One of the most exciting aspects of the VIP community is the way in which every educator seems to bring their own fresh approach to how it’s used, and we find that we are constantly surprised by the ways in which teachers and students push it in exciting new directions. When we see a really great example that demonstrates this, we want to showcase it for everyone using VIP across the country.

Our School of the Year 2017, All Hallows Catholic School in Preston, is a great case in point. Watch the video above to see how they managed to create so much incredible music, particularly the huge number of tracks they created with raps about students’ lives and the issues that interest them.

All Hallows’ teacher Francis Ajiteru started using VIP in 2016 and he told us about some of the issues he faced in teaching music. He only had a few hours a week with his students and  he also had limited resources at the school (12 PCs running Sony Acid software) and whilst he had done well engaging students in making music, he found it frustrating that they could only access software at certain times in certain rooms and that they had no access outside of school or those specific hours.

Initially he started using VIP to teach music production and we saw lots of tracks flying in from his students in a range of styles from Hip Hop to Dubstep. His students began winning Track of the Month competitions and when we were asked to hold a network training event in Lancashire, All Hallows seemed the natural place to do it.

When we visited, we met some students and told them how impressed we had been with their uploads and it was exciting to talk to Francis and Lavinia (the Head of Music at the school) about their plans for VIP. We spoke about the possibility of lyric and songwriting and how it might work well with the Hip Hop production that his Year 7 & 8 students had been working on.

A short while later we were blown away by what we received – over a hundred rap tracks from his students with lyrics written and recorded using the VIP tutorials and online studio.

You can hear the tracks here:

Based on the music and also the number of tracks uploaded, All Hallows won our School of the Year prize and we decided to visit to talk a bit about how they had managed to create so many successful tracks.

Speaking to Francis it turned out that he had set his students homework using VIP to make beats and write lyrics. He used the VIP Lyric-writing Tutorials as guidance and had the genius idea of asking students simply to “write lyrics and rap about something they really cared about”. The responses ranged from Preston North End Football Club to deforestation.

Francis hadn’t necessarily thought that his group would record their raps, as it might prove technically difficult, but when his students arrived for their next lesson 70% of them had recorded their raps at home, because “the videos said they should”.

Interviewing students, we found out that many had used built-in microphones in laptops or Xbox gaming headsets to record their lyrics.

Seeing this, Francis decided to make it part of the project going forwards saying “I thought if they could do it, any group could”.

Here at VIP, we are already seeing this simple idea start to take off in other areas and hope it inspires more teachers and students to use VIP as a launchpad to spark their creativity in creating their own rap albums. Cross-curricular rap projects have long been a way to boost literacy and engagement in secondary settings and we hope that these resources might make this available to a lot more young people who might benefit from this approach.

The video above shows a bit of the process and some of the students’ thoughts on how it has worked for them.