Aurora Orchestra opens a Magical Toy Box of musical resources for schools

14th July 2022

Aurora Orchestra and the Magical Toy Box

Aurora today announces the launch of its new music programme for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and SEND settings.

Building on over a decade of developing high-quality cross-art form performances for young children, Aurora Orchestra Learning provides teachers with the resources and support they need to deliver inspiring music education in the classroom. The initial launch offer – Aurora and the Magical Toy Box – comprises a unit of 10 weeks’ worth of teaching for Nursery, Reception, Y1, Y2 and SEND settings; Aurora has committed to enriching the platform with new content on an annual basis, working towards year-round provision by summer 2024.

Launched just weeks after the publication of the new national plan for music education, the programme supports schools in meeting their responsibility to deliver quality music education as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. Co-created with specialist teachers and curricular experts, Aurora Orchestra Learning provides opportunities for young people to build skills across all areas of the music curriculum, meet orchestral instruments, sing and create music, incorporate music into other areas of their learning at school, play classroom instruments themselves, and prepare a performance.

A flexible and practical programme delivered through a digital platform, it features content produced by Aurora’s creative team and players in collaboration with film-makers, designers, animateurs and award-winning children’s poet Kate Wakeling. Mapped against the national curriculum and the Model Music Curriculum, it has been designed from inception to be maximally inclusive, with resources appropriate for use in a wide variety of SEND settings.

Aurora Orchestra Learning is designed to support teachers with widely varying levels of experience, from expert practitioners to those with no background in music. The unique online platform provides built-in routes for non-specialists to build confidence and skills in teaching music, with options to use films to present activities, or to lead themselves accompanied by audio tracks. The platform is supported by a programme of teacher training aimed at providing support and creative ideas for leading music in the classroom, as well as establishing a network for practitioners to share their experiences, insights and suggestions.

Jane Mitchell, Creative Director of Aurora, said: “After three years of development and piloting we are so thrilled to be able to share Aurora Orchestra Learning with the world. We believe passionately that every child in the UK should have the opportunity to experience and participate in music as a central part of their school experience. Teachers around the country work tirelessly to deliver this, but in so many cases they are chronically under-supported in terms of resources, training and networks. Over the years we’ve seen the impact which Aurora’s approach to music has had on young people in the concert hall and in hundreds of workshop settings. In developing Aurora Orchestra Learning we wanted to share this approach with teachers across the country, empowering them to use Aurora’s creative resources in their own classrooms and to build their own skills and confidence.”

A year of piloting in 60 schools has demonstrated the impact of the programme: >90% of teachers agreed that their pupils had developed music skills, and >85% that they were more confident teaching music.

Aurora Orchestra Learning is available at an accessible price (£180–£270 p.a. depending on size of setting), with discounts available for groups of schools. The programme is being launched nationally with the support of the Southbank Centre, coinciding with Aurora’s appointment as a Resident Orchestra from the 2022/23 season.

John Harte, Chief Executive at Aurora, said: “Countless studies have shown that music can play a key role in young children’s educational, social and personal development – assisting in perceptual, language and literacy skills, numeracy, intellectual development, creativity and wellbeing. In short, giving children the opportunity to engage with music should be as essential as learning the alphabet. Yet schools are faced with endless barriers to offering high-quality music education, from squeezed budgets and timetables favouring other subjects, to geographical limitations making cultural trips or visits from musicians unviable. The pandemic has only served to exacerbate the ‘postcode lottery’ which typically favours children from more affluent backgrounds: a recent ISM study shows that 68% of primary schools reduced their music provision because of the pandemic, and only 31% of primary schools had Covid recovery curricula in place which specifically included music.

“Since restrictions have been lifted, teachers across the country have been looking for ways to make up for lost time, but research indicates that as few as 8% of primary teaching staff believe they have the knowledge, skills and confidence to integrate music into their classroom teaching. There has never been a greater need for the high-quality, accessible and affordable music education resources which Aurora Orchestra Learning provides.”

Aurora Orchestra Learning has been supported by several organisations and individuals, from grants in support of artistic and technical costs to in-kind support. Aurora is particularly grateful to the following key supporters:

• Garfield Weston Foundation – Weston Culture Fund
• Signatur – The Karlsson-Játiva Charitable Foundation
• Arts Council England
• Southbank Centre
• Kings Place Music Foundation
• The Aurora Patrons and Friends