The Song Room

About the Project

This project is one of the 2014 WISE Awards winners.

The Song Room is a unique provider of in-school, long-term, tailored arts-based programs for the most disadvantaged children in Australia. It provides programs in music, drama, dance, and the visual and media arts, designed to meet the needs of the school and the community. The programs include weekly, in-school workshops over a minimum of six months (or 12 to 18 months for more disadvantaged school communities) to ensure sustainable results for disadvantaged children, and to improve social wellbeing, school attendance and learning outcomes.

The workshop programs are innovative in their cross-curricular use of music and the arts as the vehicle for student learning and engagement, and in providing access to specialist teaching artists in the school setting. 

The Song Room also provides ARTS: LIVE, its national online interactive arts learning platform that facilitates collaboration among teachers, teaching artists, and students and offers over 400 curriculum-aligned, media-rich digital resources.

Context and Issue

Over the last decade Australia’s education performance has slipped in comparison to its OECD peers. The education equity gap closely reflects the difference between the performance of the affluent and the disadvantaged. Children of less-advantaged backgrounds start school behind, fall further behind once in school, and are less likely to complete 13 years of schooling. At age 15 the poorest quartile of Australian students is well below the OECD average, and nearly three years behind the most affluent students. 

Solution and Impact

The Song Room programs uses the arts to support and expand learning engagement and capability, while addressing issues of attendance, school outcomes and grades, and the social-emotional wellbeing of young people. Independent research confirms that The Song Room programs produce significantly benefits in these key areas.

In tailored weekly workshops students participate in creative learning about many subjects through the arts. Schools are matched with a teaching artist who develops the programs based on the needs of the school and mentors teachers. The capacity of the generalist school teachers expands as they learn new skills and approaches, and incorporate these into classroom practice.

Future Developments

The objectives of the Song Room over the next five years are:

  • To bridge the equity gap in educational and social outcomes for disadvantaged children by:
  • Reaching the 1,000 most disadvantaged schools with intensive 12 to 18-month face-to-face workshops; and
  • Reaching the next 1,000 most disadvantaged schools with its intensive six-month face-to-face workshops.
  • To increase access to quality arts education, particularly in schools with limited access to specialist teaching by:
  • Providing capacity-building for generalist teachers in 5,000 schools without specialist teachers through ARTS:LIVE and professional development

The project aims to achieve this by: 

  • Developing a model with three tiers of delivery:
  • Tier 1 – Highest Needs schools, a 12 to 18-month workshop program and online support.
  • Tier 2 – Next most disadvantaged schools, a six-month workshop program and online support.
  • Tier 3 – Online support and capacity-building through ARTS:LIVE would be provided to all schools.
  • Adopting a shared funding model with income from federal government, state governments, and non-governmental organizations (corporations and philanthropic organizations and individual donors).
  • Establishing a social enterprise through ARTS: LIVE commercialization in Australian universities and international markets to create a sustainable revenue source to support The Song Room’s strategic goals.
May 26, 2014 (last update 12-23-2020)