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‘Are You the Amazing Music Teacher We’ve Heard About?’ – Rethinking Outstanding

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Led by Alex Aitken, this new course for Autumn 2023 is designed around a single objective: rethinking what outstanding music teaching is, and what such outstanding music teaching and leadership in a music department looks like. The course is packed full of useful information, knowledge and ideas, backed up by the latest research, thinking and developments in music pedagogy, and promises to be a whistle-stop tour of everything that goes into making a music department, and an individual music teacher, shine.


  •  A thorough day of CPD on all things music, complete with important discussions on many of the current issues in music education.
  • Expert guidance from one of the UK’s leading educationalists, who is also an A-level examiner, former Head of Music, and the author of one of the top A-level resources in the UK: www.
  • Raise academic standards through a deeper understanding of outstanding curriculum design and teaching approaches, and be challenged with new ideas and philosophies, regardless of your experience.
  • The chance to discuss anything to do with teaching music, both with colleagues, and with Alex.


‘I Teach Music’ vs. ‘I Musically Teach’

10.00 – 10.45am
  • Halcyon days: the problems with defining your teaching by your own experience of Music at school.
  • Old vs. new qualifications: square pegs, round holes and increasingly large hammers.
  • The current state of music education; summarising the NPME, and the latest thinking from various important reports, articles and individuals.
  • The need for change: tackling uptake and appreciation of Music, and promoting STEAM.
  • How musical is our teaching?

Priorities – Efficiency, Happiness, Presence, Headroom and Character

10.45 – 11.35pm
  • Keeping up appearances: preventing burnout, reducing marking, and doing more whilst working less.
  • Department social media accounts, school presence, concert promotion and marketing.
  • `I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way’: playing nicely with sport, drama and SLT.
  • Just keep swimming: which actions should become habits? Which habits define character?
  • Working deeper: how our friends in the psychology department can make our lives easier.
  • The music department environment; how flying ET bicycles, space and time can help.
  • Bike wheels, plates and pendulums: thinking outside the box, and daring to be different.
  • Mind your head: creating headspace to avoid bumps.

Morning break

11.35 – 11.45am

Curriculum Design, Budgets and Department Development Plans

11.45 – 12.45pm
  • A blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole.
  • (Curriculum) Design, composition, tension, balance, light, and harmony.
  • Reinventing the wheel, or going round in circles? Summarising current developments in music pedagogy.
  • Development Plans: clearing space for thoughts to becoming words, and for words to become actions.
  • Money Money Money: budgets and winning over the three-headed dog in the finance department.
  • Snowballs, carrots, sticks and stones: departmental momentum, pride and building something impressive.
  • The Winner Takes It All: celebrating what we do, and implementing an inspiring super-curriculum.

Outstanding Priorities

12.45 – 1.00pm
  • Bees and honeypots: what to bear in mind when creating a hive of activity and producing something of value.
  • The broad brushstrokes of excellence; fearlessly painting without numbers, and paint pots vs. canvases.
  • Engagement, uptake, outreach, efficiency and outward-facing excellence: problems and solutions.
  • Happy feet / I’ll be back: getting more people into the department.


1.00 – 1.45pm

The Student Experience

1.45 – 3.15pm
  • Cultivating curiosity and developing musicianship: the role of environment, questioning and research.
  • Three magic words: ‘great, but why’. Five more magic words: thinking, feeling, doing, saying and learning.
  • Ways of providing a rich, holistic, inspiring, wide and engaging curriculum and musical experience. l Outreach: primary schools, student ambassadors, singing, mentoring, coaching and collaborating.
  • P.S. I also do GCSE/A-level Music: tackling uptake, and dropping back onto the specifications.
  • Extra, extra, read all about it: clubs, societies, trips and tours. Making an offer they can’t refuse.
  • Here’s looking at you, kid: rewarding, recognising and championing student excellence.
  • Off with the heads: involving and embracing SLT, and why we often need to teach them as well.
  • Musical theatre, opera, gigs, concerts and films: appreciation vs. preference, and changing habits.

Appraising and Listening

3.30 – 5.00pm
  • Developing students’ listening skills and general knowledge of music.
  • Summary of examiner reports across all specifications since 2016; common errors and patterns.
  • Strategies for teaching analysis and dictation, and for helping weaker or underconfident students.
  • The thinking behind set works, other music and contextual integration.
  • Essays – demonstrating a genuine understanding to the examiner, regardless of specification.
  • Ingredients of outstanding papers; pushing the top students even more.
  • Cultivating curiosity, and a love of unfamiliar music.
  • Flight paths and curriculum design for two years of A-level study.

The Ingredients of Outstanding Music Teaching

3.15 – 4.00pm    


London | Tuesday 12 December 2023

Please select your preferred date

London | Tuesday 12 December 2023

This course, tailored to suit, can be delivered in your school. Discuss this further with our CPD team on 01625 532974 or click below to make an enquiry.


Alexander Aitken is now one of the UK’s leading educationalists for Music, and is the author of www.masteringalevelmusic., which is used worldwide. An A-level examiner and former Head of Music, he also was  part of Edexcel’s GCSE Music textbook team, having written the analysis of Defying Gravity. He continues to maintain a slightly-too-busy schedule as a Musical Director, pianist and teacher, having most recently been the Children’s Musical Director and Cover Conductor on Cameron Mackintosh’s London production of Mary Poppins


  • Teachers of Music, both new and experienced.
  • New Directors of Music
  • Heads of Department wanting to overhaul their Music curriculum to be richer and more inspiring.
  • Heads of Faculties overseeing Music, or Senior Leadership Team members new to managing Music departments.


  • A Specially prepared notes, practical advice and guidance by the course leader
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance

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