Having received universally outstanding feedback when this course was last run, the course has been further revised and deepened for all Edexcel Music teachers who wish to maximize their students’ marks in the Appraising Papers. Run by an A level Examiner and former Head of Music who also contributed to the GCSE Textbook, the course will begin by looking at the philosophy behind the Wider Listening requirement of both specifications, and explore ideas that help to get students listening more deeply. Suggestions will be made for developing students’ skills and cultivating a curiosity for unfamiliar music, along with proven and highly effective ideas for building students’ confidence, particularly if they find unfamiliar listening difficult and daunting.

Teaching ideas will be explored, for both unfamiliar listening and set works in general, before focusing in the afternoon on the specific requirements for both the GCSE and A level Appraising papers. The course will also explore the essay requirements of the specification, and common errors from an Examiner’s perspective.

The course offers the unique opportunity for those teaching GCSE to understand the wider progression to A level, and for those teaching A level to understand what students experienced at GCSE. Delegates will not need anthologies.


  • Understand the remit of the Appraising Papers
  • Take away new ideas for boosting students’ confidence and developing their skills
  • A deep exploration of what is required in the essays at GCSE and A level
  • Suggestions for alternative wider listening and strategies that will help low- and mid- ability students
  • Explore strategies that holistically develop students’ skills
  • Ideas for stretching the most able students
  • The opportunity to ask questions to an A level examiner
  • Networking opportunities
COURSE DATES Online | Tuesday 15 June 2021
  • Heads of Music
  • Teachers of Edexcel A level Music and GCSE Music, both new and experienced
  • Teachers of GCSE and A level Music looking to change boards to Edexcel
IN-SCHOOL You can also book this as an In-School Course
  • 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
  • Two course restaurant lunch
  • Refreshments throughout the day
  • Guaranteed high quality venues


10.00 – 11.00 The Philosophy Behind Wider Listening

  • Encouraging Students to Listen Critically – Strategies for Low, Mid and High Ability Students
  • Why Listening Should Be Normal
  • Appreciation vs. Preference – Overcoming Student Resistance to Unfamiliar Music
  • Students’ Definitions of Music; Broadening and Deepening Perspectives
  • The Problems with Compartmentalising for GCSE and A-level
  • Cultivating Curiosity – Proven Strategies and Ideas that Maximise Impact and Save Time
  • Developing Student Skills for Excellence at both GCSE and A-level

11.00 – 11.15 Discussion over Coffee

11.15 – 12.45 Holistic Approaches to Cultivate Music Appreciation

  • Eliciting Confidence from Listening – Embedding Academic Thinking (without students realising)
  • Normalising Academic Discussions about Music
  • Cultivating Respect and Changing Habits – Techniques to Broaden the Narrow-Minded Student
  • Can Compartmentalising be Helpful?
  • Pushing Outside the Comfort Zone
  • The Importance of Playlists for Critical Listening and Appraising of Unfamiliar Music
  • Comparing Notre Dame Polyphony to Steve Reich: The need to be Inventive with Music History
  • Incorporating Dictation and Normalising It – Techniques for the Daunted
  • Set Works and Bike Wheels; Inventive Strategies for Teaching Set Works Deeply and Quickly

12.45 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.15 Unfamiliar Music and Wider Listening for GCSE

  • Developing skills for the Unfamiliar Question 8 Piece
  • Listening Frameworks – Ideas to help Low, Mid and High Ability Students
  • Helping Students with the Familiar and Unfamiliar music in Question 9
  • Embedding AO3 and AO4 from the start – Quick Solutions to Maximise Marks

14.15 – 14.30 Break

14.30 – 15.45 Unfamiliar Music and Wider Listening for A level

  • Question 5 and 6: AO3 and AO4 explored and Common Errors from an Examiner’s Perspective
  • Level 5 Essays that embed Wider Listening – High Mark Examples
  • Wider Listening List of Key Works

15.45 – 16.00 Q & A

John Arkell

John has taught music in several independent schools and is currently Head of Academic Music and Organist at Oundle School. John holds fellowship diplomas in organ performance from the Royal College of Organists, Trinity College London and the London College of Music. In 2000, John was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and in 2009 he received a Fellowship of the Guild of Musicians and Singers for his work in choral music.On sabbatical from Oundle School in 2006, John was appointed Fellow Commoner at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. As an academic musician, John is a former Chief Examiner for Edexcel Music GCSE and a Principal Examiner for A Level. Over the years he has written a number of books on music; his latest textbook for the 2017 GCSE course was published by Pearson in 2016. John has been the Musical Director of the Oundle and District Choral Society since 2003.

View all courses led by John Arkell >

Alexander Aitken

Alexander was Head of Academic Music and Choirmaster at Stowe School until December 2017, and is an A level examiner with Edexcel. He was on the review team for Edexcel’s GCSE Music textbook, having also written the analysis of Defying Gravity. A former organ scholar of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, he has been teaching for fifteen years (in some form or other). His unique, innovative and holistic teaching approach has consistently yielded excellent A level and GCSE results across all areas of the specifications. Now a freelance conductor, pianist, organist and teacher, he is also a Musical Director at the National Youth Music Theatre, and has composed the scores to numerous short films, which have premièred at both BAFTA and the London Film Academy. He holds Licentiate diplomas in piano performance from both the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College London, and the Associate diploma in organ performance from the Royal College of Organists.

View all courses led by Alexander Aitken >

Pearson Edexcel