Aims of the Department

At St Mary’s, it is paramount that all our pupils are engaged and motivated by the subject. It is believed in the department that pupils should enjoy participating in practical music activities, allowing their own light to shine. As well as this each individual’s creativeness should be fully stretched and challenged, through a range of topics and units. Pupils will be supported to achieve high levels of progress in their learning as young musicians in a safe, caring and enthusiastic environment.

Extracurricular Activities

As a department there is an array of extracurricular activities on offer. There are many ways to get involved in music making outside of lessons at St Mary’s.

St Mary’s Singers - Choir

Enjoying singing? Join our choir, open to anyone from all year groups.

Every Monday after school – 3.15-4.15pm

Every Wednesday lunchtime – 1.30pm

Watch our Choir performing at the 2017 Schools' Gotta Sing Competition here:

Keyboard Club

Come and learn to play the keyboard, or to extend your piano playing skills!

Every Monday & Tuesday lunchtime – 1:30pm

Theory Club

Refresh your knowledge of music theory and revise reading and writing music. Great for GCSE prep or if you’re considering Music GCSE.

Every Thursday lunchtime – 1:30pm

GCSE Drop-In

Drop in at lunch to ask any questions regarding the GCSE course. Extra support for homework and coursework available. No appointment needed!

Every Thursday & Friday lunchtime – 1:30pm

& after school – 3:10pm-4:10pm

GCSE Revision Sessions

Revision classes that cover each area of study for the listening examination. For Year 11 students only.

Every Friday after school – 3:15pm-4:15pm

Performance opportunities

Each year we have numerous concerts and a bi-annual production combined with the Dance and Drama Department, which feature the choir as well as smaller ensembles and soloists. Standards are always exceptionally high and are another indication of the wealth of talent we have. Under the new leadership of Mr. McMahon in September 2015 the department has expanded and seen the new initiative of ‘Choir Person of the Year’ awards, both picked by the members of the respective ensemble and awarded at the summer concert, where we also say farewell and thank you to our year 11’s. As well as the main concerts there are also other opportunities to perform throughout the year whether it be externally or at school events such as awards evening and the numerous masses held in school and at our associated church, St Mary’s. We also have a worship group who perform and lead singing in year group worship on a regular basis. Pupils can also perform in a more informal setting during our performances in the reception area around Christmas and the end of term at lunchtime.


Music is taught in one designated classroom alongside a rehearsal practice space/ We enjoy a wide range of resources including digital pianos, classroom percussion. Sibelius compositional software and access to computers and laptops.


Students are assessed in performing, listening and composing. Continuous assessment is used to level the pupils throughout the course. Students are aware of their targets and given the opportunity to develop skills based on these targets.

Music in Key Stage 3

In Key Stage 3, the main aim of the department is to get all pupils involved: to boost their confidence and self-esteem in singing and in instrumental playing. To introduce them to a wider variety of music and also get them involved in composing.

The main areas of study include:

  • Keyboard & instrumental skills
  • Musical literacy
  • Singing and listening
  • Compositional and performance skills
  • Wider musical appreciation

In Year 7, pupils experience a broad introduction to the above areas of study. They will learn basic keyboard skills and begin to devise and perform short pieces. Below are the topics that are visited in Year 7:

Music & Musical Tools  Rhythm & Pulse  Form & Structure The Orchestra Scales  The Voice

In Year 8, pupils continue to develop their practical keyboard skills, extend their composition work and participate in more performances. Pupils also develop their general musical knowledge through listening and evaluating. This year is focused on music and other art forms. Below are the topics that are visited in Year 8:

African Music  Music & Screen Chinese Music  Music & Art  Gamelan Music  Indian Music

In Year 9 all pupils further develop their keyboard skills. There is a greater emphasis on music technology, utilising computers and GCSE music software. Students are encouraged to compose and arrange music in a variety of styles and genres. This year is heavily focused on Popular Music from all different eras. The main priority is to prepare pupils for the GCSE Music experience. Below are the topics that are visited in Year 9:

Musicals Popular Song  Rock ‘n’ Roll Reggae Jazz Improvisation Samba

Music in Key Stage 4

Is It Right For Me?

A passion for music can take you far – into the worlds of performance, composition, education and media. In addition, the study of music is highly regarded by universities and further education establishments because it relies on the mastery of many different disciplines and skills.

What Do I Need To Know, Or Be Able To Do Before Taking The Course?

Have an interest in performing, composing and listening to music and a desire to learn more and to discover new styles of music.

Level 6 or above at key stage three.

Be able to play an instrument or sing or be willing to learn an instrument

Enthusiasm and commitment

What Will I Learn?

We follow the AQA GCSE syllabus which is split up into 3 components. The Music GCSE course is an exciting opportunity for students wishing to further their composition, listening and performance skills. Over 2 years, students learn about music from many different styles and genres such as ‘Popular Music’ and ‘World Music’, and are given the chance to perform and compose in these styles as well.

How Will I Be Assessed?

Component 1: Understanding music

What's assessed


Contextual understanding

How it's assessed

Exam paper with listening exercises and written questions using excerpts of music.


Section A: Listening – unfamiliar music (68 marks)

Section B: Study pieces (28 marks)

The exam is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

This component is worth 40% of GCSE marks (96 marks).

Component 2: Performing music

What's assessed

Music performance

How it's assessed

As an instrumentalist and/or vocalist and/or via technology:

Performance 1: Solo performance (36 marks)

Performance 2: Ensemble performance (36 marks).

A minimum of four minutes of performance in total is required, of which a minimum of one minute must be the ensemble performance.

This component is 30% of GCSE marks (72 marks).

Non-exam assessment (NEA) will be internally marked by teachers and externally moderated by AQA. Performances must be completed in the year of certification.

Component 3: Composing music

What's assessed


How it's assessed

Composition 1: Composition to a brief (36 marks)

Composition 2: Free composition (36 marks).

A minimum of three minutes of music in total is required.

This component is 30% of GCSE marks (72 marks).

Non-exam assessment (NEA) will be internally marked by teachers and externally moderated by AQA.

Instrumental Lessons

Instrumental lessons are taught by a team of professional staff and are currently offered on the following instruments. Should pupils wish to learn another instrument that is not on the list below, please see Mr. McMahon.


Teacher of Music & Drama – Mr J. McMahon
Brass – Mr. K. Sagar
Drums – Mr. M. Fitton
Guitar – Mr. S. Webster & Mr. J. Wadsworth
Piano / Voice – Miss. P. Bryan