The Bernice McCabe Award 2020 was awarded to the Music Department at Mounts Bay Academy, Penzance. Mounts Bay’s composition results had always been much lower than performance. The department wanted to provide an authentic audience for student compositions and introduce healthy competition between pupils to improve the quality of songs they composed. They did this by creating a school record label.

This inclusive, outward-looking department have combined musicianship and participation in an experience that benefits young people, the school and the community of Penzance. They are a fine example of how teachers’ deep-rooted love of subject can affect a whole community.

The Music Department at Mounts Bay Academy consistently radiate the values of the PTI through their activities. This is how:

Develop a challenging, innovative and enriching curriculum

Students follow a skills based curriculum, perform their compositions to audiences and record them through the school record label. They are taught industry standard software and hardware from Year 7. This allows those with no previous musical experience to compose freely and creatively without the constraints of music theory. 

Enthuse pupils through subject-based activities beyond the curriculum

There are a wide variety of activities on offer, including Taiko drumming, choirs, big band and the tech team. Performances take place at music festivals, on radio stations and in venues across Europe. The school’s next record label tour is hugely over-subscribed and the label has become an integral part of school life: art students design album artwork, business students work out potential profits and dance students perform to the tracks. Mounts Bay is a Musical Futures Tech Champion school and has been invited to attend workshops and perform at Spirit Recording Studios. Workshop themes have included ‘live sound’ and ‘careers within the music industry’. The school’s next performance is at The Oval in London.

Enrich the subject knowledge and impact of all teachers within the department

The faculty leader is part of the Cornwall Music Education Hub advisory team and she is using this to build further aspirational links. A new teacher joined the department who was supported and trained in teaching Music Technology at Key Stage 3 and Level 2 and has helped to create a new five year plan for Music. He attends local Music Hub meetings and runs his own extra-curricular activities. 

Encourage links within and beyond school, including universities and professional bodies

Mounts Bay works closely with DbS Music Plymouth, Falmouth University and Carn to Cove – a charity which gives students access to workshops with professional musicians. The record label has built links with the Music Expo, including being invited to be their keynote speaker. The school is working with Ableton and Spirit Studios to offer clear progression pathways to young people. They have also been gifted software and hardware for their students to use. In addition, they work with FE and HE education establishments and are looking to offer Level 3 Music Performance and Music Technology with a focus on composition, songwriting and producing. The department now wants to build relationships with other schools for collective workshops and exchange programmes.

Contact | Clare Brown