstrate how much they value music, in our Head Teachers survey:
- 100% said Rocksteady lessons had a significant positive impact their pupils
- 80% said Rocksteady’s back to school arrangements were excellent – 20% said Very Good.
Progression and retention are critical parts of successful music education provision. How does Rocksteady know it’s delivering a quality music education experience?
Rocksteady was built on a commitment to quality and that is why all our staff are employed on a full-time permanent basis. Staff go through a rigorous recruitment, training and development process before they are ready to teach ‘The Rocksteady Way’ which covers 300 skills including instrument skills, musicianship and band skills.
When teachers join they are added to our in-house Rocksteady Academy as well as having very regular visits and feedback sessions from their managers. We also track CSAT scores and other quantitative metrics to ensure quality and consistency across the UK.
However, our biggest indicator of success is the stories we hear from parents and schools about how Rocksteady lessons have improved their children’s school life.
We also have lots of examples of how children have been inspired into music via Rocksteady and continued their technical progression to the highest levels, like Seth Grey, a 17 year old ex-Rocksteady student, who was the only UK finalist in the world renowned Young Guitarist of the Year 2020 competition.
You can find out more about Seth here: Seth Grey – Rocksteady helped inspire his love of music at a young age www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1028927690916517
Many in Music Education might be concerned about the “privatisation” of Music Education – how can other Music Industry retailers and suppliers support and augment the delivery of Music Education in schools?
I think this question is really about change and this is difficult for any industry.
Having worked in the music and television industries for the first 20 years of my career, I saw how disruptive the move from physical records and CDs to downloads and streaming was, and how conflicted the radio and TV industries were when they had the opportunity to move from analogue to digital. These changes were driven by both technology and the customer, and for the most part resulted in a better experience and more options for consumers. However you generate your revenues, ultimately the worst thing you can do is live in fear of change and blame your customers for not buying your products anymore.
My best advice would be to understand what it means to be a school, teacher, or student right now and what their challenges, expectations and alternatives are. Be open minded about what you have to change to best suit their needs and to ensure that innovation is an integrated part of your long-term business model.
Find out more about Rocksteady by visiting https://rocksteadymusicschool.com