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Wonder Secondary Music

Wonder Secondary Music
Curriculum taught at:

Our vision

A sense of the wonder and moving power of music is a key part of life.  Music touches the very heart of our humanity and in all of its many genres, forms, and varieties it is beautiful and changing.  Our music education provides children with the opportunity to understand, perform and create in a world of sound that often sits outside our capacity to describe in words. For almost all of our children, the music they love will provide the soundtrack to their lives and bring depth to the experiences that shape them.

In lessons children will learn the fascinating technical and theoretical foundations to music.  All children will have the opportunity to learn to pick up and play an instrument, even if they have never played one before.  Through a full extra-curricular offer, we also provide the opportunity for them to play in ensembles and school productions.  Our aim is to build a musical future for all children, whatever form that may take.  Providing an opportunity for children to make music is a key part of our curriculum.

Analytical While part of the beauty of music is the way that it can be appreciated at first without any specific technical knowledge, it is clear that building knowledge of music only develops the levels and depth to which we can enjoy and evaluate it. Consequently, a key part of children’s work in Music is to build an awareness of the key concepts – the grammar of music – that includes reading and understanding music, learning how to compose, and developing an awareness of how to play an instrument.
Sensitive Children will hear a wide range of music as part of our broad curriculum and that will include a range of music from different points and time as well as different places. While this music will be enriched by study of its context and the way it is put together, a clear aim for us as a department is to build up a sensitivity and appreciation for music – a respect for it. This will involve making time for children at all stages to discuss their reaction to piece – how it makes them feel, how they respond to it. This is essential for them to engage with it but it also forms the basis for the best analysis as they discover and articulate why and how it makes them feel that way.
Open-minded As part of the development of sensitivity to different styles of music, children will become open-minded to different styles of music. In doing so, they will become aware of different cultural traditions that inform, for example, the blues music or Indian music they will encounter in Year 8. This in turn supports our school’s commitment to the teaching of fundamental British values as an appreciation of music supports tolerance and harmony by enabling them to acquire an appreciation of (and respect for) their own and other cultures. It is important for us that all children learn about and can share enjoyment in a full range of music.

Music Curriculum

Creating a desirable level of difficulty for all the pupils in a class is a key factor in our curriculum design.  Presenting pupils with music that is technically too difficult or that provides insufficient challenge can lead to de-motivation, however we aim to provide a challenging curriculum for all.

Our curriculum ensures that children:

  • play and perform confidently in a range of solo and ensemble contexts using their voice, playing instruments musically, fluently and with accuracy and expression.
  • improvise and compose; and extend and develop musical ideas by drawing on a range of musical structures, styles, genres and traditions. In Year 7 and 8, for example, pupils cover African and Indian music as well as blues and rock and roll and a range of European classical music.
  • use staff and other relevant notations appropriately and accurately in a range of musical styles, genres and traditions.
  • identify and use the inter-related dimensions of music expressively and with increasing sophistication, including use of tonalities, different types of scales and other musical devices.
  • listen with increasing discrimination to a wide range of music from great composers and musicians.
  • develop a deepening understanding of the music that they perform and to which they listen, and its history.

In their first two years, they will begin with musical elements and graphic scores before moving on to musical notation.  This foundation of knowledge then builds to a close studies of the music of West Africa, a history of popular music, and programme music (music that serves a purpose or is used for stories).  This develops into a deeper study into chromaticism – particularly composing melodies and adding harmony.  They will then encounter Indian Classical Music, minimalism, and the blues.  Our aim is to provide relevance through contemporary examples, breadth through world music, and culture through a strong emphasis on classical music.

Our Teaching

There are four main types of knowledge that children will develop through their music curriculum:

Tacit – Tacit knowledge is knowledge gained through experience – it can be difficult to put into words.  For example, even without knowing a great deal of music terminology, children may recognise that a piece of music is tense or joyful.  This is important as this sensitivity to music forms the basis of their analysis. They will, of course bring with them their own experiences of music from outside school and these can be cherished and used to help with their understanding of new concepts.

Declarative – Declarative knowledge is the facts and other information stored in the memory about music.  For example, factual knowledge about performers or composers.  Examples of declarative knowledge might include that of notation, keys and chords or of the works and songs that form musical culture. This knowledge has an important role to play in offering a broad and balanced education.

Procedural – this is the knowledge exercised in the performance of a task: for example, developing competence in playing music on a keyboard.  ‘Little and often’ has also proven to be a useful approach with regard to acquiring procedural knowledge.  We understand that the many thousands of hours required to become an expert guitar player, for example, are not possible in lesson time.  However, by focusing on particular skills, all pupils can develop their ability to play an instrument together: this is part of our Music Futures programme from Year 7 to Year 9 that aims to encourage all children to play music together initially in lessons and then competitively between and across tutor groups.

These aspects of knowledge develop each other – so for example, as pupils gain a sense of what makes an idiomatic melody through listening to music in that style, later their growing expertise in melodic composition will lead to the creation of new pieces in that style.  Through these varieties of knowledge we have three key aims for all children: 

  • The ‘technical’ aim of music that children will need in order to translate their intentions successfully into sound. This is the practical element of music.
  • The ‘expressive’ aim of music, focusing on the more indefinable aspects of music: quality, meaning and creativity.
  • The ‘constructive’ aim of music, referring to the composition of how musical components come together.  This supports their analysis of complex pieces but also helps them to consider their own compositions.



Technical aims of the music curriculum:

In the planning of our music curriculum, therefore, we have determined a ‘less is more’ approach.  This is demonstrated through our Musical Futures programme, which runs across Music lessons from Year 7.  In these sessions, which are interspersed with our music curriculum, children learn automaticity in finding chord shapes on the ukulele.  This helps free up working memory for strumming patterns or singing.  In the same way, in these sessions, learning music off by heart enables more focus on expression and movement in performance.  As they progress into Year 8 and 9, they see the chord shapes and competence with these instruments develop into guitar and bass work.

By focusing initially one simple stringed instrument and the keyboard, we intend to build meaningful experiences with music.  Otherwise, shallow encounters with lots of instruments will limit pupils’ musical outcomes to the most mechanical and least expressive level.


The expressive aims of the music curriculum

While, the expressive aspect develops from a child’s technical ability in the music they come to perform, the expressive aspect of music is whether the music produced by pupils is effective in its purpose in the impact it has on the listener.

This also comes from what each child performer knows and understands about the music they are playing.  Consequently, pupils’ listening as part of the curriculum is key part of developing their sensitivity and therefore appreciation of the music they are working on.

Our understanding of the way in which musical systems impact on emotion may be underpinned by findings that emotion can arise out of a complex web of realised and disrupted expectations.


The constructive aims of the music curriculum:

The knowledge children learn about music will focus on key areas such as pitch, texture, tempo, structure, timbre, dynamics, and duration.  These are inter-related and children will re-visit and re-discover these aspects of music throughout their time at school through the context of particular pieces of music.  Allowing them to make connections from the technical knowledge to the cultural is a key part of this – so for example recognising a high and low pitch, for example a low C and  high G, and then discussing how this sound fits into the genre and style – as well as intent of the composer.

Consequently, the constructive part of the curriculum through composition must bring together the technical knowledge and their expressive knowledge.  Composing is, in many ways, the ultimate activity in music education.  It is important that our planning is carefully sequenced to ensure that technical and expressive skills are develop in sequence to allow pupils to make progress and create a personal response to composing tasks.

How families can support

Music is more accessible than ever and listening to music is enjoyable for most young people. Encouraging your child to listen to a wide variety of music and engaging them in conversations about music of the past and present can be a positive means of communication. Similarly, taking an interest in what music your child listens to can be a positive experience for all. Most young people will listen to a surprisingly wide variety of music as they are continually exposed to it in films, television and other media.  Occasionally your child will be asked to listen and comment on music for homework. Sometimes they will be asked to practise keyboard skills, so if there is access to one at home this can be helpful. Where this isn’t possible the pupils can access the music facilities at school. Should your child be interested in learning to play an instrument or take singing lessons we would hope that this is encouraged and  supported through providing time and space for your child to practise. We offer a wide range of extra activities and ask that parents encourage their children to make the most of these by regular involvement in rehearsals and commitment to performances.

Sequencing and Assessment

Recognising that composition and the constructive aspect of music brings together the technical and expressive knowledge children have gained, all units carefully interleave and revisit an experience of music in each key genre.  Each sequence begins with an appreciation of the genre encountered before systematically bringing in the knowledge and skills required to develop it.

To build on-going technical expertise, each unit is book-ended by work on the Musical Futures project, in which pupils work as a class to play together – initially on the ukulele before moving to guitar and bass – and develop mastery on an instrument throughout their time with us.  This is important not only to allow children the confidence to take up music GCSE but also to give them the inspiration to return to music playing as adults, even if they do not choose to take Level 2 or 3 qualifications in it.  In that way, we aim to build genuinely musical futures for all children. 


All composition and performing work is assessed at the end of each unit and levels are recorded in planners. Assessments take place in listening within units. Pupils have opportunities to peer assess work during the units and are encouraged to self-assess and reflect at interim times too.