Building capacity on a shoestring budget

ARIA Music Teacher of the Year and music teacher at Grant High School in South Australia Scott Maxwell says working within tight budget constraints at school all comes down to mindset.

While in Melbourne to present a masterclass to educators, Maxwell sat down with Teacher to discuss how he managed to successfully build capacity in a music program on a limited budget.

At Grant High School, music performances take place at least every two weeks around the school, and larger performances take place regularly in the school community.

‘I think in the early years … I was thinking “well, I can't do this because there's not enough resources in music”,' he tells Teacher.

‘And then I sort of just started to forget about it a little bit. And instead of thinking of what I didn't have, I started to think about what I did have. And what I did have was a bunch of students who were super crazy and hungry to learn music.'

Through donations and grants, Maxwell's music program had access to enough equipment to get some programs going and get themselves out into the community. From that point on, he explains, they built up some momentum and became a frontline to the community. This meant the Arts department was seen by many as the face of the school, because they were always present in the wider community, which, in turn, helped them access more support.

‘Instead of saying “oh, we could never do that because we don't have the money”, or something like that, it's about the students, probably more so than the actual funding behind it,' he shares. ‘And then, once you gain momentum, then, you know, those events, they start building a budget line themselves.'


Scott Maxwell says ensuring the music program presented themselves to the wider community consistently is what assisted them in gaining momentum, and building a budget line for themselves.

As a teacher, how present are your students in the wider school community? In what ways could you present the work you’re doing more frequently? How could this complement the work you’re already doing in the classroom?