The Department for Education has today [Friday 14 June] approved funding for the Shireland CBSO School – a new non-selective and non-fee paying specialist music school in Sandwell to be run by the Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust in partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).

The school will draw students of all backgrounds from across Sandwell – one of the most deprived local authority areas in England – providing equality of access to a rounded academic secondary education with a strong musical focus. It will open for Year 7 and Year 12 pupils in 2021, growing to a maximum capacity of 870 students aged 11-18 by 2025.

The school will be the first in Britain to be established in partnership with an orchestra and marks a radical new approach to music education, innovatively addressing the much-publicised decline in the position of the creative arts in many schools.

As the CBSO looks towards its centenary year in 2020, this landmark project reflects the orchestra’s deep and ongoing commitment to enriching young people’s lives with music and to developing the musicians of the future. Music will be central to the school’s ethos and woven throughout the curriculum. The school will look for students of all backgrounds who have a genuine musical interest and aptitude, and will present the chance to explore classical music alongside jazz, pop and world music.

Every child will be given the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, with tuition delivered in partnership with Sandwell Music Service, and to participate in choirs and ensembles as well as regularly attending CBSO concerts at Symphony Hall. The orchestra will also offer pre-concert presentations, ensemble performances, play-along sessions and creative workshops linked to curriculum themes. For aspiring young conductors there will be conducting workshops and masterclasses. There will be visits from international soloists and conductors performing with the CBSO who will provide inspirational talks, workshops, masterclasses. Students will also have the chance to learn about the administrative side of running an orchestra, with careers advice and presentations from CBSO staff.

Stephen Maddock OBE, Chief Executive of CBSO, says: “We are delighted and hugely excited to be able to move ahead with our plans for this new specialist music school, which will offer access to music education, regardless of background, in an area where such opportunities are so desperately needed. The CBSO has a long tradition of innovation in music education and community work – we were the first British symphony orchestra to present concerts for young people and the first to establish a specialist education department and to build a community facility – all of which have allowed us to make a real musical impact on young people and the wider community in the West Midlands. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 100th anniversary next year than by launching an inclusive and nurturing school which will help create the musicians of the future.”

Sir Mark Grundy, Chief Executive of Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust, adds: “As a Trust we are hugely proud to be asked to develop a new type of Free School and feel privileged to be creating a School with a curriculum focussed around Music in partnership with the CBSO. The Arts enrich our young peoples’ lives in so many ways and the opportunity to create a school which nurtures the musical ability of the students in our locality is an honour. The partnership that is emerging between our Trust, the CBSO and Sandwell Local Authority is unique.”

The announcement will be made by Education Secretary Damian Hinds on Friday 14 June 2019. The school will be funded by the Department for Education through the free school funding programme and will be run by Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust, a rapidly-growing Trust in the West Midlands led by the Shireland Collegiate Academy (rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted).

The CBSO has recently announced its 2019-20 Concert Season at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Led by its Music Director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the season launches the orchestra’s centenary celebrations by taking inspiration from its past and looking forward to the future of classical music with a series of special events, premieres and concerts. Forthcoming highlights include 40 centenary commissions, a focus on choral masterpieces, a ‘Youth Takeover’ with 12 youth ambassadors given the opportunity to curate a main evening concert, and a new book about the orchestra’s history by Richard Bratby.


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