Award for Crawley teacher who brought music to a generation of schoolchildren

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A teacher who inspired a generation of children to explore a love of music has been honoured for his work.

Patrick Allen taught at Ifield Community College for almost 30 years before leaving at the end of last term to study for his PhD at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Ifield Community College choir and drummers SUS-140318-104657001

Ifield Community College choir and drummers SUS-140318-104657001

Under Mr Allen’s guidance, the college choir stamped its mark on the music world, performing with the BBC singers and taking part in the National Festival of Music for Youth.

Perhaps most exciting of all was their work on Rihanna’s single Towards The Sun, which featured in the Dreamworks animated film Home.

His enthusiasm and dedication has long been celebrated in Crawley and, following the choir’s performance at the National Festival of Music for Youth, in Birmingham, in July, his peers in the wider teaching world caught on to how exceptional his contribution has been.

Mr Allen was named winner of this year’s National Union of Teachers (NUT) Teacher Award in recognition of his “inspirational” leadership with the choir.

A great many students have had their school experience enriched by his teaching

Rob Corbett, Ifield Community College

It seemed apt the award was to be presented to him at the Royal Albert Hall, whose walls have resonated to the sound of the best singers and musicians the world has to offer for the past 144 years.

You can’t talk about the college choir without including the Chagossian Drummers, a group of youngsters whose families were displaced from the Chagos Islands when Britain leased the islands for the American Diego Garcia airbase.

The drummers have been performing together since May 2009 having met and discovered a shared love of music during their lessons at Ifield. Their songs and rhythms, performed in the Chagossian/Mauritian tradition, quickly became as much a part of the choir’s sound as the singers.

The drummers’ journey from individual students to established musicians will form part of Mr Allen’s degree work. He said of the award: “It came completely out of the blue. I wasn’t aware the award existed, and this is the first year it has been awarded. I was absolutely delighted, and thank the choir members over many years and the drummers for sharing my vision.”

Stephani Pineda, Sian Poleykett, Iliana Arguelles, Clarissa Burd and Chloe Thorpe SUS-150226-140147001

Stephani Pineda, Sian Poleykett, Iliana Arguelles, Clarissa Burd and Chloe Thorpe SUS-150226-140147001

Professor Keith Howard, of SOAS’s department of music, described Mr Allen as “a phenomenal teacher who has used music to change lives”. Regarding his work with the drummers, he said it demonstrated “how music can, in remarkable ways, unlock hidden abilities in under-performing children.”

As well as the award, Mr Allen’s success swelled the coffers of Ifield Community College’s music department by £500. College principal Rob Corbett said of his former colleague: “His work with the choir over many years has been successful at a national level many times and to sustain this high calibre of work for such a long period is due to his endless passion for his subject and dedication to our students’ success.

“A great many students have had their school experience enriched by his teaching as was evidenced by the group of all ages who came to sing at our whole school assembly as a surprise for Patrick.”

With Mr Allen off to pastures new, Ifield Community College was left with the job of finding some one to carry on his work – the task falling to Jessica Kabiri and George Trebar.

Mr Corbett said: “They will ensure that music continues to be high profile and dynamic and will continue to work with the choir and the drummers.”

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