This course is designed for all teachers of A level Music who are looking for effective, practical and workable strategies, methods and techniques to raise the attainment levels of composition in their A level music groups. Specific, separate focus on approaches with lower ability students as well as highly able composition students will be practical explored in separate sessions.

The course is aimed for teachers of all examination boards and will take examples from Composing to a Brief, as well as Free Composition.

The course is led by composing teaching and examiner experts Bruce Cole and David Knotts. The course builds on the feedback from the summer 2019 exams, regarding assessment and compositions and looking forward to 2020.


  • Gain feedback on the summer 2019 exam to impact on your composition teaching for 2019
  • Identify the key areas of strength and weakness for high achieving students
  • Take away expert advice from two leading A level Music Composition leads
  • Take away effective, successful approaches to improve composition skills with lower attaining students
  • Explore examples of compositions, to scrutinise Grades B and Grades A/A* to help students make progress, also Grades C to Grade B
  • Take away valuable guidelines on how to assess well and give effective feedback
COURSE DATE  London | Wednesday 24 June 2020
* Please note, this course will be held online on the designated date if it’s not possible to run in venues.
  • Heads of Performing Arts Departments
  • Heads of Music Departments
  • Teachers of A level Music
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 – 10.50am
The key messages from the 2019 examinations

  • Feedback from 2019 – what key issues did examiners raise?
  • What does this tell us about the mid-range composition student?
  • Identifying the key areas of strength and weakness for high achieving composition students
  • What should composition teaching focus on?
  • How can students improve on working to a brief?
  • What do we take forward to 2020 exams?

10.50 – 11.10am
Discussion: coffee break

11.10 – 12.40pm
Improving Composition Skills with lower attaining students 

  • The importance of planning work with students to facilitate a ‘step-by-step- approach to composition
  • Managing the varying skill set in the classroom
  • A close examination of the specification and assessment requirments to identify how to address weakness and ensure student progress
  • Tackling the weaker composition – approaches, ideas, and practical strategies
  • Skills requirements – practical approaches on how to support students to improve grade D-C compositions
  • Drawing from examples, practical demonstrations on how to get students to progress, improve and develop the mid-range students’ skills to improve their composition writing
  • The non-notation and technology-based students – how to improve their work

12.40 – 1.40pm
Lunch and informal discussion

1.40 – 3.00pm
Working with B-A/A* students to ensure top Composition grades

  • Ensuring high level students meet the Assessment Objective requirements and why these are crucial to your teaching
  • Examples of compositions, strategies and practical approaches to ensure that students at Grades B to A/A* work to the highest standards
  • Skills requirements: how to demonstrate high level skills
  • Working to a brief to bring out the highest skills levels

3.00 – 3.05pm
Discussion: afternoon tea

3.05 – 3.45pm
Monitoring and Assessing Progress; Appraising Work

  • Marking and giving good feedback on compositions to maintain student progress
  • Developing students’ understanding of mark schemes in relation to their composition work
  • Managing the compositional process

Dr. David Knotts

David studied at the Royal Academy of Music, King’s College Cambridge, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the University of Sussex. He has held teaching posts at Lady Margaret School in Fulham and the Yehudi Menuhin School and currently teaches at Canterbury Christchurch University and the Royal Academy of Music, where he teaches composition as well as delivering the LRAM teacher training programme. He is currently working with A level composition students in his role as composer in residence at City of London School for Girls.

David’s experience as a composer and educationalist is wide ranging: he has written music for many of the country’s leading orchestras, ensembles and instrumentalists and has developed composition projects for many of the country’s leading arts organisations [Aldeburgh/South Bank Centre/Barbican/Wigmore Hall/English National Opera/Trinity Laban} working with young composers and their teachers from primary and secondary schools. Recent commissions have included The Unicorn Dances for City of London Boys School and a new oboe concerto commissioned by Oxford Arts Festival to be premiered next week.

David was made an honorary associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2007 in recognition of his work in the fields of composition and education.

View all courses led by Dr David Knotts >

Bruce Cole

Bruce is Fellow in Community Music at the University of York, where he is responsible for programmes of student of work in schools and other community settings. He has also been external examiner and consultant in music education to institutions in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Middle East, Japan and Africa.

A composer, who has worked in the music industry, concert hall, theatre and film and with the education departments of many orchestras, he has taught at most levels from preschool to postgraduate including teacher training, special education and prison education. He has held two residencies in London schools, authored and co–authored six books on school music and has eighteen years examining experience at a senior level.

View all courses led by Bruce Cole >