Why did you/what prompted you to become involved with Changing Tracks? 

Hertfordshire Music Service has been developing musical inclusion projects since 2003, and from 2015-18 led the development of MusicNet-East, in partnership with Essex and Cambridgeshire Music Education Hubs. 

We were delighted to be funded by Youth Music to take this work forward on a national basis from 2018-2022. 

Within Hertfordshire, targeted musical inclusion work has been led by a specialist inclusion team, often in partnership with local authority teams. This has pioneered some valuable and innovative work. Changing Tracks offers us the opportunity to embed musical inclusion practice more widely throughout the music service. 

Please summarise the ways in which/areas in which you’re improving equality, diversity and inclusion in your organisation: 

We began by using the Youth Music EDI planning tools to assess our current position, and to challenge ourselves to develop an ambitious EDI action plan. 

We believe that focusing on practical and SMART actions arising from an honest organisational assessment is how change will really happen – setting realistic targets and plans for inclusion in business and workforce development, recruitment, culture and leadership, pedagogy and practice for music tutors, and progression routes.

Hertfordshire Music Service incorporated its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion plan formally within its business plan in 2020. It was important for us to see EDI as not just a segment of the music service, but something that the whole music service understands, is on board with and are making steps to becoming more inclusive, whether that’s the county orchestra or our Songwriter programme. Being a part of Changing Tracks adds a level of accountability, motivation and level of value to these goals.  

What difference has your involvement with Changing Tracks made to the work of your music service so far? AND/OR what difference do you hope it will make?  

Part of the key learning arising from MusicNet East was the value of empowering music tutors to develop their practice through action research and reflective practice. We began by setting up a critical reflection group where tutors are comfortable to bring their lived experience and discuss challenges in their practice. We’ve found this helped them adapt their teaching to better include children in challenging circumstances. To share this more widely within the services, some of this approach has begun informing other elements of HMS CPD and performance management systems. 

Partly as a response to Black Lives Matter, HMS set up an ED&I Working Group – challenging practice at HMS and championing equality, diversity and inclusion in all we do. Taking forward the HMS E,D and I plan as a live and public document and looking at how inclusive and accessible we are in our brand, brochures, music tutor job descriptions, how inclusion informs lesson planning and observations and more.  

Some elements of effective practice arising from previous inclusion projects-such as talking with SENCos – have now been incorporated within our training and guidance for tutors. Our revised report process now encourages all tutors to capture personal and social outcomes and develop dialogic pedagogy, two key elements of musical inclusion practice. 

Please describe your action research project in summary. What is your research question or what do you hope to find out?  

In the first two years of Changing Tracks, Hertfordshire developed a creative musical nurture group run by one of our First Access tutors, Risenga Makondo. We’d found from work in PRUs that pupils often become excluded from schools as a result of early difficulties arising from loss related to multiple intersectional disadvantages. Nurture groups offered a way to link HMS into local authority teams working to prevent exclusion, and to embed inclusive practice and critical reflection within the work of mainstream tutors. A pilot model ran in primary schools in Stevenage, and our research question focused on ‘How can learning instrumental music best prevent the school exclusion of vulnerable young people?’  From 2020, we’ve begun rolling out this model across the whole county, and our research question explores what are the challenges, benefits and enablers of this process.