Tiverton High School

(Read the Futurelab article on Music for All at Tiverton)


Tiverton High School, a specialist arts college, has completed its first academic year integrating some of the latest technological developments in music education.  Last year the music department purchased a Gigajam Essential Skills Course unlimited licence to provide musical instrument tuition. The department increased its provision of PCs to be able to deliver the lessons, following an approach from Southwest Grid for Learning to set the school up as a Mentor School – a showcase for surrounding schools of how to deliver Gigajam lessons.  Southwest Grid for Learning has the first five lessons of the Essential Skills Courses available as a free online resource to all schools in the area.


The music department wanted to give every child at the high school the chance to start learning a musical instrument with a particular focus on Year 8 and 9 students. The teachers were looking to provide something relevant to their needs in the school and community that would captivate and inspire them.  The teachers hope that the level of attainment within the subject will be improved over KS3 and more students will continue studying music at KS4.


Two classrooms were adapted for teaching Gigajam lessons.  One is set up with enough computers to accommodate five guitars, five bass and 15 keyboards players.  A small attached practice room provides space for five drum kits. The second teaching room and practice rooms have been set up with five working rock bands. 


The whole of Year 8 - 250 children - have enjoyed the opportunity to learn the guitar, bass, keyboards or drums for an hour a week for an entire year; and move from complete beginner to Rock School Debut Grade or Grade 1.  Following the impressive start that this year group has made, the department has written a new scheme of work to support these budding musicians into Year 9.  Once again, the programme will be delivered to the Year 8 groups.  This means that some 500 children in the school will be developing instrumental skills on one of four instruments.

Impacts and Outcomes

Ian Wright, Head of Music at Tiverton High School said: “One of the most rewarding aspects of the programme has been the unrivalled enthusiasm many of the students have shown towards their lessons and the incredible progress some individuals have made.  It really has brought out the best musical talent in every child.  Another very positive knock-on effect from the experience has been the number of students starting to take up instrumental lessons with an instrument they have begun to master in the classroom, and of course the emerging student rock bands.

“A sizable majority of students are well motivated to succeed and are quite competitive in achieving high percentage scores from the Analyser software.  However, the transfer from successful scores on the computer does not necessarily ensure a smooth transition to the ‘real’ instrument.  One hour a week in reality is not a great deal of time.  A major plus factor though is that there are many more students showing an interest in learning an instrument than before they had experienced Gigajam.”

Future Developments

Gigajam is being embedded into the heart of Tiverton High School’s KS3 curriculum – tying it in with the new National Strategy for Music.  The music department hopes that this curriculum development will attract more young people to study music at KS4.

The school is launching its own Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and the music department intends to be at the sharp end of using the VLE for a number of resources, including Gigajam, for off site learning opportunities.  This will help the students to practice and supplement their current studies of one hour per week.

Ian Wright continued: “Although it all looks quite daunting, don’t underestimate how quickly our youngsters pick up the technology!”