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Teaching GCSE Music Musically: The Essential Principles to Maximise the Musical Potential of All Your Students

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We are pleased to offer this NEW GCSE Music course for Autumn 2023, led by Simon Toyne and designed for all GCSE Music teachers, regardless of which exam specification is being followed.

The aims and purpose of this NEW GCSE Music course is to enrich and extend curriculum perspectives by placing teaching music musically at the core of GCSE schemes of learning (also the KS3 curriculum where the knowledge and skills for GCSE are established and nurtured).

Rather than seeing a GCSE specification as something to “cover” or “get through”, this course will show how to use a specification as a springboard for creating a vibrant, fulfilling musical journey for all students, one which actively develops their musicianship in every lesson through integrating the components of listening, composing and performing in imaginative and meaningful ways.

Particular emphasis will be on how building performance skills through class lessons (rather than deputing this to peripatetic teachers) develops a strong community of musical learning, impacting directly on students’ approaches to appraising and composing. The course will also explore how, through making connections between set works / topics and composing / improvising tasks, students can ‘handle sound’ without fear and develop a love of exploring music that is new to them.

In addition, focus will also be on how teachers bring their own musicianship and musical expertise into the classroom, modelling musical behaviour and inspiring students to deepen their musical knowledge.


  • Find out more about the fundamental principles of teaching music in a vibrant, stimulating and in-depth way by placing teaching music musically at the central core of your teaching
  • Take away practical approaches and strategies for teaching listening, appraising, cultural contexts, composition and other aspects through deepening musical understanding, rather than simply listing use of the elements
  • Gain ways of using the exam specification as a springboard to deepen musical learning
  • Explore exciting schemes of learning that will develop all students’ musicianship
  • Take away practical strategies to develop students’ appraising skills to make evaluative and critical judgments
  • Develop a template for approaching unfamiliar pieces of music/extracts
  • Take away quick starter composing and improvising tasks
  • Take away a bank of composer ‘tricks’ connecting with extended listening
  • Find out more about how to bring solo and ensemble performing into curriculum lessons


GCSE Music Teaching – the challenges and opportunities

10.00 – 10.40am
  • How do we use a specification to create a series of schemes of learning?
  • How might we create a coherent musical journey for our students over two years?
  • How do we develop our GCSE class into a powerful musical community?
  • What subject knowledge do we need to brush up on as teachers to teach GCSE Music?

Discussion: coffee break

10.00– 11.00am
Component 1: Building Performance Skills through Class Lessons 11.00 – 11.40pm
  • How to bring solo and ensemble performing into curriculum lessons
  • How to develop students’ coaching skills
  • Developing the ‘performing workshop’ approach in your school
  • How to ensure performing coursework deadlines are stress-free for both student and teacher, making your GCSE class self-sufficient

Component 3: Putting the Wow factor into teaching Listening

11.40 – 12.30pm
  • How to develop students’ appraising skills to make evaluative and critical judgements about music
  • How to build students’ musical vocabulary through practical music-making
  • How to get students looking forward to hearing pieces of music they haven’t heard before
  • How students can get the real excitement and frisson (dopamine download) required to engage fully in musical learning

Component 2: Quick starter composing activities 12.30 – 1.00pm
  • Quick starter composing and improvising tasks connecting with set works / topics
  • Improvising and composing using a short rhythm or pitch stimulus
  • Developing a bank of composer ‘tricks’, connecting with extended listening

Lunch and informal discussion

1.00 – 2.00pm

Assessing, Analysing and Marking “Flux” and “Scoop”

1.40 – 2.15pm
  • Examination and analysis of solo and duet/trio performances
  • Using the mark scheme to look at the performance at various levels, from the first point of assessments through to final performance
  • Highlighting typical differences between Grade4/ 5and grade8/9 performances
  • Helping students move through the grades to access the higher marks
  • Tackling key areas that students struggle with through real-life examples

Component 2: Building Composing Skills for  GCSE Pupils 2.00 – 3.00pm
  • How to approach a composition brief, sparking the imagination and unlocking the composer toolkit
  • How to make composing workshops cool
  • Ten top tips for composing success at GCSE

Discussion: afternoon tea

3.00 – 3.05pm
Component 3: Listening & Unfamiliar Extracts 3.05 – 3.40pm
  • Developing a template for approaching unfamiliar pieces of music / extracts
  • How the unfamiliar connects with the familiar
  • What constitutes an outstanding piece of extended writing and how to build towards this
  • How to enable students to pick up marks as easy as breathing




London | Wednesday 08 November 2023
London | Wednesday 31 January 2024

Please select your preferred date

London | Wednesday 08 November 2023
London | Wednesday 31 January 2024

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.


One of the leading music teachers in the country, Simon Toyne has been teaching KS3, KS4 and KS5 music for over thirty years, including at Tiffin School and Malcolm Arnold Academy. As Executive Director of Music of the David Ross Education Trust, he is responsible for a music programme that engages over 14,500 students across 34 state schools across the East Midlands. He served on the Expert Panels for the Model Music Curriculum and the National Plan for Music Education and was the most recent President of the Music Teachers’ Association (2019-21).

His chapter on curriculum music in the recent book What Should Schools Teach? was published in January 2021 and is available as an open access pdf from UCL Press. Simon is an experienced choral director, having led the Tiffin Boys’ Choir for 24 years, and is a Director of the Rodolfus Choral Courses.


  • Teachers of GCSE Music
  • Heads of Music
  • Heads of Performing Arts


  • A specially prepared folder of detailed notes, practical advice and guidance
  • Notes prepared by the educational experts leading the course
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance

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