Consistency and commitment are key to a flourishing community on the Limestone Coast.
Before The Song Room brought the Transformational Learning through Creativity (TLC) pilot program to the community of the Limestone Coast region of South Australian in 2020, rich arts learning experiences were few and far between for many students in the area.
“Arts cannot be treated as a ‘one-off’ activity such as a concert. It is something that finds its power in daily practise.”
– Scott Maxwell, TLC Teaching Artist Mentor.
The region is of high socio-economic disadvantage. Mount Gambier and Millicent were assessed as being in the top of 20% of socially disadvantaged communities in Australia. Students here come from low-socio economic backgrounds within a community that has an over representation of high levels of unemployment, poor physical and mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse and financial disadvantage. Absenteeism and student behavioural issues as a result of trauma are common.
The remoteness of the schools means they have low access to an array of opportunities. And like many regional schools, the area lacks music teachers.
To address these disadvantages The Song Room partnered with The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) and The Government of South Australia’s Department for Education to pilot TLC in five schools in and around the Limestone Coast region over a three-year period.
The vision was that primary school students in the area had access to high-quality music education that inspired learning and fostered personal development. The aim was to improve generalist primary school teachers’ capability, capacity and confidence to deliver the Arts curriculum. And to support school leaders to embrace the Arts as an essential part of school life. The plan was to build a thriving community through a long-term commitment to arts learning.
Teaching Artist Mentor, Scott Maxwell leads the TLC program in South Australia. Since it commenced in 2020, he has seen a significant shift in attitudes to both learning and the arts.
“The increased value of TLC over time has shifted attitudes, broken past trauma and allowed teachers to safely step out of their comfort zone.”
– Scott Maxwell.
Scott understands the importance of building trust across the school community in order to influence change. From day one, he was in constant consultation with everyone involved; holding formal and informal conversations with teachers and leaders, discussing directions and pathways, program impacts and developing communities of practice and opportunities to share the program with the broader community. Over two and a half years he has helped create a supportive community across the five schools. One where the schools interact, encourage and share ideas and learning.
The impact of TLC on the students was clear from the first year. Students actively participated in weekly classes and showed enthusiasm and optimism in their learning. Their attitude toward school attendance changed too. One student in particular saw it as his right to not attend school on his birthday. But in the first year of TLC, he chose to come so he didn’t miss the weekly music class. Across the classroom confidence grew and students’ knowledge improved.
“Students are highly engaged, more so than in other subjects, and it has been wonderful to see transference of music, collaboration and self-management skills from The Song Room classes to the regular classroom.”
– Classroom Teacher
The sustainability of arts learning in the Limestone Coast region is paramount to The Song Room, and building the skills and confidence of teachers to deliver the arts curriculum is a key element of TLC. Many generalist teachers who commenced the program lacking knowledge and full of nerves, are now committed to developing their music knowledge, skills and experiences. And they are sharing these with their colleagues. They have come to understand and value rich creative experiences cross the curriculum and across the learning environment.
Coming to the end of the three-year pilot, the benefits of arts learning are recognised by school leadership. The Arts are now seen as a source of connection and pride. In the final year of TLC in the Limestone Coast region, the program has engaged 531 students, 49 teachers and 5 school principals. But it is the countless students who will continue to be impacted by the teachers and schools who have taken part in TLC that will showcase its true success, by creating a flourishing community for us all.
In South Australia, The Song Room’s TLC pilot program is made possible by the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment with co-invest from South Australian Government’s Music Innovation Fund.
You can also read about the TLC program in the Hunter Valley region of NSW here.