The David Nieper Academy band performing in the community at Alfreton Indoor Market

David Nieper Academy: Working with the community at Christmas

Posted by: Laura Hammond

Thu 8th December 2022

Written by Dr Kathryn Hobbs, headteacher of David Nieper Academy

One of the things we really wanted to do when we became David Nieper Academy in September 2016 was to become an active participant in local community life and events. It is a great experience for pupils to meet with people outside of school and a wonderful opportunity to try out the skills developed in school and to develop new skills and confidence.

I described in my last article how our annual carol service at St Martin’s Church came into being and how this started our relationship with Rev Julian Penfold, who is now our Academy Chaplain. This relationship has also led to our pupils each year taking part in the St Martin’s Christmas Tree Festival. This involves our pupils creating decorations around a theme to tell a story with their tree.

Over the years we have worked to several different themes and this year the theme is to create something which shows off our own unique identity.

Getting the tree to the church is then a logistical challenge for a team of people, including our site staff who usually transport the tree in our academy minibus, with some of the children and staff walking to the church to ensure that the decorations are placed to the best effect. The trees are then displayed to members of the public over a weekend.

Visiting the church each year is a delight as there are a very large number of trees all beautifully decorated by different community groups, schools and organisations. It is always a good opportunity to meet some of our pupils and their families as well as other people from Alfreton who are viewing the trees. The tea and cake are always lovely too!

Once the Christmas tree festival is over, the academy community get to enjoy the tree for the rest of the term as it takes pride of place in our reception. This event is a lovely opportunity for our pupils to engage in a creative task as well as taking part in a community event and having an external audience to view their work.

Christmas also allows for another opportunity for our pupils to engage in community events, as for the last few years we have been invited to take part in the Alfreton Town Christmas lights switch on.

Mrs Harrison (nee Pell), our music teacher, has taken on the challenge of leading and organising our academy band, choir and, for the last two years, GCSE music students, performing at various locations around Alfreton. 2021 had proved to be exceptionally cold and windy which meant the band faced great difficulty playing their instruments! 2022 saw a change of venue as the band performed in the Indoor Market around the Christmas tree.

Our band continues to evolve and develop as more pupils have taken up instrumental lessons and now feel confident enough to perform in public. Several staff are also members of the band which provides a lovely opportunity for staff and pupils to work together in a different setting, sharing their experiences, supporting each other and also learning from making mistakes together! It was fantastic to see two pupils, Leonie Tissié and Rachel Nash, taking the lead conducting the band for two of the numbers. A great opportunity to develop different musical and leadership skills and allowing Mrs Harrison to pick up her recorder to join the band as a performer for these items.

The band performed a number of Christmas items including Joy to the World, Silent Night, Jingle Bells and ending with a jazz version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. This year the band had a very large audience of supporters made up from pupils who were performing in the choir and/or on the main stage later in the day, as well as many friends and family who had come to listen and support.

Pupils take on the responsibility for setting up each location, so a quick removal of music stands, keyboards, instruments and banners was required to allow us to move to the main Christmas tree ready for our choir to perform.

The choir is going from strength to strength as our change to break and lunch times this year has allowed for more pupils to attend rehearsals and to join one or more of the many musical groups that are now on offer. We also have a record number of pupils taking singing lessons in school. Numbers included Do You Hear What I Hear, Last Christmas and In the Bleak Midwinter. The choir was joined again by many pupils from the academy, along with friends and family, who came into town to listen and support as well as the many people out shopping in Alfreton.

A short break followed to allow everyone to refuel with their favourite drink as Mrs Harrison and Mr Cakar set about getting everything ready for our GCSE music students to perform their group ensembles on the main stage outside Alfreton House. The setting was lovely with the tree lights lit and a very large crowd of people ready to listen and support.

Our performers included all students in Years 10 and 11 music classes, along with a few additional friends. Amongst the most unusual offering this year was a rock performance of Carol of the Bells which included Leonie Tissié on tuba, William Saxton on drums, Rachel Nash on guitar supported by Mr Cakar on guitar.

The Alfreton Town Christmas Light switch on provides a fantastic experience for all the performers. The chance to perform to an external audience, to try out new things in an unfamiliar setting, to work with staff as well as pupils from different year groups, as well as being a part of and supporting Alfreton Town Christmas celebrations. This provides a wonderful showcase for the academy, an opportunity for friends and family to come and hear how the performers are developing and the chance for the wider community to come together.

It was a great day. Many thanks to Mrs Harrison and Mr Cakar for their work in preparation and on the day, and to Alfreton Town Council for organising such a great day and inviting us to take part.

David Nieper Academy pupils also support with other Christmas activities in and around our town. This has included our design technology pupils previously helping to create some decorations on The Rotary Santa’s Sleigh, our choir performing carols and pupils decorating for Christmas at local care homes. All of these opportunities are wonderful experiences: supporting the learning, confidence and wider development of our pupils; integrating the academy with our local community; and allowing us to give something back to the community that supports our academy.