‘They don’t give a monkey’s what the music is, whether it’s Schubert in German or the theme from Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, but they don’t like simple things that waste their time,’ musical director of Peterborough Sings, William Prideaux, told The Times.
The enthusiastic boys who don’t want to sing easy stuff are from the Peterborough Boys’ Singing Project. This aims to develop choirs for young male voices across the city. It’s an offshoot of Peterborough Sings, a music charity behind three ‘award-winning choirs’, Peterborough Male Voice Choir which began 83 years ago in Peterborough’s sugar beet factory, Peterborough Voices and Peterborough Youth Choir.
The Boys Singing Project was launched last year and now involves all Peterborough primary schools and one secondary.
But it isn’t just boys who get to sing. The boys’ programme is part of the Arts Council England backed Peterborough Singing Strategy, a city-wide initiative to transform singing provision in Peterborough. In November, 1000 primary school pupils took part in a ‘big sing’ event at the city’s Cresset centre.
Peterborough hasn’t always had a good press. Simon Jenkins, in his book England’s Cathedrals, says the city is ‘a new town of the 1960s, since bleakly expanded…’ Iain Sinclair, author of Edge of the Orison, went further: ‘Peterborough is like a dying star, dragging in debris from the surrounding countryside, swallowing villages and villagers.’
And Peterborough’s primary schools are among the worst performing in England.
But test results aren’t everything. And can be misleading about the standard of education being offered. A recent review of education in Peterborough found:
‘Peterborough was faced with the scenario of being one of the best areas of the country for the number of schools judged good or outstanding by Ofsted, yet attainment being one of the weakest.’
The report’s Key Findings said, ‘Peterborough faces what can only be described as a unique set of challenges.’ These included:
Tim Coulson, the then Regional Schools Commissioner for the area, noted that ‘the structures set up within Peterborough are very good... Peterborough however was more challenged in its schools due to a diverse pupil population.’
Peterborough Sings is one initiative aimed at bringing together the city’s pupils. And it’s not the first. In 2015, the then MP Stuart Jackson told MPs how Peterborough schools collaborated to meet difficulties posed by an influx of pupils with little English.
But collaborations like these are overshadowed by focusing on test results alone. Let’s hope the new Education Secretary Damian Hinds will sing from a different sheet.