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Learning pathways

Young violinist listening during a Sparks session
One of RCM Sparks' primary goals is to provide long-term learning pathways for children, allowing them to develop their skills continually over time, becoming healthier, more confident, better learners and more accomplished musicians.

Our activities and partnerships are carefully designed to achieve this goal. Our Mini Sparks programme, which takes place at nursery level, feeds into our partner primary schools. Likewise, our collaboration with the RCM Junior Department offers a route to professional musical training taught at a world-class level for children aged 8 and above.

RCM Sparks runs a series of programmes targeted at young people in our local community. We also offer a varied and exciting series of public events, offering specially calibrated activities for children, families and schools from far and wide.

Facts and figures about RCM Sparks learning pathways

In the 2017/18 academic year

For children in local boroughs

Working closely with the Tri-Borough Music Hub, we run a programme designed specifically for children in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the City of Westminster. We form partnerships with local schools and nurseries, always striving to make quality music education available to those who otherwise might not be able to afford it and where provision is lacking.

An enhanced bursary programme is available to support children from lower socio-economic backgrounds on their journey from Sparks Juniors through to the RCM Junior Department and undergraduate study as a senior College student. The Royal College of Music is committed to ensuring that 80% of participants engaged in Sparks Juniors are from such backgrounds. Some may join us from our early years scheme, Mini Sparks, whereas many will begin their time with us through Sparks Juniors at age 3.

Mini Sparks (ages 0-3)

Following the launch of Tri-Music Together, the Royal College of Music runs two Mini Sparks programmes in local communities. We know how much families value learning how to listen in the truest sense, to tune-in and play with their children through music. This can raise self-esteem and confidence and can heighten a child’s ability to focus, listen and contribute with others over time. It also teaches and promotes healthy attachment and communication methods between parents and children through play.

Angel Nursery, Churchill Gardens Housing Estate, Pimlico

We ran a successful pilot of four sessions in Angel Nursery (a London Early Years Foundation nursery) in Autumn 2017 and continued with weekly sessions in the Spring and Summer terms of 2018.

Led by Trish Power and supported by a team of Royal College of Music musicians, the programme has provided an opportunity for nursery children to experience a wide range of musical instruments being played live, including accordion, trombone, saxophone, violin and harp, whilst also giving the Royal College of Music students the opportunity to train in delivering early years music.

The weekly sessions holistically utilise the whole of the nursery space, including the garden. The team have the opportunity to work with all of the children and the staff in the nursery, but in particular Sue Endean, who, at the start of the project, was appointed as the nursery’s Music Champion.

Angel Nursery website

Old Oak Children’s Centre in Old Oak Housing Estate in East Acton

Led by Mayo Yoshida and supported by two Royal College of Music students, this programme takes a child-centred approach, placing spontaneous, playful and creative music making at the heart of their musical learning. Key to the success of the scheme is encouraging communication through music. The programme, which is in its second year at Old Oak and third year overall, has been particularly beneficial for families engaging with the centres’ Talk and Learn programme, which supports children with speech and language delay.

Old Oak Children's Centre website

Sparks Juniors (ages 3-8)

Sparks Juniors is an exciting collaboration between RCM Sparks and the RCM Junior Department launched in September 2009. Each year, the initiative offers eight pupils a free three-year programme of high level tuition led by RCMJD staff and Royal College of Music student mentors.

Sparks Juniors is aimed at young people from our local partner schools who would not normally be able to access such an opportunity. Currently, 80% of young people on the Sparks Juniors programme are from underrepresented backgrounds.

From September 2018, the programme will be extending its provision to early years, delivering weekly Dalcroze Eurythmics sessions to 240 children aged 3-5 in three local primary schools.

Leading on from Mini Sparks (age 0-3) programme, this 30-week extended scheme offers formal training from age 3, providing a secure and advanced foundation through Kodaly and Dalcroze learning. It also provides a clear progression route into Sparks Juniors at the RCM Junior Department (September 2019), the Sparks family programme or the Tri-Borough Music Hub.

Get, Set, Play (ages 6-8)

Since 2012, RCM Sparks and the Royal Albert Hall have worked in partnership to deliver an innovative community programme. The unique combination of education expertise and diverse concert programming means we can offer exciting and engaging activities and give access to two iconic institutions.

Get, Set, Play is a year-long free programme on offer to families and young people from less affluent neighbourhoods of the Tri-borough area. It offers an accessible way for parents, grandparents and carers to learn music alongside their children and offers a pathway for a continuing musical journey. The programme features composer Sally Greaves’ Groove n’ Play series, exploring first-access instruments such as ukulele, recorder and violin.

At the end of the programme, engaged families are offered subsidised music lessons and choir membership with the Tri-borough Music Hub as well as information to signpost other events for families to continue their engagement.

After the age of 8

Children in the local area who have enjoyed our programme for under 8s are encouraged to continue their relationship with RCM Sparks through our public events and to make the best use of other schemes offered by the Tri-Borough Music Hub. Many will be eligible for subsidy, enabling children from lower income families to continue their journey and grow their passion for music.

Particularly talented children are encouraged to audition for the RCM Junior Department, a world-class Saturday school for musicians aged 8-18.

An enhanced bursary programme is available to support students from lower socio-economic backgrounds on our Sparks Juniors programme, helping them to progress to the RCM Junior Department and on to undergraduate study as a senior College student.

Looking to learn an instrument?

If you live in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham or the City of Westminster, you have access to tuition and other initiatives privided by the Tri-borough Music Hub.

Tri-borough Music Hub services

In addition, the Royal College of Music provides a dedicated service for members of the public, adults or children, who would like to learn how to play an instrument, how to sing, how to compose and those who would like to learn music theory.

RCM Teaching Service

Learning through our series of public events

Our public events are tailored to specific age groups, allowing us to craft the most constructive, enjoyable and engaging learning experience for participants. Events are available for children aged 4-18. Our programme provides a consistent and nurturing learning journey for those who return year after year, offering an excellent opportunity for development in a friendly and familiar environment.

Family Create (ages 4+)

Whether you are introducing children to music for the first time, or looking for inspiring ways to delve deeper, RCM Sparks' Family Create programme offers a variety of once-a-term workshops and events specifically for family groups.

Together, families can:

  • Explore music from the inside with demonstrations from musicians and opportunities to participate
  • Find new ways of bonding as a family through creative learning
  • Enjoy associated live-music, such as festivals and orchestral concerts, at the Royal College of Music

Family Create workshops are creative, practical, lots of fun and a great introduction to the rest of our programme

See upcoming events

Ignite (ages 6-9) & Explorers (ages 10-12)

Ignite and Explorers workshops are once-a-term, practical workshops for young musicians of all levels, including beginners.

Participants will enjoy the opportunity to:

  • Creatively explore repertoire featured in an associated concert or festival at the Royal College of Music
  • Participate in collaborative music-making as part of an eclectic ensemble
  • Take part in an informal performance at the end of the workshop

See upcoming events

Springboard (ages 13-18)

Our bi-annual Springboard Composition Courses allow teenagers to explore their creativity, supported by inspiring professionals and emerging Royal College of Music composers.

Teens are invited to join us to:

  • Develop musical and creative skills, working together on exciting challenges
  • Share ideas and passions with other young composers and like-minded musicians
  • Discover exciting new ways of approaching composition
  • Experiment and take risks in a friendly environment
  • Make use of the outstanding facilities at the Royal College of Music
  • Hear ideas brought to life by teams of Royal College of Music musicians

The ideas and skills developed in Springboard courses may be used to support future GCSE or A-level composition.

See upcoming events

Preparing for study at the Royal College of Music

RCM Sparks’ learning pathways provide a clear route in music education from early years right through to senior study as a Royal College of Music student.

Mini Sparks creates a pool of nurtured, musically honed and well-established young musicians prepared to enter the RCM Junior Department at the age of 8. Many RCMJD students then progress to further study at the Royal College of Music from the age of 18, some to postgraduate level.

The following progression path is a typical example for a child in one of our local boroughs (other paths are available, including through public events at the Royal College Music):

  • Age 0-3: Mini Sparks weekly baby and toddler programme in community settings
  • Age 3-4: Sparks Juniors Dalcroze Eurythmics programme in primary schools (nursery)
  • Age 4-5: Sparks Juniors Dalcroze Eurythmics programme in primary schools (reception)
  • Age 5-6: Sparks Juniors foundation programme at the RCM Junior Department
  • Age 6-7: Sparks Juniors instrumental learning and musicianship programme at the RCM Junior Department, including individual lessons on an instrument of choice taught by experienced RCM Junior Department teachers, creative learning, singing and musicianship with exams in ABRSM theory and practical, Kodaly and Dalcroze.
  • Age 8-18: Study on the RCM Junior Department's main programme
  • Age 18 onwards: Study at the Royal College of Music

The Royal College of Music is committed to ensuring a minimum of 80% of Sparks Juniors participants are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. An enhanced bursary programme is planned to support these students through to RCM Junior Department and undergraduate study as a senior College student.