‘Everyone has a lifelong right to fulfilment through music’

At Hexham Middle School we believe that music can make a powerful contribution to the education and development of children. We believe that the benefits range from those that are largely academic to the growth of social skills and contribution to overall development. Music is a unique form of communication that can change the way pupils feel, think and act.

The value of music as an academic subject lies in its contribution to enjoyment and enrichment, for its social benefits, for those who engage in music seriously as well as for fun. High quality music education enables lifelong participation in, and enjoyment of, music, as well as underpinning excellence and professionalism for those who choose not to pursue a career in music.

Most children will have their first experience of music at school. As such, it is important that this first experience of music education is of high quality and is available to as many pupils as possible. We aim to achieve this high quality experience in the following way:

 ‘As a department, we aim to develop every pupil so they can become musically literate: pupils who have the motivation, confidence, understanding, knowledge and confidence to make informed choices and choose to be musically active. We aim to do this by providing a challenging, disciplined and safe environment for high quality teaching and learning. This is achieved through creating an enjoyable and productive atmosphere for staff and pupils, where we strive to inspire and engage students to participate and achieve. This will enable all pupils to have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument; to make music with others; to learn to sing; and to have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence.’

Aims for all pupils

All pupils will experience:

  • A broad, balanced and progressive music curriculum.
  • A secure, stimulating and disciplined environment in which to develop their musical skills to the full.
  • Opportunities to acquire the skills, understanding and knowledge needed to compose, perform and listen competently.
  • The opportunity to develop their skills using music in a variety of genres and styles and from different periods and cultures.
  • Develop personal and social skills.
  • Develop aesthetic awareness.
  • A variety of music through new media such as the internet and by using CD-ROMs. Also, using a variety of musical software programmes to record and retrieve musical compositions.

Aims for pupils who choose to learn an instrument in school or participate in extracurricular music activities

Those pupils should:

  • Gain specialist skills in playing an instrument or singing.
  • Extend their skills, understanding, knowledge and enjoyment of music.
  • Maximise their concentration, coordination and perseverance.
  • Develop a sense of commitment to the community.

Aims for the school as a community

That it should:

  • Be a community in which it is natural to involve music in religious service, assemblies and entertainment.
  • Be a community characterised by its musical commitment, diversity and excellence.
  • Be a community whose musical activities and events make a positive contribution to the quality of life in the wider community.


It is the intent that all areas of the curriculum are introduced at a basic level to enable all children to access this information and then to develop each thread to a more advanced level of both skill and understanding.

This is achieved by a step-by-step approach to theory, practical skills and awareness.

In year 5 the introduction of key topics such as: The Instruments of the Orchestra, Programme music and an Introduction to music notation, involving setting down the basic skills in the following areas:

Listening skills:

  • Where children listen and comment on what they hear.
  • Where children are able to identify the sound of musical instruments (Timbre)
  • Where children listen to their own performances (and that of others) and are able to appraise their own work against a recognised/reasonable level of expectation.


  • Where children get the opportunity to develop their skills and have the opportunity to perform in class.


  • Where children get the opportunity to learn how to compose music, be creative and to learn how to write down their compositions using music notation


  • All topics have an element of theory to enable children to:
  • Understand concepts
  • Develop a subject specific vocabulary
  • Enable pupils to develop their skills, awareness and understanding to a higher level.

In year 6 these skills are developed further:

The keyboard skills course means that every child can play the keyboard to, or even beyond, the basic level of expectation.

Composition topics such a Journey through Space includes the teaching of higher-level techniques such as sequencing but also adds a creative element to the composition topic.

This allows access for all abilities, regardless of having higher or lower-level keyboard skills. Performances of their own music helps develop pride in their work, and an environment where pupils are keen and confident to perform in front of others.

Listening skills are further-developed by focusing on time-keeping and descriptions of what pupils hear. Musical terms are also used here to add to the pupil’s music vocabulary.

In year 7 – Awareness of Tonality is introduced to enable pupils to learn how music is composed to reflect different moods. Keyboard skills are developed to a more academic level in this topic by introducing major and minor scales, which help pupils, play the scales chosen by composers to create these different moods in their music.

The skill level is developed in this topic and it helps with the follow-on topic playing as part of an Ensemble – In this topic pupils learn to compose melodies to a higher standard and learn how to perform together when playing a longer more complex arrangement of music.

In the Impressionism topic, pupils are introduced to the concept of how art can influence music – how all areas of The Arts can have an impact on other areas. Pupils look at a range of artwork in the Impressionist style and use this notion to help them be more creative when composing their own music – by adding in more complex scales (such as Whole-tone and Chromatic scales) and teaching a variety of compositional techniques, pupils will be able to compose and perform music to reflect mood, emotion, movement, character and reflect feelings.

In year 8 this is all brought together for a final time in the AABA topic where simple melodic ideas worked on in year 5, 6 & 7 are further-developed to enable pupils to compose music with more than one musical idea. Pupils perform as a whole class, as in year 7 but playing a more complex arrangement (of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from the 9th Symphony). Pupils learn about the music and life of Beethoven in a more academic context.

Pupil’s final individual composition and performance should reflect their own degree of ability both in composing melodies, adding accompaniments and performing to the class.

Our final year 8 topic is the History and Development of Blues where pupils learn to play the guitar and perform a range of songs. Pupils learn how Blues music developed, its link to the slave trade and the culture of the southern states of the USA. They also learn how this music became popular in America and ultimately developed into Rock ‘n’ Roll that also had a huge influence on the pop music scene in the UK.

Throughout a pupil’s time at HMS, there is an opportunity for any child who plays a solo instrument such as: guitar, violin, flute, clarinet, trumpet, etc. to play these instruments in a performance topic. Though we do use keyboards and their fantastic range of instrumental sounds, pupils who have lessons on solo instruments are given an opportunity to use them for melodic composition topics and in performances.

Sequence of Learning

Topics/Units of Work

  • The Percussion Family
  • Instruments of the Orchestra
  • Carnival of the Animals (introduction to programme music)
  • Music Notation (reading and writing music using notation)
  • Introduction of basic keyboard skills
  • The Elements of Music


  • Group performances of Carnival of the Animals (depicting sounds & movement)
  • Individual single line melodies using basic keyboard skills (and notation)
  • In addition to the topics – some general singing as part of lessons


  • Carnival of the Animals compositions (depicting sounds and movement)
  • Composing a basic melody using a limited range of pitches from a C Scale


  • Recognising instruments by their individual sound (Timbre and Pitch)
  • Describing music using other Elements.
  • Recognising pieces by their tempo, pitch, or instrument


  • Correct terms and recognition of instruments in both percussion family and in the orchestra
  • Learning the Elements of Music: Pitch Timbre Tempo Dynamics Texture, etc.
  • Music notation: learning how to write music, including both staff notation and the use of different note values to create rhythms

Topics/Units of Work

  • Keyboard Skills
  • A Journey Through Space (skills focus on Sequences and 2nd Programme music)
  • Time Keeping
  • Pulsation and Pentatonic Scales


  • Performance to show progress achieved in the Keyboard Skills Course during the first term
  • Performance of their extended Journey Through Space Composition
  • Group performance of the rhythmic pieces ‘Keeping in Time’ and accenting the ‘Pulse’


  • Extended composition based on music for effect (Journey Through Space)
  • Group Composition work based around the pentatonic scale, adding a ‘Pulse’ and keeping in time


  • Listening to Electronic music and identifying sequences, repetition and variation


  • Consolidating knowledge keyboard notes and of basic music notation for reading melodies and rhythms. Developing their knowledge of how music is written; including more complex rhythms and chords (for pupils working at greater depth)
  • Learning about sequences in music and how repetition and variation of patterns can be used

Topics/Units of Work

  • Understanding and using Major and Minor Scales
  • Playing as Part of an Ensemble (and composition using these scales)
  • Impressionism (Extended ideas of Programme Music – also Chromatic and Whole-tone scales skills tests)
  • Intervals
  • Music in Advertising


  • Skills test when learning to play both major and minor scales
  • Class performance of an Ensemble based on C major scale
  • Performance of their own melody/melodies using either C major and/or a minor scale
  • Performance of their extended composition based on Impressionism/Symbolism (Isle of the Dead)


  • Composition using both C major and A minor scale (Ensemble composition to challenge pupils at greater depth)
  • Extended composition based on Impressionism and Symbolism
  • Group composition using music for effect in their advert


  • Listening to a range of pieces to highlight compositional techniques used in both Impressionist and Symbolist music. To help review their knowledge of the Elements of music and how they are used for effect


  • Tonality: understanding major and minor scales and how they are used to compose melodies with a different mood/feeling
  • Chromaticism: How to play and use a chromatic scale to compose music with a wide range of dramatic effect
  • Whole-tone scale – learning notes and fingering of above
  • Impressionism – looking at art and listening to music classed as Impressionism. Also, Symbolism in art

Topics/Units of Work

  • Blues to Rock ‘n’ Roll (Extended Guitar-based topic)
  • AABA form including The Life & Music of Beethoven (revisit of Ensemble playing)
  • The Baroque Period (including ground bass & ornamentation)
  • Linked to Chord progressions in Popular Music


  • Taking part in whole-class performances of Blues Jam tracks and Songs based on Blues and/or Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Performing a Blues or Rock ‘n’ Roll song as part of a smaller group
  • Taking part in a whole class performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy theme from 9th Symphony
  • Performing their own AABA composition to the class
  • 60s, 70s and 80s Pop Music and Culture – song writing project


  • Composing an extended melody in AABA form (Higher Expected Level and Greater Depth to add in a left hand accompaniment/reading the music
  • Song writing in a particular style from 60s, 70s, or 80s (presentation as an alternative)


  • Listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Ode to Joy theme)
  • Listening to a range of musical styles from the 60s, 70s, and 80s to develop awareness of vocal style and instrumentation


  • How to recognise the tonality in music and describe using major or minor terms
  • To recognise a chromatic shift in a melody
  • Listening to a range of music that uses chromatic and whole- tone scales and a range of other devices such a clusters, dynamic range, crescendos, etc.
  • Claude Debussy and James MacMillan’s contrasting musical styles