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Creative college where Let's Eat Grandma studied says industry links are key to music education

Three of the four members of the band CREK, Kaylee Gale (drums), Chloe Smith (vocals) and Rosie Allison-Corio (guitar), are students at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Three of the four members of the band CREK, Kaylee Gale (drums), Chloe Smith (vocals) and Rosie Allison-Corio (guitar), are students at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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Senior leaders at a creative college which counts Ed Sheeran and indie duo Let's Eat Grandma among its alumni says strong links with industry are key to helping young people kickstart careers in music.

Dan Foden, delivery and performance manager at Access Creative College in Norwich. Picture: Ella WilkinsonDan Foden, delivery and performance manager at Access Creative College in Norwich. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Access Creative College in Norwich has 200 students on music courses - around two thirds of its student body.

These range from performance, production and events to the county's only music degree courses and an artist development course which brings students into contact with record labels, journalists, professional artists, designers, and promoters.

Its demographic is broad, encompassing young people from very disadvantaged backgrounds and with complex needs to high academic achievers who want an alternative to traditional A-levels.

Ian Johnson, the college's head of partnerships and artists development, helps to foster links between the college and industry to find experience and placements for students on vocational courses.

Scott Ribbons, a music student at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella WilkinsonScott Ribbons, a music student at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

He is supported by members of the music faculty, who themselves are former professionals and retain industry contacts.

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"We have to ensure the students get the academic rigour they need but also give them those creative opportunities," he said.

"If you are a young person in Norfolk you can feel disconnected from the music industry, they think it's something which happens in London, but they are not alienated from it. Making them realise that ambition is wholly possible is important."

The recording studio available to students at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella WilkinsonThe recording studio available to students at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

He added that the college's music curriculum had been expanded in response to reduced funding for music in schools.

Dan Foden, delivery and performance manager at Access and a former student, said: "The fight for some students is that their family don't want the to study music or don't see it as a viable career, but we have disproved that loads of times with our students.

"Sometimes they have not done well in school because they are not super academic, but there is something about the way we teach them that brings the best out of them. Some say they have not felt at home in education until they come here."

Despite a drop in students taking music courses in England's schools Mr Foden said applications for Access' music courses are on the increase.

Lewis Wood and Faith Evans are music students at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella WilkinsonLewis Wood and Faith Evans are music students at Access Creative College. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

"Obviously I think music should be in schools and I am really concerned about the fact that it is trailing off, but whether that will bring more people to us I don't know," he said.

The college is planning a significant renovation of the learning spaces and studios over the summer at its Magdalen Street home.

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