Harmonise: an incredible impact in new schools

Towards the end of the 2016/17 school year, our Harmonise project reached eight schools across London and Greater Manchester over three weeks.  

Harmonise aims to develop pupils’ understanding of the different cultures in their school, and to support the engagement of recently arrived refugee pupils.

Marlborough Road Primary, Salford, and St. Thomas’ Oldham were real standouts from the three weeks. Our music facilitator Faz compiled a brief report of his incredible three weeks at these two schools.

We were placed with classes that had more than 20 different nationalities and cultures present. The Head Teachers and staff at both schools were so supportive and understood the importance of having a project such as ours in schools with such diversity.

Particularly in Oldham, a number of incidents in the surrounding community driven by racial tensions was affecting relations between pupils at St Thomas’. This was manifested in abuse, bullying, victimisation, social exclusion and the seeds of racism. This made the need for Harmonise very clear.

With such dense diversity across both schools we focused on supporting classes to create music in as many different languages as we could. We facilitated sessions on unity and world culture, and used the stories of our inspirational refugee music facilitators as the initial creative ‘anchor’. 

Two things stuck in my mind that really displayed the magic of this project.

Towards the end of our time at St. Thomas’, the Deputy Head came to tell us about a student in year six who had been bullying a student of Roma background.

Following the Harmonise project, and the positive experience of exploring different cultures and the mixed group creativity, the said student approached the Roma student, apologised for her behaviour, and asked to learn more about him and his family.

I was so pleased to see first hand the positive effect the project could have on pupils’ attitudes. I can’t wait to go back to St. Thomas’ next year! 

At Marlborough Road, another pupil, who was a Congolese refugee, found it very difficult to articulate his thoughts and feelings. School, in general, was a very draining environment for him.

The project provided him with an entirely different way to engage at school, by making his mother tongue an asset in the classroom, as opposed to a hindrance. 

He very quickly became an active member of the group, first through musical games, and then by contributing creative ideas for the performance. He went on to perform solo in the final performance, which was truly above and beyond the expectations among his teachers.

If you would like to enroll your school in the Harmonise project, please email nick@musicaction.org