‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.’ Plato
At Weatherhead, the Music department strongly believes in the importance of a high-quality music education for all students, regardless of their background or starting point. We aim to provide a knowledge-rich curriculum at KS3 that is sequenced, to allow students to master the key musical elements and listening skills, before combining them with practical musicianship skills. Music also builds overall brain development and creates pathways in the brain that improve a child’s cognitive functioning. Language, reading and mathematical abilities, in particular, are developed through music activities.
Our teachers are enthusiastic and talented musicians, keen to share our passion for music with our students. Each lesson at KS3 begins with our Composer of the Week, enabling students to listen to and appreciate a wide range of musical styles. Lessons then go on to develop listening and appraising skills, as well as performance and composition skills. Practical skills are developed on percussion instruments, keyboards and ukuleles, singing and through music technology.
We offer all students the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument or sing through our peripatetic programme, with lessons heavily subsidised. All of these students have the opportunity to gain the ‘Weatherhead Qualification’ in their instrument/voice.
We aim to give students an experience of different musical styles from different countries and cultures. The purpose of this is to embed a knowledge of the Elements of Music, such as timbre, tempo, texture and dynamics. The objective of this crucial mastery is to facilitate the further study of Music, providing students with the conviction to advance through their school life and beyond. We aim to develop a love and appreciation of music which accompanies our students into adulthood.
Our Year 7 students join Weatherhead with varied musical experiences from primary school, despite the clear statutory guidance in the KS2 National Curriculum. Most students have sung in assemblies and school plays, with others who have experienced whole class lessons on an instrument like cornet or ukulele. We use baseline assessments to help to assess starting points, in order to best support and stretch students. These include The Bentley Listening Test and a questionnaire. On Y6 induction day, we also ask about prior experience of instrumental lessons and those students who are interested in starting.
In Year 7, we begin with the Elements of Music, including identifying and demonstrating them. Our subsequent units introduce music notation, initially in its rhythmic form, followed by pitch staff notation. These skills enable students to then rehearse and perform this notation. Keyboard skills are combined with the study of melody, and students rehearse a variety of scales and melodies on the keyboards. Once mastered, harmony is introduced through the study of chords. These skills are then combined in the form of composition of melody and harmony. In Year 8, students study how these musical elements are used in a variety of different musical styles from around the world. As well as understanding the music, it is key that students understand the contextual background and what music means to different cultures. Listening and appraising, performance and composition skills are developed throughout these units in Year 8, and tasks are sequenced to challenge students. In year 9, students develop their ensemble skills through a Musical Futures-style performance and composition project.
Upon completion of each topic, students undertake a performance or composition assessment. This allows for an evaluation of the unit’s content and the chance to develop or alter any of the information for future classes. Students are always encouraged to reflect on how they could improve upon their practical work.
At KS4 and KS5, students are encouraged to have peripatetic lessons, with the school fully subsidising lessons for GCSE, A Level and BTEC students, which is a strength of our provision. Students use Google Classroom to complete formal assignments and store performances and compositions.
Extra-curricular activities are a significant part of the Music Department, and students are encouraged to participate and develop their confidence and musical skills further. We have Junior Choir for Years 7 and 8, Senior Choir for Years 9 – 13 and Chamber Choir for those in Junior and Senior Choir who wish to audition. We also have an instrumental club, where all students are able to come and practise on a range of instruments. Theory Club is aimed at GCSE students and those intending to opt in Year 9. Our choirs have the opportunity to perform in the local community, including care homes and hospital visits to raise money for local charities. Our Music Ambassadors assist with the running of clubs and events.
At all key stages, students are aware that Music belongs to the Performing Arts faculty and we have developed a strong Team ethos. We are always looking for opportunities for cross curricular activities and links between Music, Dance and Drama.
The impact of our curriculum is inspiring students to continue their musical studies beyond their GCSE and 6th form courses, as well as make music outside of the classroom setting.
At Key Stage 4, our GCSE results have been outstanding, with 100% 9 – 4 since 2018. In A Level Music, we have had 100% A* – C since 2017, and 100% Distinction* – Merit in BTEC Level 3.
In 2022, 88% achieved Grades 9-5 at GCSE, with 50% 8-9. Our average point score was 6.88 with an SPI of +0.76.
In 2018, our two A Level students Marco Cavaluzzi and Rebecca Barrow both went on to study Music at university in Bangor and London. In 2020, two of our GCSE Music students were accepted to LMA to study Music/Musical Theatre.
In 2022, 4 of our 6 students wen on to study Music at the Leeds Conservatoire of Music, University of Salford and University of Central Lancashire. A 5th student went into hospitality, having grown in confidence following her performance experiences.
One of our Year 11 students was awarded a place at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music, where she studied piano as her primary instrument, violin as her secondary instrument, and piano duets, as well as general musicianship.
During lockdown 2021, we ran a Musician of the Week Competition for students to submit performances in response to a given theme, in order to encourage students to continue their music making during lockdown as well as improve their mental health. This was very successful, with a large number of entries each week.
We added a Composer of the Month Competition, where we selected 3 winners to complete a recording in our recording studio, become published on streaming platforms including YouTube and Spotify, and to be entered into the BBC Young Composer of the Year 2021. In 2022, our Sixth-Form band released a song on Spotify and a Y11 student won a competition for Composition.
We hope to eventually return to local music festivals such as Wirral Music Festival and Chester Music Festival. We are also collaborating with our local Music hub, Edsential.
Our first event of the year is Weatherhead Unplugged in October. Weatherhead Unplugged has always been an extremely popular and successful event, which showcases our most talented singers and musicians. On average, between 70 – 90 students perform at Weatherhead Unplugged each year. Apart from some choirs and ensembles, the performances are entirely student led, and the repertoire includes a number of original songs written by our students. This event has had a huge impact on our numbers in extra-curricular clubs, as well as uptake at KS4 and KS5.
We also put on the biennial Christmas Concert, in collaboration with the Drama and Dance departments, as well as the Summer Sizzler.
We have a very successful extra-curricular programme, with large numbers participating through the key stages.
(Years 7 & 8)
(Year 9 – 13)
Music Theory Club
GCSE/A Level Coursework Club
Whilst numbers having peripatetic lessons fell last year due to Covid restrictions, we have launched a programme to rebuild the numbers having instrumental and singing lessons. This has already proven to be successful, with approximately 60 students having weekly lessons.
The Music department contains two specialist rooms with a suite of keyboards in each and Music PC’s that run several music based software packages such as ‘Sibelius’, ‘Auralia’ and ‘Musition’.
In addition, there are two practice rooms housed within the department that contain electric pianos, a drum kit and access to recording facilities and the ‘ProTools’ software programme. Other music technology resources include ‘Garage Band’ that is used for students to compose on the iPads.
Individual or small group lessons are available from our team of instrumental and vocal tutors. Students can learn to play: Violin, Viola, Cello, Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, Euphonium, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Drums, Acoustic, Electric or Bass Guitar, Keyboard and Voice.
Targeted support sessions are available for all GCSE, BTEC, A level students at lunch time and after school – this can include small group or individual support.
A level students receive composition workshops from professional composers.
6th form students undertake additional listening sessions after school with a specialist tutor once a week.