Jimmy Rotheram

Feversham Primary Academy, Bradford, UK

@MusicEd4All

Jimmy Rotheram

Jimmy is a music teacher at Feversham Primary School whose work in the last few years has made him one of the UK’s top thought leaders in the musical education of young children.

Having worked previously as a further education teacher and professional musician, Jimmy wanted to make a bigger contribution to society, and was inspired to become a primary music teacher after seeing a TED talk that showed how important music education is for developing brains. After a period supply teaching in primary schools, he was amazed how narrow the curriculum was and how little value was placed on the arts. This eventually led him to Feversham Primary on Bradford Moor – one of the most financially impoverished areas of Britain, with 80% of households in deprivation, 60% of households unemployed or in low-skilled manual work, and only 6% of households having seen the benefits of tertiary education.

Jimmy’s approach to teaching music means that he is careful to be nurturing rather than critical, never telling a child that they are singing out of tune. This is in contrast to other types of music education that are often over-critical and "mistake-focused" – an approach that works for some musical high-achievers, but not for everyone. Since putting music in a central role, academic results have blossomed, taking the school from special measures to being one of the best primary schools in the country for pupil progress.

In October 2017, Jimmy picked up a copy of The Guardian education supplement and noticed a number of gloomy stories about cuts to music and arts programmes, Bradford schools under-performing, and Muslim children not accessing music education. He was compelled to write to the newspaper about Feversham Primary, telling a very different story and emphasising how the school has produced some fine young Muslim musicians. The Guardian then produced a feature on his work, which went viral across the globe and became the supplement's second most popular story of all time with over 250,000 shares.

The school’s Twitter account went wild, with messages of support from UK educational and musical luminaries such as Sir Howard Goodall and Sir Ken Robinson. Suddenly, Jimmy was thrust into the position of being an advocate and ambassador for music in primary schools, in demand from media across the globe. He has since appeared on BBC TV and radio various times, and has been awarded the 2017 Cecilia Vajda Memorial Scholarship as well as the "unsung hero" award from AET Academies. Feversham Primary has now also been visited by many headteachers, academics and arts organisations from around the world.

Last year, Jimmy’s school had its first Muslim pupil accepted into the city's “gifted and talented” school, Delius, providing subsidised music lessons until the age of 18 and the opportunity to study music in even more depth. If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Jimmy would aim to create PGCEs with Primary Music Specialism for graduates, as well as high-quality teacher training for music graduates that is steeped in inclusive, developmentally appropriate pedagogy.