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Ofsted's focus on music is good news for children in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 14:41 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:42 20 September 2019

The Sistema Orchestra performing at the Assembly House in Norwich  Photo: Sistema

The Sistema Orchestra performing at the Assembly House in Norwich Photo: Sistema

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A move from schools inspectorate Ofsted to value music could mean even more children get the chance to learn an instrument and play in an orchestra.

Ofsted's new move to value music could mean that more local children get the chance to learn an instrument. Picture: Getty ImagesOfsted's new move to value music could mean that more local children get the chance to learn an instrument. Picture: Getty Images

The change in Ofsted's focus to emphasise music, the arts and languages as much as English and maths is good news for a project which has already helped thousands of children in Norfolk.

NORCA and Sistema in Norwich has been transforming the lives of children and young people in the least well off areas with music - and this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. Launched at Catton Grove and Larkman Primaries in 2009 by Julian Lloyd Webber, each year it has helped up to 1,000 pupils aged between seven and 18 learn to play a musical instrument and be part of an orchestra.

Marcus Patterson, Executive Director of NORCA and Sistema in Norwich has welcomed the news from Ofsted: "With people like Nick Gibb, Minister for Schools, stating that 'the government is committed to ensuring that high-quality music education is not the preserve of a social elite, but is the entitlement of every single child', we are certainly hoping that is a turning of the tide and mean that more schools will look to organisations like NORCA and Sistema in Norwich, and programmes like Sistema to support their learning, whether by starting an orchestra at their school, running an opera project, having us deliver their music curriculum and so on."

Sistema is based on the belief that learning music and performing helps young people realise their potential and succeed across all areas of their lives.

"Over the past decade we have seen what difference this has made to the lives of participants and their families. It transforms individuals and the spaces they share, leading to positive personal, social, economic and health impacts," says Marcus.

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He's hoping the shift in Ofsted's focus will mean more Norfolk children have the opportunity of a good music education.

"There is still, obviously, massive concern about the decline in music education, not least the impact of the EBacc at secondary age, which is seen to be squeezing out arts subjects. We do need to act in order to reverse the decline and find ways to support schools to offer a sustained music education for all, but this, surely, has to be a step in the right direction and we really hope that it will send more schools to our door, as we'd love to see Sistema orchestras throughout Norfolk," he says.

Sistema provides instruments and tuition so children and young people can learn to play and perform in an orchestra:  Photo SistemaSistema provides instruments and tuition so children and young people can learn to play and perform in an orchestra: Photo Sistema

Sistema Musical Director and violinist Juan Gabriel Roja is a product of the similar project in Venezuela, El Sistema, and came to Norwich two years ago to take up the role. He brings professional musicians from other countries to play with the Sistema orchestra and is convinced Sistema transforms lives.

"As well as learning musical skills, dexterity and teamwork it also contributes to their general wellbeing and broadens their horizons," he says.

Sistema provides instruments and tuition for children to learn in groups and be part of an orchestra right from the start.

It focuses on areas where the needs of children, families and the community are greater than elsewhere, and currently covers six areas of Norwich Currently there are around 300 children taking part in orchestras at Primary level and another 40 in the Teen Sistema. It works with a further 1,000 pupils annually through the in-school curriculum provision and there are plans to expand. Visit www.norcasistema.org.uk to find out more.

Parent Barry Quantrill praised Sistema for being instrumental in his daughter Elena's development. Now 18 years old, she has been involved since she was at Larkman Primary (now Norwich Primary Academy) and plays the viola. Barry says: "Sistema has made Elena more confident, given her something to focus on and given opportunities and experiences she would not have had otherwise."

Join the celebration of the tenth anniversary of Sistema in Norwich with a special concert at UEA LCR, Earlham Road, Norwich, on October 11, 7.30pm. Carnavalia will be a Latin themed evening with The Colegate Nucleo Orchestra, made up of young people from the Sistema programme plus special guests. Tickets £5, £4 and £3 (£1 for under 16s) from 01603 508050, www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk.

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