eduqas - wjec - draft gcse music specification - teacher and musician

This is the fourth in a series of posts looking at the new draft specifications released by the major exam boards and it’s the last in part 1, which looks at the GCSE specifications.  In light of the survey results that I posted yesterday, it should be interesting to see the details of the Eduqas specification since it seems to have resonated with music teachers (or at least those who regularly read this blog).

To clarify any confusion, Eduqas is the brand name for WJEC’s offering in England.  Since education is a devolved power in the UK, the Welsh government decided not to follow Michael Gove’s example of reforming GCSEs.  Consequently, they’re still delivering courses on the A*-G system rather than 9-1.  As a result, WJEC is only an option in Wales but Eduqas is available in England.

Popularity

My Twitter feed has seen some pretty vocal support for Eduqas from teachers who are excited about both the content of the specification and the perception of more personalised support than with some of the larger boards.

A couple of those tweets can be found here:

Unit structure

The units are laid out in a very simple to understand manner with no great surprises:
  • Performing
    • Two performances, one of which must be an ensemble
    • One piece must link to an area of study
  • Composing
    • Two compositions
    • One piece in response to a brief
  • Appraising
    • An examination lasting 1hr 15mins
No real surprises here.  

Areas of study

Another area where there are no real surprises.  Eduqas is setting four areas of study:
  • Musical Forms and Devices
  • Music for Ensemble
  • Film Music
  • Popular Music
The Ofqual requirement to include Western Classical Music from 1650 to 1910 being incorporated into the first of these.  There’s an interesting quote on page three of the specification:
“…learners should take the opportunity to explore these forms and devices further in the other three areas of study”
It’s nice to see a board try to include a thread throughout their specification to lend a sense of continuity.  That said, I did get a feeling that the description of the Film Music area of study could be fleshed out a more.  Of course, many teachers will be attracted to the freedoms that this presumably affords.  

Performing

I certainly like the explicit inclusion of the words “a minimum of two pieces” in the wording of the performing unit.  There are many pupils who would benefit from performing a series of shorter pieces and having this made explicit in the specification is certainly a boost.  It’s also nice to see that pupils can perform their own composition if they wish.  Again, some pupils will perform at their best when they have composed the material themselves.  
I’m not particularly fond of the requirement to perform a piece linked to one of the areas of study but the linking seems to be sufficiently vague for this to not be of any real concern.  

Set works

There’s an interesting approach to set works with this specification.  Eduqas refers to them as ‘prepared extracts’ and there’s only two (for the first and fourth areas of study).  
  • Musical Forms and Devices
    • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Movement 3, Minuet: Mozart
  • Popular Music
    • Since You’ve Been Gone: Rainbow
This certainly allows the teacher similar freedoms to having no set works but gives some reassurances over the content of the exam.  How this will sit with teachers fond of set works remains to be seen and I’d be interested to see some discussion of this on Peer to Peer.  

The GCSEs

That’s the end of the first look at each GCSE specification.  I’ll be moving on to look at the AS and A-Level specifications in the coming days.  It’s worth having a look through the MufuChat archive from last week to see how other teachers have responded and, as mentioned above, there’s still plenty of scope for discussion using the post-chat on Peer to Peer.  
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