Harmonize started as a project in Liverpool Lighthouse, the UK’s first dedicated Urban Gospel Arts Centre, with a vision to use urban gospel arts and music to engage young people at risk of exclusion from mainstream school. It was triggered partly in response to the high levels of truancy we observed around our area. The project initially ran as a pilot with funding from the Learning & Skills Council, and took young people from school for six weeks at a time, involving them in a programme of gospel singing, music, and anger management, addressing their behaviour issues and then returning them to school.
By the end of the first year it had become clear that some of these young people simply could not flourish in mainstream environment. We devised a full time programme and approached the Local Education Authority as well as schools, to refer young people to us. The referrals started coming in and we built up to two groups of 15, one for Year 11 and one for Year 10 and younger.
In 2011 we began the process of applying to become a Free School. It was a very long and difficult season, and we experienced significant opposition from the first project lead and education adviser appointed by the DFE to guide us. However, we were eventually able to get the support we needed, and some additional funding toward refurbishing the school building, and the school opened in April 2013. We were delighted in March 2015 to receive an Outstanding Ofsted grade.
Dr Modupe Omideyi, CEO, Liverpool Lighthouse