What should we be assessing in the music classroom?

Classroom Pedagogy

Assessment in the music classroom. Anyone got it figured out yet? No, me neither. What I have come to realise is that one of the biggest issues we face is that the process of growing (and tracking) musicianship is not linear. Something that has frustrated us (and our data managers) for years. Having clear points of assessment is often not too helpful either because if active music making is at the centre of our classroom then the end point is not always the biggest moment to value. I have blogged before about the value of the product/outcome of music making.

So music assessment at BCCS is very much a work in progress, what we are doing now has evolved since 2018. While I am happy to go into more explicit detail with anyone who would find it useful, I thought I’d focus here on WHAT we are assessing. We have designed a map with a list of all the musical strands we believe our students should be growing through our key stage 3 curriculum and want to track. We have debated these a LOT over the years and they have evolved. When I type them out shortly I am certain I will want to change them again and quite possibly consider scrapping them and starting again!

Through our key stage 3 curriculum we map these strands over the schemes of learning so students are able to demonstrate them, we then log their evidence and strength in each skill over time and update them when they recur. So for example in one scheme we could potentially ‘hit’ 6-8 strands. These can be evidenced either at a performance point or ongoing in rehearsals and obviously they increase in demand over the curriculum journey. We share with students what this would sound/look like at each level.

So the strands we currently have in the set are as follows, each broken down into a heading.


  1. Improvises stylistic ideas using a range of given options
  2. Refines musical ideas that are stylistically idiomatic
  3. Uses compositional ideas to form a balanced and coherent structure


  1. Imitates and dictate rhythms accurately
  2. Imitates and dictate melodies accurately
  3. Recognises and repeat harmonic patterns


  1. Plays with accuracy/fluency
  2. Plays with musical expression
  3. Plays with an awareness of others in musical ensemble


  1. Sings accurately and in tune
  2. Holds a harmony line when singing
  3. Sings with musical shape and conviction

Music Technology

  1. Can input musical ideas effectively
  2. Can edit and refine musical ideas using music technology
  3. Can use production tools effectively

Responsibility for Learning (these link to our whole school reports)

  1. Responds to feedback and refines their music
  2. Preapres to take musical risks and be creative
  3. Engages in purposeful practical and drives progress

Critique and Listening

  1. Uses a confident musical vocabulary
  2. Describes music by identifying the musical elements
  3. Identifies the musical effect or intention of the composer

Every year we have evolved/tweaked these. We always discuss whether singing should be separate to performance, but continue to come back to the premise that we want singing to be driven in our curriculum. Currently I am thinking I’d like to unpack the place of improvisation here more and maybe have it separately to composing. I’m not convinced ‘strands’ is the correct word either.

It’s a work in progress, as it should be but it does work for us. Would be really interested in what others would add or remove from this? It will obviously depend vastly on context and curriculum time allocation. As always my details are on the ‘About Me’ page if you want to chat further!


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