21st Feb 2018

Change-makers with a mission

Sing Up's CEO, Michelle James, reviews what we learned in our tenth birthday year, the important work to be done in music education, and why Sing Up Day 2018 is the most important one yet

Sing Up
Change-makers with a mission

Last year marked Sing Up’s 10th birthday, which we approached as a milestone. It was a time for reflection, thinking about who we are, why we do what we do, what motivates us individually and as a team.

As an organisation we're fundamentally about making change happen. It is an integral part of our culture and our way of looking at the world. It’s why the 2018 Sing Up Day song is titled Be the change. We are change-makers with a mission.

We took our milestone birthday as an opportunity to review the landscape we operate within, the distance travelled and extent of change that’s taken place since 2007. We also saw it as a chance to share and discuss with others in the sector what a national singing programme might look like now, to see how we might be able to collaborate with others to understand the current landscape and plan a way forward.

What did the research tell us?

There is still a varied picture at local level – with many considering this to be primarily because of teacher skill, funding and/or time constraints plus the curriculum focus within schools.

There appears to be more singing happening in schools now than there was 10 years ago, but there continues to be a lack of understanding of, and opportunities for, vocal and musical progression.

Some of the same concerns around singing which were highlighted in 2007 continue to be identified. These include: 

  • Confidence of teachers
  • Boys and changing voice
  • Engagement of secondary schools with singing
  • Funding restrictions

Where understanding remains among the teachers with musical training, singing continues, but there is ongoing work that needs to be done to ensure educationalists – from government to classroom assistants – understand why singing can be a valuable tool in and beyond the classroom.

Health and wellbeing have become key words linked with the development of children and therefore the significant bank of evidence which highlights the wider benefits of singing should be championed. As the health and wellbeing benefits of singing are increasingly recognised, there is consequentially a need for a new type of singing leader. Leading singing with the primary aim of improving health and wellbeing demands a different skill-set to the one commonly held by the traditional choir leader or singing teacher.

The educational and social landscape for children and young people has changed significantly since 2007 – with those consulted stating that children are under more pressure at school and in their personal lives, particularly in relation to social media and self-image.

In the past ten years, the government's focus has shifted with Progress8/EBacc requiring secondary schools to put an emphasis on certain subjects and this is beginning to filter down to impact upper KS2 at primary. Music as a subject is suffering as a result. The positive benefits gained from singing together are being lost on current 11-16 year olds. But they don't have to be.

Time to make a change

Looking back at the changes of the past 10 years, the importance of continuing to make transformative change happen has become even more apparent. By working with more teachers and young people we believe that it’s possible to make a positive change through singing. We wanted this message to come through in our annual celebration of singing – Sing Up Day, 14 March 2018.

This year’s specially commissioned Sing Up Day song Be the change, by Emily Barden, perfectly captures the importance of each of us taking responsibility to be the positive change that we want to see in the world. Singing together is empowering and creates a profoundly positive experience that we want everyone to benefit from. That’s why we'd love to see more schools from around the world than ever before getting involved. Collaboratively, we can plan for a future where barriers are removed and the overall picture will improve; if we all keep singing.

How you can help us make a change

To learn more about Sing Up Day and find out how to get involved (it's free!), click here. If you'd like to read more about how we celebrated our 10th birthday, take a look here. Explore the benefits of singing here.