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  • Writer's pictureRichard Nicholson

Now in its third year, the Future Fwd conference, hosted by Warwick Schools Foundation, asks a straightforward question:

How should we all best support and enable current and future generations of pupils to make a positive impact as activities citizens, in the communities where they both live and work?

The conference approaches the answer by separating out what we know to be some of the key challenges: the narrowness of the taught curriculum; the skills shortage as reported by business and industry; the growing impact of technology, not least AI; inclusion in both schools and the workforce; and access to cultural and artistic experiences.

This year, we have dedicated two speaker streams to culture and the arts, looking specifically at singing for wellbeing, music partnerships, and innovative instrumental programmes. Why, you may ask, do we consider cultural and musical experiences – which are hardly novel or new in and of themselves – to be so important in equipping young learners? 

If we need to analyse why a grounding in music is important, we have only to look at some of the key skills we know are of increasing importance in the job market: team-work, problem-solving, resilience, creativity; and whilst all these skills can be developed through other media, music brings them out in quite different ways. There is, for example, a different sense of team in an orchestra or choir to that on the football pitch.

Music is also a form of communication, and so sits well with the importance given (rightly) to oracy; and we know too that it can have a significant impact on our wellbeing. 

Financially, the creative sector is of significant strategic importance to our economy – some £126bn in gross value added and 2.4 million people employed in 2022, as reported in the House of Lords Library.

It also brings joy – and through its shared enjoyment can cement life-long friendships.

The big change over recent years is the access young people have to musical opportunities. Now is not the time to rehearse arguments about the funding challenges faced by schools and indeed Music Hubs, other than to note that they are real and growing; Covid has also left its mark through changing societal norms, as has the cost-of-living crisis. 

What we seek to do at Future Fwd is to tackle the issue head on and bring together organisations which have embarked upon creative ways to embed and develop opportunities in the lives of children, and who are keen to share their experience with others.

This year, a big part of the conference involves championing a re-alignment of the value of music and the arts within the context of education – with dedicated streams on ‘Arts & Culture’ and ‘Singing for Wellbeing and Young People’. As we welcome a host of passionate thought leaders and industry experts to speak on these topics, we look forward to illuminating the numerous benefits that arts, culture, and music provide for our young people; whether that be acting as a gateway to involvement in wider society; providing a sense of community and connection; or acting as a platform for self-expression.

Here at Warwick Schools Foundation, we view partnerships as a key way to enable more children to benefit from our charitable purpose, and a way to work with others to fulfil shared strategic priorities.

This approach has seen interesting, impactful programmes develop, co-authored with local schools, music groups, and music hubs. Some key examples of this include our partnership with Orchestra of the Swan, who provide the local community with a wealth of musical experiences, workshops and performances to take partake in and attend; our supportive work with Warwickshire Music Hub, such as hosting the Warwickshire County Youth Wind Band and Warwickshire County Youth String Orchestra weekly; and the creation of  ‘Warwick – A Singing Town’, which , amongst other things, provides weekly curriculum singing in local primary schools via our Choral Entrepreneurs.

Future Fwd therefore offers an important space for like-minded individuals to share their success, to be open about their challenges, and to plan for a better musical future for every child.


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