The shortlist for the Music Education Council Music Education Awards 2016 was announced on 6th December 2016. It follows MEC’s announcement on 9 November of its first ever longlist for these awards.

Kathryn Deane, chair of the judging panel said: ‘Choosing just seven of our 13 longlisted submissions has been a wrench. Every one of those we had to let go has merit, and we look forward to receiving submissions from them in the future.

‘Our shortlist, therefore, contains the very best of entries. Great music making and learning we expect, but these entries also offered a sense of strategic purpose and a deep understanding of the modern role of music service agencies.’

The overall winner of the Music Education Council Music Education Awards 2016 will be presented at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence ceremony as part of Music Education Expo 2017.

The shortlisted submissions are:

Birmingham Music Education Partnership

This is a hub that understands its purpose. Its strategy group members each contribute specific expertise: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for professional performance; the vocal strategy of Ex Cathedra; the community music understanding of Quench Arts, to name just three. This group’s remit included identifying gaps in provision. So, Birmingham City University has carried out schools surveys to “provide soft intelligence and identification of need;” and a qualified music special educational needs coordinator undertook a needs analysis of all 26 special schools in the city. 

The results are easy to see (and hear). We particularly liked a singing strategy that covers Bollywood to Gospel; the string quartet peer mentoring project; work with the OHMI Trust providing instruments specially adapted for disabled players – and crucially, the ensemble in which these young people can play. Teachers, practitioners and senior leadership teams are supported through the hub’s own online, video based, professional development platform ReelMusic.

As Britain’s second city, much is rightly expected of Birmingham, especially in its responses to diversity. We look forward to even greater progress in future submissions.

Bristol Plays Music

Here’s a hub that takes its cues from the Stanford principles of collective impact and collaborative action: easy to say, but hard to pull off. We thought Bristol Plays Music were already well on the road to success, especially with its flagship inclusion strategy A new ambition for inclusive excellence, which has set itself the challenge of transforming music education for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities, and for looked after children.

This is a bold, cohesive, approach that is delivering impressive work across many areas including inspirational first access provision. A new El Sistema-inspired programme is credited by one school as helping it transform from “special measures to the good school it is today”. And we liked the continuation of the Beat Lab creative music technology programme. Backing this up is a detailed curriculum package for schools and a comprehensive CPD programme. And the hub is using Sound and Music’s Minute of listening pack to support the development of those crucial listening skills.

And the music just flows out; the highlight probably being BBC Radio 3's live broadcast featuring the South West Open Youth Orchestra, The ReVoice neurological choir, Bristol Youth Choir and British Paraorchestra.

East Ayrshire

We liked the music! There is lots of it, and it’s wide-ranging. Rightly making use of local resources, this authority – the only entry from Scotland to make the shortlist – has James MacMillan with Drake Music Scotland providing composition workshops and performances with children with mild to severe educational needs. And more: MacMillan working with five lucky pupils in an in-depth composition summer school, leading to fully-formed pieces later played by the Hebrides Ensemble. And more: songwriting workshops with Jo Mango and Davy Scott (of Pearlfishers/ BMX Bandits fame). Of course, much is not new – but we like the continuation of activities, too, such as  the intensive Kickstart project, which provides almost two terms’ tutoring in a single weekend. 

As last year, there were solid ways of identifying need and of bringing a variety of opinions together. Support for pupils in challenging circumstances was carefully thought-through: not just support for music making but support in other non-musical activities through music making. Consistency and sustainability (and of course music-making) are watchwords for this service.

Hampshire  Music Hub

We have to start with the hub’s twin mottos: “no decision about us without us;” “everyone can sing.” Powerful statements that are challenging to live up to – though certainly with concerts for 3,500 pupils, it seems that everyone in Hampshire is indeed singing. 

We especially liked the impressive use of the hub’s significant resources, to do more, better, sustainably. A huge range and number of quality partners leads to continuing work with Travellers, with looked after children, and with other disadvantaged groups. Elsewhere we picked out, from a swathe of activity, a composition competition. And we much liked a creative technology project: the hub bought iPads – 80 of them – and, in partnership with Sound and Music, set them to work with 120 students exploring approaches to composition through sound editing and structures.

Portsmouth Music Hub

An admirable application, in which every single element is strong, and most are tried and tested from previous years. Talented pupils are recognised in a dozen genres, from urban to opera by way of jazz and military.

There is a deep understanding of the needs of children and young people in challenging circumstances. Not only is provision wide ranging – free oboe lessons, rock groups working with hard to reach young people, bespoke instrumental learning for visually-impaired students – but the consequences are thought through: so the hub guarantees to find appropriate ensembles for all young people at all stages of instrumental learning.

We liked the award-winning songbooks. We liked the sheer quantity of music making: here, linked to the history curriculum; there, a beginners recorder festival. A community musical; a celebration of the hub’s rock bands. A ceilidh. A choral extravaganza. 

And underpinning all this, two things. First, the commitment and passion, coupled to a huge energy, of the hub lead. And second, the partners. A most carefully-chosen set of interests – including a folk organisation, a commercial strategy company, a Friends, and the university – with every partner present for a concrete, known purpose. 

SoundCity Brighton & Hove

With its breadth and strength of vision SoundCity is not just a music hub but an integral part of Brighton’s ambitions for wellbeing, employment and digital skilfulness – all being delivered through music. 

And the music activity is very strong, ranging across different sectors, producing diverse impacts in different settings. Thus, the singing strategy – led by Glyndebourne – focuses on boys, with opportunities including a rugby World Cup performance and new K3/4 boys vocal group, performing in some of the ten genres in which singing tuition is available – including spoken word and world music.

More inclusive ensembles are being launched. SoundCity’s Orchestra 360 is a creative music group for young people with special educational needs or disabilities. And, importantly, open also to their siblings and parents or carers. 

The underpinnings here include some very sound work in developing a strong youth voice; and a professional development strategy based on peer learning: bringing the wealth of skills and knowledge across the area’s music community to facilitate practice sharing.

SoundStorm Bournemouth and Poole Music Education Hub

Strategic and delivery partners total something like 60 or 70 (we kept losing count). This is necessary because the hub lead has a very small staff. And so this is another example of a hub lead that understands its purpose: to enable, enthuse, advocate, plan. We liked the evidence base for provision: a SWOT-type analysis carried out by schools; commissioned research projects; and the development of a dataset to address the “substantial disconnect between what heads of music in schools know about their students, and the plethora of activities in informal settings.”

We liked the creative spirit: this southern England hub makes links with the University of the Highlands and Islands. There was a competition to write a new football chant for Bournemouth's first year in the Premier League. A music industry programme for 13 to 18 year-olds. These aren’t just projects, they’re strategic projects.