Back by popular demand, this course is designed for all Pearson/Edexcel GCSE Music teachers who wish to maximise their students’ marks in the Appraising Paper.

Run by a former Head of Music who wrote part of the GCSE textbook, the course will begin with key messages from the 2019 examination, and explore ways of integrating these in preparation for 2020.

Creative and innovative suggestions will be made for developing students’ skills, specifically regarding analysis, writing academically and demonstrating a deep and genuine understanding of the set works and their contexts to give students across the full range of abilities optimum opportunity to succeed in the examination.

The course will also look at the skeleton score element of Question 8, and how to achieve a Level 4 essay in Question 9.

The afternoon will explore each set work in turn, focusing on embedding historical and contextual awareness, technical vocabulary and wider listening, as well as suggesting inspiring teaching ideas and useful resources aside from those already published. Delegates will need anthologies.


  • Focused on identifying the demands of the Appraising paper and providing materials to help teachers prepare students effectively
  • Looking in detail at the different demands of the wide variety of question types in the paper.
  • Take away creative ideas for eliciting deep understanding of set works
  • Explore strategies that holistically develop students skills
  • Take away approaches that excite students, cultivate a deeper music appreciation and raise grades in exams
  • Understand how to maximise students’ marks on the Appraising paper
  • Take away new approaches, ideas and resources (aside from those published)
COURSE DATE Online | Thursday 29 June 2021
  • Heads of Music
  • Teachers of Pearson/Edexcel GCSE Music
  • Teachers of GCSE Music looking to change boards
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

10.00 – 11.15am
Key Messages from the 2019 Examination

  • Feedback from 2019: what issues did examiners raise? How can students improve?
  • Integrating feedback going forward

10.30 – 11.00am
Mastering Communicating about music in the Appraising Paper

  • Questions and question types, maximising essay marks
  • Methods and techniques to help students apply knowledge appropriately to questions
  • Level 4 Essays

11.00 – 11.15am
Discussion: coffee break

11.15 – 12.00pm
Developing Students’ Skills for Excellence

  • The philosophy behind wider listening and practical approaches to develop student’s skills
  • Approaches that excite students and cultivate a deeper music appreciation
  • Teaching strategies and methods to develop student’s work in unfamiliar music and get them actively listening as a musician, rather than passively hearing
  • Wider listening list – some alternative ideas that broaden and deepen perspectives

12.00 – 12.45pm
Instrumental Music 1700-1820

1. Analysing J.S. Bach: 3rd Movement from Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major

  • Getting students to place the concerto grosso in context in terms of instrumental writing, forces, structure and harmonic language
  • Delving into the counterpoint
  • Stretching students with concepts of counterpoint and fugue
  • Wider links to the specification and common errors encountered

2. Analysing Beethoven: 1st Movement from Piano Sonata no. 8 in C minor ‘Pathétique’

  • Placing Beethoven in context with wider listening
  • Linking Beethoven’s writing with the construction of the instrument at the time
  • Ways of teaching sonata form, and detailed analysis of key features, including harmonic language
  • Tactics for helping students grasp larger structures
  • Wider links to the specification and common errors encountered

12.45 – 1.45pm
Lunch and informal discussion

1.45 – 2.45pm
Vocal Music

3. Analysing Purcell: Music for a While

  • Placing the work in context and examining music for the theatre
  • The ground bass through history and understanding its importance as a compositional device
  • Surprising links: Stravinsky, Bach and Queen
  • Wider links to the specification and common errors encountered

4. Analysing Queen: Killer Queen

  • In depth analysis of the song and its influences: helping students with the structural and harmonic aspects
  • Understanding Queen’s style in the broader context of popular music
  • Deepening perspectives and wider links to the specification

2.45 – 3.45pm
AoS3 and AoS4: Music for Stage and Screen and Fusions

5. Analysing Schwartz: Defying Gravity

  • Unpacking the score: hidden aspects revealed by the author of the textbook analysis
  • Understanding the role of older genres in the construction of the musical
  • Harmonic concepts – stretching the most gifted students
  • Compositional and research ideas that impact the wider specification
  • Alternative approaches to engage and excite students

6. Analysing Williams: Star Wars Main Title / Rebel Blockade Runner

  • Film music: additional inspiring ideas that encourage deeper thinking
  • Examining the role of rhythm and the motif
  • In depth analysis of key features, including orchestration, timbre and harmony
  • Ideas on alternative works and scores to study
  • Links to composition and other areas of the specification

7. Analysing Afro Celt Sound System: Release

  • Fusion styles – creative ideas that positively impact composition and performance
  • Ways in to the set work through unexpected sources
  • Getting students to hear through textures
  • Placing the work within wider cultural context, drawing from its influences
  • Getting students confident with discussing its ingredients

8. Analysing Esperanza Spalding: Samba Em Prelúdio

  • Getting under the skin of the stylistic influences, and getting students to think imaginatively
  • Jazz harmony – stretching the boundaries for all students
  • Avenues for composition and improvisation to explore
  • Surprising links, both within and outside of the specification

3.45 – 4.00pm
Questions and Summary

Alexander Aitken

Alex Aitken is an A level examiner with Edexcel, and was also on the review team for the GCSE textbook, having written the analysis for Defying Gravity. A former organ scholar of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, he has been teaching for fifteen years in a variety of schools, as well as privately, and is formerly Head of Academic Music and Choirmaster at Stowe School. His unique, innovative and holistic teaching approach has consistently yielded outstanding A level and GCSE results across all components of the specifications and this, alongside wider educational work, has led to being in great demand as a visiting leader of INSET days and departmental reviews in schools across the UK. Alex is currently the Children’s Musical Director and Cover Conductor for Mary Poppins in London; a role he combines with other freelance work as a musical director, pianist and organist (notably with MK Chorale, the National Youth Music Theatre, National Children’s Choir, and CBSO). Alex has composed scores to numerous short films, which have premièred at both BAFTA and the London Film Academy, and 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 >