Education Support Grants

The 1984 Education (Grants and Awards) Act introduced Education Support Grants (ESGs) - central government funds given to Local Education Authorities for specific purposes.

One of those purposes was for the organisation in urban areas of leisure-time activities of vocational benefit to young persons, mainly between the ages of 14 and 21.

Applicants set out how their activity supported schools, parents and the participants.

Some of the high profile criteria were:

  • Promoting the values of mutual respect, self-discipline and social responsibility
  • Strengthen good behaviour both inside and outside the National Curriculum
  • Recognise pupils' non-academic achievements
  • Breaking down barriers between home and school
  • Specialist teachers working in mainstream schools with access to places in onsite and offsite units.

Trafford Youth Service gained funding to set up an all girl steelband, Sister Steel, at their youth club in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester. The band was also to be led by a female tutor. The band members were pupils from surrounding schools, who were also members of the youth club and were already receiving steelpan tuition at their respective schools.

The band quickly gained notoriety in their locality performing at many events. A year on, an opportunity for the band to travel to Aalborg, Denmark and play at a youth rock festival gave the band a new direction. In preparation for their journey, the band recorded their favourite songs in a professional recording studio and produced a promotional cassette recording titled Sister Steel - Summer of '89. Their trip aboard was a success and they were invited to return the next year.  Sister Steel was now an ambassador for their community, their youth club, Trafford Council and the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, after a three year period Sister Steel disbanded as the band members moved on to pursue their personal careers. However, the legacy of the band is still evident in the North West of England as there are a number of youth steelbands who now travel to Denmark and many all girl steelbands have since been formed.

Today there are many government initiatives that offer support to such youth projects, both in and out of school. This approach has been vital in improving the profile of the steelpan instrument and thereby ensuring a place within British culture.