Our vision is to be a place where children (and grown-ups) flourish through music.

Our purpose is to support young musicians aged 8-14 years old to develop their musical skills through ambitious, transformative orchestral experiences. Music drives our vision and we believe in its great capacity to promote happiness and health for children and for society.

Who is missing

We want to increase representation in our orchestras and our organisation (board, staff & freelance workforce) in the following priority groups as they are currently under-represented in our participants, staff, freelance teams and (in part) board. Our data tells us these are people who identify as:
• Hearing impaired or BSL users and Disabled
• Black, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian including those of mixed race or heritage.
• From low-income families (below £32,000 annual household income)

We also want to increase the number of participants in state education because we recognise that there are less opportunities to learn and progress in music than are available to a young person at an independent school.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Equity: Creating fair access to our organisation, prioritising and supporting those who face the greatest barriers to our programmes and organisation.

Diversity: Representation of people and ideas from varying cultures, backgrounds, protected characteristics and regions and celebrating difference.

Inclusion: Creating an environment where everyone feels they will be welcomed and that they belong.

We believe that everyone should have equitable opportunities, access and outcomes. We are committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all where everyone feels they belong. We are making changes to our programme, organisation and communications to ensure that Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are at the centre of our plans and that we constantly learn and improve through review and reflection.

The steps we are taking now

We are working with EDI Consultancy SLS360 by reviewing our current policies, practices and communications, surveying our stakeholders, identifying and delivering training as part of an EDI action plan that will be actioned from January 2024.

We have established an EDI Working Group of Trustees with a diverse range of lived and felt experience to work alongside the NCO team to ensure that EDI remains at the centre of our organisation and development and that our commitments are closely reviewed.

Our evaluation framework is measuring how included our participants, parents, board, staff and freelancers feel at NCO.

Board diversity has significantly increased through an open recruitment process with a 15% increase in global majority1 representation, 15% increase in voices who represent less economically and less socially privileged children, and 36% increase in female representation.

We are changing our programme significantly, opening new opportunities for more children at different stages of their musical development to participate in NCO through our new Projects Programme.

We have removed audition fees, introduced an online audition process and simplified our requirements in order to remove practical and financial barriers for applicants and their families.

We have created two new roles to support access and inclusion at NCO:
Head of Engagement, to develop partnership and collaborative projects with schools, music and community organisations to increase NCO’s reach, impact and the diversity of our participants and partnerships
Head of Safeguarding and Support, a qualified youth worker ensuring inclusion is at the heart of all relevant policies, procedures and training and driving recruitment to achieve increased diversity in NCO’s Support Team.

We are actively increasing global majority representation in our artistic programme through our conductors, guest artists, the music we create and play and our music tutor team as we recognise the importance of representation and believe that greater diversity will make our programmes and organisation even better. We work with ABRSM through its diversity-led composer mentor scheme to commission new music each year and our Tutor Mentoring Programme prioritises students from groups who are missing from NCO.

We continue to support around 25% of our membership through our Financial Support programme and are currently reviewing our criteria and process to ensure that our support is more accessible and goes to those who need it most.

NCO will be a partner organisation from January 2024 with Open Up Music in the development of an Accessible Musical Progression (AMP) toolkit to support more disabled musicians to participate in mainstream youth orchestras.

The future

We will continue to learn through the steps we are taking to improve and embed EDI at NCO. We will take forward the recommendations and action plan from our work with SLS360 and regularly review our progress. We will continually strive to increase equity and access to our programmes and organisation and ensure that inclusion is at the heart of our decisions and ethos.

We will not be afraid to take risks to create meaningful change and recognise that failure is not something to fear but to learn from so that we may do better. We want to continue to seek ways to challenge narratives and structures which give advantages to some over others. As we do so, we will share our learning and reflection and strive to be a thought leader for our peers and the wider music education and orchestral sectors.

1 Global majority definition: the group of people in the world who do not consider themselves or are not considered to be white

September 2023