“I enjoyed everything, especially being able to perform in front of a big audience and not being scared”
“I have enjoyed learning how to exercise my voice and singing new songs”
A Musical Inclusion project, funded by the National Foundation for Youth Music
Strategy Partner: Rotherham Music Service
Delivery Partners: St Ann’s Junior and Infant School, Greasbrough Primary School, Rotherham United Football Club
The Soccer Sing project was conceived and designed for boys at risk of disengagement, and / or who had difficulties with literacy and numeracy. The project linked singing to a series of coached football sessions, designed to encourage and increase the boys’ overall engagement and participation, and culminated in a performance at the One Voice event at the New York Football Stadium in Rotherham.
Key Success Factors
- Supportive schools who committed staff time, resources and enthusiasm to the project and who participated in all the activities
- A high quality, male music leading team who showed skill, commitment and discipline as role models in their management of the project and the sessions
- Music activities carefully chosen to engage the participants
- Excellent football coaches provided through RUFC who participated fully in singing activities as well as leading the football
- Music Service staff who identified and recruited schools and linked the project to performance opportunities
- 30 boys attended consistently and enthusiastically – no participant dropped out
- All the boys participated whole-heartedly in all the singing activities, including learning football chants, positive songs (eg the R Kelly song ‘I’m the World’s Greatest’) and writing their own football song
- Boys from different cultures and different parts of town worked together effectively from the first session
- All the participants attended the ‘One Voice’ children’s festival event to perform in front of hundreds of other children and parents, on 8 July 2015
- 4 boys from Greasbrough Primary completed their Bronze Arts Award through the project
- The Roma boys from St Ann’s voluntarily performed their songs at a local community centre event in the week after the ‘One Voice’ performance
We recruited two music leaders to deliver the project: Sam Dunkley, a singing specialist with wide ranging experience of singing at all ages and in a variety of styles, and George Morton, with wide ranging experience in choral and orchestral conducting of professional and amateur ensembles, but less familiarity with community music approaches or working with children in challenging circumstances, so the project was a learning opportunity for him.
I just wanted to drop you a line to say thanks for everything with the Soccer Sing project. I really enjoyed the whole experience – Sam was really excellent and I feel like I’ve really learned a lot from him… I believe we worked extremely well together. It seemed like the boys, particularly those from St Ann’s, really benefited from the project and it was a joy to see them throw so much into singing and being part of the project. The teachers from both schools were also a joy to work with.
The Music Service were key in identifying and recruiting schools to the project. St Ann’s, to the north of Rotherham town centre, has a high turnover of pupils (pupils leaving and joining in each school year), many for whom English is an additional language and many qualifying for pupil premium. A considerable proportion of pupils are Roma, and/or from central European countries. Greasbrough is 2 miles from the centre, and at the time the project started, was on the cusp of leaving Ofsted special measures, with a greater than average number of pupils who need additional support.
Although not intentional, a large proportion of the St Ann’s participants were from the Roma community which has become established in Eastwood over the last few years. Some had limited English and they spoke a variety of home languages (including Czech and Slovak) but could understand each other.
Rotherham United Football Club has community and participation staff who work across the borough. Two of their youth coaches (Nathan and Alix) organised the football games and exercises, and joined in with the singing activities.
The project took place over ten sessions between April and June 2015, using the following basic format:
- Warm Up exercise (which towards the end of the project boys were leading)
- Learning repertoire; Gospel Medley – Swing Low, Oh when the Saints go Marching in, I want to Sing Sing Sing, and This Train is Bound for Glory, R Kelly ‘I’m the World’s Greatest’ , Hine Ma Tov
- Working together to create a football song
George and Sam kept the pace, humour and energy high, with quick changes from one activity to another, not dwelling on any one song, to keep momentum and attention.
A testament to how well the project went was provided by teachers at St. Ann’s School:
Thank you and all your staff for their effort and humour during our Soccer Sing Project, Sam and George were excellent throughout and the boys loved seeing them every week.
Our boys have really enjoyed it; they are proud of what they have achieved and are very sad that it is all over.
They have performed the songs many times in front of the whole school and smaller groups, without the need for any direction from me, they just get on with it, organising themselves and singing well every time. The confidence of the boys to stand up and do this has surprised us all and is an absolute pleasure to see and listen to. The difference between the sound we started with and what we have ended up with is profound.
The parents are keen to come along and watch them too, with only 2 of the boys not supported on the night of soccer sing, some brought the whole family.
This for us is a major plus and we hope to use it as a springboard for further parent-school contact.
The sessions were fun and the use of football as an inducement to sing was very successful. The part Rotherham United played was key to the success of the project and Nathan, Alix and the other RUFC staff were a real treat for the boys, and they were really excited to play every week. The way the RUFC staff pitched in with the singing too, was good for the boys to see.
We have to use as many different learning activities as possible at St Ann’s to inspire, motivate and engage our pupils, who do not always respond to traditional class work, some of the boys we brought along are an example of this, added to this fact is that English is a second language to most of our boys, with the hurdles they have to jump just to keep up, it is amazing that they can produce the kind of quality work they have this week.
The boys have become role models in their peer groups with many others wanting to take part next time, if it can happen.
As a final note, just to illustrate the effect that the project has had, the boys are going along to the community sing tonight after school with their families or on their own, without school staff to support them to sing again in front of a musical audience.
This is priceless for us as a school.
Thank you for you help, support and encouragement throughout the project.
Paul and I loved getting involved with Soccer Sing and will miss being there this Thursday afternoon
Please consider us for any further projects.
Dave Allen and Paul Daughtry, St Ann’s School