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United Music

Bringing out the best in everyone through Music and Performing Arts

At United Learning, we believe in the power of the arts to have a transformative effect in schools, and understand the benefits of taking part in high quality music and drama for young people. Our aim is for United Learning pupils to leave school having experienced and been inspired by a range of exceptional quality music and performing arts.

Led by our expert Head of Music and Performing Arts, Catherine Barker, we endeavour to continuously develop and enrich the provision of Music and Performing Arts across our Group, by strengthening the curriculum in Music and Performing Arts, supporting the enrichment that takes place outside the classroom and organising large-scale events that can unite our schools. The 2017-2018 school year will be full of high quality opportunities for our students.

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Music Ambassadors

The team of United Learning Music Ambassadors:

Alex L'Estrange

Alex L'Estrange

Alexander is a hugely successful choral composer, arranger, song writer, jazz double bass player and pianist, choral workshop leader, presenter of children's concerts, jazz examiner and trainer for the ABRSM, and passionate advocate for the importance of singing in schools.

Alexander has composed the work ‘Zimbe!’, a fantastic 40-minute choral piece mixing jazz, gospel and African melodies, which has been performed more than 150 times across the globe, and which United Learning students will perform in the Lyceum in London in January 2016. Alexander will be working with teachers in preparation for this performance.

We plan to commission a new choral work from Alexander in 2016.

Read more on Alexander’s website.

Classical Kicks

Classical Kicks

The creation of violinist and vocalist Lizzie Ball, Classical Kicks is a unique classical music concert series which has an exclusive quarterly residency at the world renowned Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club in Soho, London.

Hailed by Classical Music Magazine as “genre-bending”, Classical Kicks strives to bring the most talented, exciting and also diverse classical artists into the intimate and special space that is Ronnie’s Bar, and to maintain the best quality of musicians and musicianship, but most importantly within a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

We are excited that Classical Kicks are working with United Learning to create exciting, unique resources for the new GCSE Music curriculum as they perform in our schools during October 2016.

Live Music Now

Live Music Now

Live Music Now is a UK-wide initiative, created by Yehudi Menuhin and Ian Stoutzker in 1977. Every year, their musicians deliver thousands of interactive music programmes in education, healthcare and community settings.

Their specialist support and training provides young musicians with skills and employment at the start of their professional careers, across all genres of music.

We are delighted that Live Music Now are partnering with United Learning to give pupils and staff of United Learning schools access to inspiring, exceptional musical performances.

United Music Programmes


This year, United Learning’s Partnership Fund has commissioned celebrated composer Alexander L’Estrange to write ‘Wassail! Carols of Comfort and Joy’, to inspire collaboration, musical excellence and joy through choral singing. 

Students from across the United Learning group will be premiering this piece during November 2017.

We want to develop and nurture high-quality singing and collaboration in United Learning: as part of this project well over 1,000 students and staff will engage with training with the VCM and will also perform in the premieres of the work alongside acclaimed vocal ensemble Apollo 5. As a legacy to the project, the piece itself will bring communities both in and beyond United Learning together to sing for years to come as it is published by Faber Music.

read more

English Pocket Opera Company

To bring opera to 7,500 pupils across United Learning’s schools In 2016 United Learning launched a new and exciting partnership with English Pocket Opera Company.

The company toured the length and breadth of the country – from Bournemouth to Carlisle – bringing opera to 7,500 students in United Learning schools. Inspired by BBC Ten Pieces, the CBBC classical music programme for children, the scheme aimed to make opera accessible for young people through its innovative approach.

Over 40 performances of ‘Opera Blocks’ – an engaging, interactive show designed to break down the building blocks of opera – took place across England. The scheme was launched with a performance at Lambeth Academy, followed by a second at Walthamstow Academy. The tour culminated in a schools festival at Lincoln at the end of June.

A small number of schools – including Wilberforce Primary and Surbiton High School – prepared their own version of Bizet’s Carmen as part of the tour during special Opera in a Day workshops.

Catherine Barker, Head of Music and Performing Arts at United Learning, said:

"I am delighted that English Pocket Opera Company have partnered with us for this ambitious tour. By working with a group like United Learning, EPOC will be able to inspire thousands of students and teachers across the country, bringing the world of opera to life."


Students from schools across the country perform at London’s Lyceum Theatre.

In 2016,students from United Learning schools across the country took to the stage for a sold-out performance at London’s prestigious Lyceum Theatre.

Conducted by popular composer Alexander L’Estrange, over 1,000 students and their teachers from across the country performed songs from Zimbe!

Zimbe! is an imaginative fusion of traditional African song and jazz which as a choral piece seeks to bring communities together. Given the geographic spread of the schools, the students had all been rehearsing their parts within their schools for months and had very few opportunities to come together as one choir before the final show-stopping performance in central London.

read more


400 pupils from 11 United Learning schools across London and the South East performed live at the Olympic Park to open the special Remembrance Day England vs Australia match. The children performed as part of the CHANT Choir, run by music education provider Chant Productions which combines sports and music to give young people a platform for live performances.

Children had been rehearsing for the performance in their individual schools, following workshops with Chant Productions professional opera singers during which they learnt the national anthem and a Brit Pop medley, along with stagecraft techniques to help build their confidence in performing live in front of such a large audience.

Access to Theatre

Following recent research from the Sutton Trust which shows that leading British actors are more than twice as likely as stars from the music industry to have attended fee-paying schools, we designed the Access to Theatre Programme to broaden the cultural experiences of young people across the Group.

In partnership with Frantic Assembly, a leading contemporary theatre company, it is known for productions such as ‘Things I know to be True’ and its acclaimed work on the National Theatre production of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, we invited Performing Arts teachers from across the Group to participate in training sessions, followed by a set of in-school pupil workshops. This work culminated with two collaborative showcase events for students in Manchester and London where students performed their own devised work, on the theme of ‘Identity’ at these showcases, as part of United Learning’s 2017 national cultural festival, the “IDeas Festival”.


United Learning is also delighted to work in partnership with a number of charities and organisations who support our work to ensure that every single pupil receives an excellent school experience.



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