Back by popular demand, this course is designed for all 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 2018 examination, and will suggest ways of integrating these going forward, before providing a detailed exploration of the remit of the Appraising Paper. 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. 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.


  • Take away creative ideas for eliciting deep understanding of set works
  • Explore strategies that holistically develop students’ skills
  • Understand how to maximise students’ marks on the Appraising paperTake away new approaches, ideas and resources (aside from those published)
  • Networking opportunities
COURSE DATE in school
  • Heads of Music
  • Teachers of Edexcel A level Music and GCSE Music
  • Teachers of GCSE and A level 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
  • Two course restaurant lunch
  • Refreshments throughout the day
  • Guaranteed high quality venues

10.00 – 11.00am
The Philosophy Behind Wider Listening

  • Hearing as a Passenger vs. Listening as a Musician
  • Why Listening Should Be Normal
  • Paint Pots vs. Canvasses
  • Appreciation vs. Preference
  • Students’ Definitions of Music; Broadening and Deepening Perspectives
  • The Problems with Compartmentalising
  • Cultivating Curiosity
  • Developing Student Skills

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
  • 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; some ideas for teaching Set Works

12.45 – 1.30pm
Lunch and informal discussion

1.30 – 2.15pm
Unfamiliar Music and Wider Listening for GCSE

  • Discussion: Thoughts So Far
  • Developing skills for the unfamiliar Question 8 piece
  • Listening frameworks
  • Helping students with the familiar and unfamiliar music in Question 9
  • Embedding AO3 and AO4 from the start

2.15 – 2.30pm
Discussion: afternoon tea

2.30 – 3.45pm
Unfamiliar Music and Wider Listening for A level

  • Question 5 and 6: AO3 and AO4 explored and Common Errors
  • Level 5 Essays that embed Wider Listening
  • Wider Listening List of Key Works

3.45 – 4.00pm

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 >