You may already have seen information on Dalcroze UK’s recent project at the Shireland CBSO Academy on Facebook or attended the first Zoom Café this term where we talked about our experience there. If not, here is a brief report on our first and very exciting big Dalcroze project into a very special state school.

Back in 2023 Christine Wardle (Development Manager) and Adam Hope (Trustee for Welfare) made contact with Shireland Academy while researching another school – Acland Burghley School in Camden, North London who had, back in 2020, partnered with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE). This partnership, “a first for any British orchestra”, gave the OAE the opportunity to “live, work and play amongst the students of the school” (

Three years later Shireland Academy, just outside Birmingham city centre, created a similar partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Their aim is to mark a “radical new approach to music education, innovatively addressing the much-publicised decline in the position of the creative arts in many schools”. (

During their visit, Christine and Adam managed to convince Dave Harris, the Head of Music that the children needed some Dalcroze experience and so a focus day for the only year in the new school at that point (150 Year 11 students) began to develop.

I started by organising two Zoom meetings with a group of experienced Dalcroze teachers to determine who would be interested and available to teach on the day and to start thinking about what we could do. On the recommendation of these teachers I visited the school and met Dave Harris in January to see the setting which allowed me to plan what the focus day might look like and how many teachers would be needed and to determine the content of the day. Unusually, the school – which was created from a former BT call centre – had many spaces suitable for movement; an auditorium, a large canteen (with grand piano!), 3 large music rooms, 2 drama/dance studios and a large open-spaced library. From this I proposed an outline for the day which would involve 4 rhythmics teachers and 2 movement teachers and that comprised a whole group session (yes, all 150 children together!) at the start of the day and a sharing session at the end. The students were made into 6 groups of 25 and had 2 rhythmics and 1 movement session on top of the opening and closing sessions.

Six Dalcroze teachers were then confirmed: Emma Dixon, Becca Spencer, Anita Memmott, Anita Strevens, Mary Price O’Connor and Helen Gould. These teachers paired up to discuss and create their own lessons. To these six, Helen suggested two dance artists, Liam Woodvine & Freya Davis to support the movement work. We also discussed how, in the first session, we could introduce them to Dalcroze. Helen created a short video called “‘What is Dalcroze?” which was shown in the auditorium then we moved into the canteen for a short physical and vocal warm up and a few Dalcroze activities to get them listening through music and generally prepare them for the day. Not surprisingly, this was the most challenging session despite huge support from Shireland staff. The room was very long so the students were spread out very widely and connecting with them verbally or through music was difficult. As well as working with a very large group of children who were excited to move and take part, we started to become aware of others with learning difficulties (autism, selective mutism, ADHD). Added to this, some staff, none of whom were familiar with Dalcroze, were overly keen to prevent the children from moving, as they saw, too much or too enthusiastically and were trying to ‘calm them down’ through this session. Nevertheless, we felt that they started to come together and listen and in the break, when I asked a group of children what they felt about it so far one said “That was the best of the best” and another said “That was awesome!”

The day was a huge success and below is my report to Dave Harris a week later after the teachers and I had had a chance to discuss the day and what we might have done differently. We learnt a lot. It has given us a good foundation for future (probably smaller!) workshops. We also received almost exclusively positive feedback from the Shireland staff.

I am indebted to the six Dalcroze teachers and the two dance artists for their incredible and professional work throughout that day. I observed them doing what they do best – adapting in the moment, responding to the students, changing tack when necessary, creating a great place for all students to have a go and being encouraging and supportive.