Key Stage 4

In Year 11, students follow the Edexcel GCSE music specification for the exam that will be taken in the final term of Year 11.

Below is the outline of what all GCSE students are required to study.

There are three components in GCSE Music and students must complete them all.  They learn about musical language and explore the elements underlying the organisation of sound, through listening to music, performing individually and in a group, composing and appraising music.

This specification encourages students to:

  • develop their own musical interests and skills including the ability to make music individually and in groups and to use music technology
  • evaluate their own and others’ music
  • understand and appreciate a range of different kinds of music
  • actively engage in the process of music study in order to develop as effective and independent learners and as critical and reflective thinkers with enquiring minds.

The exam is assessed in the following ways:

Unit 1: Performing consisting of 2 performances: Solo – minimum 1 piece – minimum 1 minute and Ensemble – minimum 1 piece – minimum 1 minute.  Together total minimum of 4 minutes across the solo and ensemble pieces. Total of 60 marks (30%)

Unit 2: Composing consisting of 2 compositions: 1 to set brief – minimum 1 minute, 1 free composition – minimum 1 minute. Together total minimum of 3 minutes. Total of 60 marks (30%).

Unit 3: Appraising Exam – Exam 1hr 45mins.   Four areas of Study with 2 Set Works each . Total of 80 marks (40%).

Set Works:

  • AoS1 Instrumental Music 1700–1820 (Bach & Beethoven)
  • AoS2 Vocal Music (Purcell & Queen)
  • AoS3 Music for Stage and Screen (S. Schwartz & J. Williams)
  • AoS4 Fusions (Release & Esperanza Spalding) Musical language/literacy content.

In Year 10, students will study RSL Performance for Music Practitioners (

This comprises three internally assessed components:- Music Knowledge, Instrumental / Vocal Study, Using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), and one externally assessed component:- Live Music Performance – Externally Assessed.

There is no final examination.

Key Stage 3

At Holbrook all Key Stage 3 students receive 1 hour a week of music. The three key skills of performing, listening and composing are covered through the following differentiated programs of study.

All Year 7 students will sit a standardised baseline test that will give an accurate picture of where their level their musical understanding is when they start in September.

For the first half of the Autumn term, Year 7students learn about the fundamental principles of music to enable them to improve their skills in the reading, writing and performing of music.

The next areas covered for each of the following half terms are: Voiceworks, Music and the media (focusing on television advertising in particular), Wondermusic project (focusing on untuned and tuned percussion), features of good melody writing (what makes a good tune?) and finally medieval music (focusing on music related to monks and how they use modes).

Performing skills are developed through classwork by singing, keyboard work, ukulele and percussion. Homework tasks are focused on basic theory to help them develop their overall musical understanding. A large part of the Year 7 curriculum focuses on the use of musical vocabulary and its use in the listening and appraising of music. All students are encouraged to get involved in extra-curricular activities to improve ensemble skills and their enjoyment of creating music.

In Year 8, all students continue to follow a differentiated curriculum which builds on their learning from Year 7. The topics covered each half term are : African music, Experimental music, Music & Space, Chinese music, Jazz improvisation.

In Year 9, all students continue to follow a differentiated curriculum which builds on their learning from Year 8. The topics covered  are : Musical theatre, Minimalism, Soundtracks, Romantic composers, Popular song, Fanfares.

Holbrook Academy’s music department is a popular and creative area of the school. All students are encouraged to develop their musical talents and many choose to join one of the music clubs which perform to a wide range of audiences.

Music lessons are available for a wide range of instruments and all students are given the opportunity to experience playing an instrument within curriculum music lessons.