Developing leadership skills through producing musical showcases

Developing leadership skills through producing musical showcases

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BY: Guest Writer
26 Feb 2024

In this blog, we hear from Ray Lau, who leads the Arts Award provision at Upton Court Grammar School. He shares how music learning has developed at their school through student-led cross-arts showcase events and how students have acquired leadership skills. Upton Court Grammar School is a Trinity Champion Centre for Arts Award; the school specialises in music, drama, dance and art and delivering Bronze, Silver and Gold Arts Award.

The concept

The school is passionate about enabling students to become global change makers and their ability to contribute and develop their leadership skills; in support of this initiative, the performing arts department decided to focus on developing pupils' interpersonal skills. This would include self-leadership, leading others and being a team member, communication and influencing skills. Arts Award was the perfect fit, and we started with Bronze (Part D) and, subsequently, Silver (unit 2) to build students’ leadership skills.

Back in the spring of 2022, after the Covid pandemic lockdowns, there was a need to re-establish a culture of performance with energy, enthusiasm and excitement. Therefore, I proposed the concept of showcases in which the event would shine a spotlight on our students' talents. Each showcase would be student-led and mostly themed around the areas of study from the Eduqas GCSE music specification and/or specific events.

The initial process

The showcase events related to Unit 2 of the Silver award, with a focus on Part A (plan a leadership project) and Part B (plan the practical issues). The first showcase was entitled, ‘A Night at the Movies’ and was led by the Year 10 GCSE Music class. Most had completed Bronze Arts Award, with a few deciding to continue with their Silver award. The showcase had three co-directors, each leading and overseeing an area (creativity, event management and backstage). Then, each area was divided into sub-areas, with another student leading each area and a team of people. Some areas, such as marketing and publicity, were split into key areas of responsibility.

Director of Creativity

Director of Event Management

Director of Backstage
Talent Management

Artistic liaison

Marketing & Publicity Presentation (Front of House) & Hospitality Logistics Lighting & Sound Compliance


Each team would work on relevant elements, from sourcing performers (auditioning and rehearsing) to arranging light and sound. Once the selected performers and the ensembles were finalised, co-directors would collaborate in organising the final programme being themed by grouping pieces under a genre (for example, musical and horror, animated, comedy, romance and comedy, drama, fantasy and action). A programme was created by the marketing team. The dress rehearsal only required my input regarding the final touches of the stage layout, presentation etiquette and briefing of the performers.

At the final performance, each theme had one of the sixth formers introduce the round of performers and provide short information about the film, character or music. The first event involved over 100 pupils, from performing to backstage and those serving refreshments. The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) were very impressed with the student-led showcase.

The development and refinement

Silver Unit 2 Part B Padlet

Image: Padlet example of Silver Unit 2 Part B

The popularity of the first event created a subsequent ripple event where students across the school wanted to be involved. This led to the expansion of the Arts Award programme across the performing and visual arts. This meant that managing the programme as a solo Arts Award adviser (initially) required careful managing. Welcome Padlet. For those who do not know Padlet, this is an online tool to share work. Students can upload files, links and videos. Once all their evidence is uploaded, the students send me a link (Bronze – just one, Silver and Gold, a link for each unit). For the Bronze level, I created a template for the students to work with that provided a consistent format and easier marking.

UCGS_summer Showcase 2023_coverThe next series of showcases (including an event taking the theme of Songs From the Decades) enabled different year groups to lead and run the events. A Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee showcase enabled collaboration across the performing and visual arts in a carousel-style event to allow the different spaces of the school to be utilised. A Year 9 music class organised ‘Music Through the Ages’, which enabled Western classical music to meet pop music (a ‘battle of the bands’ for each year group). Subsequently, all pupils achieved Silver Arts Award.

Successes and impact

The popularity and growth of the Arts Award at our school has led to over 150 pupils currently participating in the Arts Award and 100 pupils who have achieved awards. One impact of Arts Award is that the Year 9 Music curriculum has been restructured to include the opportunity to complete Silver before moving on to the GCSE curriculum. Arts Award has enabled students who have not chosen an art-based GCSE subject to develop their leadership and creativity skills. Students have reported improvements in their communication skills, dealing with conflicts and resolving issues and their ability to lead and work more with clarity in their communication.

The major success is that I now have five students working at the Gold level. Some of the young people are working across the arts and working externally with other organisations to host their Unit 2 leadership projects. Two of these students planned, led and ran the recent winter showcase from scratch, ‘A Night at the West End’. There were two different programmes with contrasting approaches to leadership, development and performances. The students are putting their portfolios together via Padlet and have learned a lot from running the event.

Top Tips

  1. Timing is everything! Ensure you start planning (i.e. three months before the event) and have extra time built in for any contingencies.
  2. Get students to use an accessible online digital portfolio platform, like Padlet. For advisers, this standardised approach saves a lot of time and makes it more efficient to manage mass numbers of individuals completing their Arts Award!
  3. Remember to promote Arts Award provision and achievement with your SLT. The qualifications are useful as a contribution to the Personal Development criteria for Ofsted school inspections.
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