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Coronavirus Updates

Further information about how our Trust and schools are taking necessary precautions since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, can be found in our Trust’s ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) website section’.

For responses to our National Writing Day #247challenge, please see here.

Students joining us in Year 12 September 2020: please see a page of resources for you here. 

Update 11.06.20: For an update about remote learning, to Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12, please see here.

Update 08.06.20: Year 10 and 12 parents and carers, please see the letter that has been sent out with your student’s bubbles. For FAQs, please see here.

Live Learning Timetables: Please see here for live learning timetables for this term for Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12.

For any key worker whose child is not currently using our childcare facility, and who subsequently becomes unable to provide childcare at home –  you must give the school 24 hours’ notice that you need to use this provision so that we can provide appropriate staffing. This means emailing or calling 03333 602130 by 9am the day before. For Monday provision, please ensure that you contact the school by 9am on the preceding Friday.  Students arriving without giving 24 hours’ notice may be turned away if we do not have adequate staffing. To access this provision, you must also have downloaded and completed the form that can be found here and you must bring it with you to the school when you arrive.

You can access Holcombe Grammar School’s COVID-19 latest update and archived letters for the whole school and year groups, including links to resources at


Key Stage 4


Subject Overview:

Music is not only an international language, with cultural and historical significance leading right back to early human civilisation, it is also a means of communal and self-expression; giving us the ability to explore ourselves and the world around us in a unique and powerful way.

Students will develop musical understanding and skills in class through: Listening to and appraising a rich variety of music from a wide range of genres and eras; performing music on instruments and by using their voices (on their own and as part of an ensemble) and through the composition of their own music, acoustically or through the use of appropriate music technologies; both in response to a specific stimuli or brief and as a creative exploration of their own concepts and ideas.

Skills developed through the study of this subject are not only scientifically proven  to develop cognitive processing and problem solving, as well as memory and information recall, but also help with emotional, interpersonal and creative development and expression. This qualification directly supports the future study of Music, Music Technology and/or other Performing Arts Subjects in Further and Higher Education, as well as providing the skills and confidence useful when applying to a wide variety of courses from Law to Medicine, Media Studies to Journalism. Careers related to, or part of, the music industry are as equally varied; from music producers to sound engineers, entertainment attorneys in law to speech pathologists and music therapists, there are music related careers in every sector.

There are 3 ways progress in Music is assessed from KS3 – KS5:

Listening & Appraising – where they will be graded on:

  • Analytical and evaluative skills (using relevant information regarding the set work or unfamiliar listening piece)
  • Depth of knowledge of key musical features and elements (again relevant to the set work or unfamiliar piece)
  • Accurate use of appropriate musical vocabulary (linking this vocabulary to the correct musical elements)
  • Convincing writing skills (clarity, organisation, spelling, punctuation and grammar)

Performance (Solo/Ensemble) – where they will be graded on:

  • Technical control and handling of the sonority (voice and/or Instrumental)
  • Style & expression (tempo, dynamics, phrasing, articulation and communication)
  • Accuracy & fluency (playing/singing notes correctly & coherently)
  • Ensemble skills (contributing effectively in a group)

Composition (Free/Set Brief) – where they will be graded on:

  • Developing musical ideas (successful development and extension of imaginative musical ideas and handling of stylistic characteristics and conventions)
  • Technical control (handling and exploitation of instrumental/vocal forces and musical elements, as well as textural contrast)
  • Musical coherence (creating a sense of wholeness and direction through ensuring fluency and contrast between sections)

In addition to class music lessons, there are many other ways music is embedded into expressions and celebrations of school life, such as assemblies, award events and Founders’ Day which are enhanced by musical performances. There are countless ways in which students can participate in music activities beyond the classroom: Vocal and instrumental tuition are available to students in all years; a wide range of extra-curricular musical activities (choirs, instrumental groups and workshops) take place each week which are open to all students and staff; there are numerous opportunities for students to perform in concerts, recitals, services and events, as well as school based competitions to celebrate and promote young talents within in school, and in the local community.In Key Stage 3 students will develop and reinforce their musical understanding and practical skills. They will do this by listening and appraising, composing and performing music using their voices, instruments and music technology (from basic concepts such as Rhythm and Notation at the beginning of year 7 to creating their own musicals and sharing their musical inspirations in Year 8) in order to strengthen their creative ability, self-confidence and self-expression. The course at KS3 will also give students a chance to explore all of the Ares of Study covered in the GCSE Music course in order for them to gain a good perspective of what studying the course will be like, and to best prepare those that choose to continue studying the subject by providing them with a good breadth of knowledge to expand upon in KS4.

KS4 Curriculum Overview:

At Key Stage 4 the GCSE Music course focuses around the continued enhancement and exploration of the 3 core musical skills: Listening & Appraising, Composing and performing, yet in much more depth than during KS3.

Through Edexcel (our chosen exam board) our students will explore these skills in conjunction with 4 Areas of Study:

AoS 1 – Instrumental Music 1700 – 1820 (which covers the late Baroque, Classical and Early Romantic eras of Western Classical Music & Instruments of the Orchestra)

AoS 2 – Vocal Music (this broad topic covers all vocal music from all genres, classical and popular music)

AoS 3 – Music for Stage & Screen (covering all stage & screen mediums – including musicals, opera, films & TV programmes)

AoS 4 – Fusions (this includes a range of combined musical cultures, for example; Bhangra, Salsa, African, Celtic, Afro-Cuban and Latin American music).

KS4 Course Outline:

PAPER 1 – Performing – 30%

You must complete 2 performances, 1 as a soloist and 1 as a member of an ensemble (including a duet). By the end of Year 11, you should aim to be performing at approximately grade 4 standard. The most suitable repertoire is a piece from a graded examination (eg. ABRSM, Trinity College or LCM).

Your performances must have appropriate accompaniment for piano or backing track if necessary.

Individual pieces must be a minimum of 1 minute in length, therefore multiple shorter pieces may be used for a singular performance.

It is highly advisable that you seek to have (or continue receiving) peripatetic instrumental or vocal lessons on your chosen performance instrument/voice either through the school, or privately alongside this course.

PAPER 2 – Composing – 30%

You need to compose 2 pieces or music; 1 as a ‘Free Composition’ based on your own intended purpose (related to one of the 4 Areas of Study) and a ‘Set Brief’ composition.

The set briefs are released each year by Edexcel and you will need to choose one to follow for your second composition (these again are inspired by the 4 Areas of Study). You should not select the same Area of Study as the inspiration for both of your compositions.

Your submission must include the completed score (either in traditional notation, graphic score, lead sheet or detailed written description) and audio recording (acoustic or electronic) for both compositions.

PAPER 3 – Written / Listening Paper – 40%

At the end of year 11, you will sit a 1 ½ hour written ‘Listening & Appraising’ exam based around the detailed analysis of 8 set works and unfamiliar listening pieces from the 4 Areas of Study studied throughout the course.

This exam will also assess your musical dictation skills; your ability to analyse music notation on the stave; your understanding of musical language and vocabulary as well as general musicianship skills.

This paper includes an extended essay style question which will ask you to analyse one of your set works in more detail and compare it to an unfamiliar piece of music from the same Area of Study. This will involve the application of all the listening and appraising skills culminated throughout both KS3 & KS4.

Year 9 Course Content:

During the first year of the GCSE course students will build upon their musicianship skills developed throughout KS3, as well as being introduced to 4 of their 8 set works from Area of Study 1: Instrumental Music 1700-1820 and AoS 2: Vocal Music, alongside their musical contexts and wider listening examples. Towards the end of the year they will be tested on their knowledge so far during an end of year practice exam paper with questions related to the set works studied so far.

Students will develop both their ensemble and solo performance skills and repertoire in preparation for formative assessments throughout the year and an End of Year Recital.

They will explore the different routes, approaches and techniques involved with ‘Free Composition’ and will start to develop their first piece of coursework based on their chosen intended purpose, related to their chosen Area of Study.

Year 10 Course Content:

During the second year of the GCSE course students will continue to build upon their musicianship skills, revise the musical elements and musical contexts of the 4 set works studied so far as well as studying the other 4 of their 8 set works from AoS 3: Music for Stage & Screen and AoS 4: Fusions, alongside their musical contexts and wider listening examples. After studying the final of the 8 set works, they will be assessed on their knowledge of them, wider musical context and musicianship skills through their first full mock exam.

Students will continue to develop both their ensemble and solo performance skills and repertoire in preparation for formative assessments throughout the year and an End of Year Recital. At this point, all students should be starting to perform piece of at least grade 4 standard (or equivalent).

They will continue to develop their ‘Free Composition’ based on their chosen intended purpose, related to their chosen Area of Study and submit the score and recording of their piece of music by the end of the first summer term. They will then discuss possible set briefs, looking at examples from previous years and the different approaches they could take with each brief.

Year 11 Course Content:

During the third and final year of the course students will revise all of their Areas of Study and 8 set works. They will be tested on their musicianship skills and knowledge of their 8 set works, wider listening pieces and their musical contexts through a series of practice papers and mock exams; in order to hone their ability to analyse the musical elements of these pieces of music in as much detail as possible, as well as getting used to the format of the exam. Towards the end of the year they will sit their 1 ½ hour appraising exam paper.

Students will start by developing their solo performance piece for recording and assessment by the end of the first term. They will then focus on their ensemble performance recording and assessment which will be completed by the end of the second term. The final term can then be dedicated revision for the listening paper. Alongside their revision (in their own time) students will be rehearsing for their final End of Year Recital evening.

They will start their final year by selecting 1 of the 4 set briefs which are released by the exam board just before the start of the academic year (all of which will be related to one of the 4 Areas of Study). Throughout the year they will then continue to develop their set brief composition, completing and submitting the score and recording of their second composition by the end of the Spring term, again this is so that the final term can be dedicated to exam revision for the listening paper.

Please see a full course overview of the subject here.