“I have been directly involved with two Pass It On projects now and I can honestly say that from an SEMH practitioner’s perspective and also from a creative arts point of view that the projects have unquestionably been one of the best quality and most valuable experiences our children have ever had.”


From November 2017 to July 2018 Serious delivered the fourth edition of Pass it On, a project funded by Youth Music and run in two Pupil Referral Units and one mainstream primary school in Leeds.

The project aims to enrich the participants’ social, musical and personal skills and allows access to both live musical performance and interactive musical music making opportunities for those who would experience considerable cultural, geographical or financial barriers to accessing this variety of artistic provision.

The project is locally coordinated by bassist Dave Kane, who has supported six outstanding musicians – Ollie Dover, Testament, Emily Levy, Chris Sharkey, Soweto Kinch and Joost Hendrix - to visit the schools over a course of 12 weeks, each leading workshops for small groups of students themed by their varied music specialisms – from beat boxing and rapping, to song writing and drumming.The schools participating in this project serve some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities in West Yorkshire and Leeds - two of the schools are situated amongst the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in England, one is amongst the 30% most deprived neighbourhoods.

Among the participating young people:
- 49% of participants attend Pupil Referral Unit or SEMH specialist school
- 29% are considered at risk of offending
- 14% are looked after
- 89% have special educational needs


To celebrate the culmination of this edition of the project, we hosted a final performance at two of the schools.  The Deputy Head teacher at one of the Pupil Referral Units invited the parents and siblings of those receiving the Arts Award to come and enjoy the performance alongside the pupils. One of the children at the Pupil Referral Unit is a keen drummer, and as such was invited on stage to perform with the band for a short extract – clearly gaining confidence through peer support in the audience. 

Many of the teachers have noted this would be the first time some of these families had experienced live music of this kind, and as such were so thankful to for the opportunity to bring music to them through this project. Throughout both performances it was lovely to see so many smiles in the room, and for all involved to recognise impact Pass it On has had for these young people and their communities.


"As a specialist Social Emotional and Mental Health setting it has been fantastic to see the confidence grow in some of our students as the sessions went on and to see them all engaging so positively in group activities. The project has created an opportunity to develop invaluable soft social skills and confidence over a period of time that just doesn’t happen with shorter projects.

Pass It On has been successful in delivering positive musical outcomes alongside having long term social impact, and establishing foundations for the future development of musical confidence amongst young people who face considerable challenges to engaging in this kind of work.

- 32 young people (70% of participants) were entered for the Discover Arts Award, with a 100% pass rate. This was a new addition to programming and aims of the programme, and one which we felt was a valuable success not only through its recognition of hard work for the children, but also for the schools, who valued the Arts Award as a tangible achievement that communicates success to the school community and further afield. 

- 70% of participants are more interested in listening to different types of music as a result of Pass It On. Pupils developed an understanding of a much broader range of musical genres and instruments, as well as having the opportunity to develop new musical material (improvisation skills) which was built upon through group decision making to create more short performances (composition skills). 

- Teachers report increased confidence, openness and self-esteem amongst participants, which improved over time and is evident in other aspects of school life. The awarding of Arts Awards certificates in particular has been a huge boost to confidence and self esteem.

- Responses to before and after survey questions show an 11% increase in how easy young people find it to work with others in a group, and 17% increase in how easy they find it to listen to others. A number of young people identify improved listening as a key personal learning outcome from the project.

The strength of our evidence has been improved this time by working with an external evaluator - having a rigorous evaluation timeline and framework established has been a valuable success of the project, enabling the team to fully measure the impact of the work, with the support of teachers and artists. 

Why does the model work?

Particularly if it’s something they’ve not had a go at or seen before, I think for a lot of them, their immediate response is ‘I’m not sure what this is, so no, I’m not going to do it’. It’s that risk of failure. This was the perfect balance because they were interested, the music hooked them in…Teacher

The distinctive combination of offering a range of exciting diverse musical experiences and interaction with different cultures alongside the consistency of a lead artist present at every session has been crucial to supporting positive social and personal outcomes in Pass It On. 

We specifically targeted schools which were located in “cultural cold-spots” where the diversity of different cultural and personal experiences of participants is very limited. The value of this model, for the particular young people targeted by the project, was highlighted by all the teachers in the end-point evaluation workshop. 

And also the curiosity, of coming in with an open curiosity and not making assumptions, whichever musician it was. They came into the room not knowing sometimes exactly what to expect, without judging. That grew, definitely, and it was good for me, because it was something we want to teach – to try not to make judgements quickly, because a lot of them, if they are presented with something, immediately they would be like ‘this is rubbish’” Teacher

What next?

We have identified an interest from schools to further engage parents / carers in the future – to further embed the impact of our work, and promote a wider culture of music-making. In future editions would look to include this as a measurable outcome to monitor progress. 

Teachers were impressed by the highly-skilled artists who are responsive and adaptive in their approach to working with young people.  To further strengthen the sessions and enhance learning within and outside of sessions, we aim in future to strengthen workforce training for artists in SEMH settings, and develop an overarching session framework.