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Case Studies of Successful Schools: Boggabilla Central School

Case Studies

September 01, 2013

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Boggabilla Central School is located in the lowest socio economic community in New South Wales.  Boggabilla has an almost entirely indigenous student population.

There are no music opportunities available to the Boggabilla community outside the school and no students are involved in consistent learning of music apart from becoming involved in the school-based music program.

Too small to afford a specialist music teacher, the school has shuffled around staff and classes to make room for one.  As a result, all students and staff now have access to musical resources in the school. As of 2011, all primary classes and Stage 4 class groups have dedicated music lessons each week, which has seen a massive growth in confidence and skills in playing and understanding music.

In addition to the timetabled lessons, students have been invited to participate in extra-curricular music-learning opportunities at lunch and after school.  The school has also started staging musicals which give the students something to aim for and are a monumental endeavour to work as a school community.  While the students have received the most benefit from these music activities—enjoying more variety of activities at lunchtime and the kudos of achieving success in local eisteddfod and talent quests—the wider community has also benefited from watching performances and from living with the improved ambience of having more music in the school.

The greatest challenge was to find singers who would be confident enough to face an audience.  A previous music teacher had tried for three years to make this happen without success.  The school has now achieved this by making singing a part of school life through:

  • Singing several times a week
  • Teachers performing with the students
  • Frequently practising with microphones
  • Choosing songs that the students love listening to themselves (Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Glee Club) as performance pieces in addition to the ones nominated by the teacher
  • Inviting experienced singers from the community to workshops with the singers for a school performance
  • Providing extrinsic rewards for participation

Likewise, the students’ difficulty with literacy and numeracy has required a customised approach—simplification of guitar chords and bass lines and an emphasis on the patterns of notes and chord structures.  More able players have been mentored in improvisation and lead lines to decorate the songs.

One of the significant achievements of this program is the composition of a new school song based on the ‘You Can Do It’ social values program.  The students and their families take pride in joyfully expressing these values as they sing the song.

The true success of music at Boggabilla however, is more confidence and positivity in the school.  Music has now become a conspicuous second hook (after sport) for success—it means different kids can express themselves successfully which gives them confidence to try in other academic endeavours.  Indeed, some can even contemplate a career in music. And… the students have to be sent home from practices!

Many remote Indigenous schools in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia benefit from The Music Outback Foundation, which brings music education into the classrooms of remote communities.  The Foundation reports that their program helps with literacy and numeracy, encouraging attendance and pride in local language and culture.

Credit: This case study was prepared as part of ‘Music to Our Ears’ which was commissioned by The Caledonia Foundation and Shark Island Productions, prepared by Annie O’Rourke (89° Degrees East) and written by Dennis Glover and Fiona Hehir. Editing and additional content by Chris Bowen, Dr Richard Letts and Alex Masso (Music Australia)

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