This new course explores a range of teaching approaches, techniques and strategies to best support students to achieve in the unfamiliar listening elements of the paper. It also explores practical innovative and refreshed ways of stimulating and cultivating music appreciation in students so they can approach questions more confidently in the exam, with greater understanding and greater relevance.

The course will explore approaches to questions 5 & 6 and 8 & 9, what the examiners are looking for in response to questions. Led by two current leading GCSE music expert practitioners and examiners, this course promises to be stimulating, informative, and to make a difference to approaches to teaching this area.

Although examples will be taken from the Edexcel papers, the nature of the course means it will also be of benefit to all teachers from other examination boards teaching wider listening.


  • Explore how to ‘normalise’ musical unfamiliarity
  • Gain practical, creative approaches on how to develop and expand students’ listening so they listen as musicians
  • Take away practical strategies and approaches to cultivate music appreciation in students
  • Explore practical ways to tackle questions 5 & 6 and questions 8 & 9
  • Find out what examiners are looking for in a response
COURSE DATES London Tuesday 16 October 2018
London Monday 17 December 2018
  • All teachers of GCSE Music
  • Heads of Music
  • Music NQTs
  • Those responsible for music departments
IN-SCHOOL You can also book this as an In-School Course
  • A specially prepared folder of 50+ pages full 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 – 11.00am: The Wider Listening Requirement: Listening as a Passenger v Listening as a Musician?

  • Listening as a passenger vs. listening as a musician
  • Why listening should be normal
  • Paint Pots vs. Canvasses – linking things up
  • Appreciation vs. Preference – changing mindsets and normalising unfamiliarity
  • Hearing students’ definitions of music; broadening and deepening perspectives
  • The problems with compartmentalising and perception
  • Cultivating Curiosity

11.00 – 11.15am: Discussion: coffee break


11.15 – 12.45pm: Holistic Approaches to Cultivate Music Appreciation

  • Eliciting confidence from listening and normalising discussions about music
  • Cultivating Respect and changing Habits
  • Building skills and can compartmentalising be helpful?
  • Comfort Zones – student and teacher
  • Playlists
  • Notre Dame Polyphony and Steve Reich: being inventive with music history
  • Incorporating dictation and normalising it
  • Set Works and Bike Wheels and Extra-Curricular ideas

12.40 – 1.20pm: Lunch and informal discussion


1.20 – 2.20pm: Tackling Questions 8 & 9 Edexcel GCSE unfamiliar music and wider listening

  • Exploring practical ways to tackle the unfamiliar Question 8 piece
  • Using set work pieces to draw out stylistic comparisons of similarities and differences to the unfamiliar piece
  • Using musical elements as the first port of call when confronting unfamiliar music
  • Examining the Assessment Objectives (A03 and A04) as an integral part of the appraising process
  • How to help students with the familiar and unfamiliar music in Question 9
  • The art of analysing and evaluating. Some practical ideas to build confidence

2.20 – 2.35pm: Discussion: afternoon tea


2.35 – 3.35pm: Tackling Questions 5 & 6: Edexcel GCE unfamiliar music and wider listening

  • Looking at practical ways in which to approach the unfamiliar Question 5 essay
  • The Assessment objectives considered – A03 the demonstration and application of factual knowledge and A04, using appraising skills to make critical and evaluative judgments on the music
  • Relating the unfamiliar extract to familiar music previously studied as set works and other relevant pieces
  • The ‘big’ 30 mark Question 6 explored in detail
  • How to incorporate examples from wider listening and other works into the essay to gain extra credit
  • The importance of showing how a musical element from a wider listening piece is used and crucially what is its effect in the music

3.35 – 3.50pm: Summary

  • Drawing together common themes of the day
  • Bottoms up! The importance of starting from modest beginnings at year 9 and developing confidence and success through to GCSE and A level

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.

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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.

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