GCSE A-Level Key Stage 3

Corona Virus

School Closures

It won’t have escaped your attention that Corona Virus is going to cause us some potential issues for schools. If & when schools are shut, teachers will be required to set work and provide useful actives for their students. This blog will hopefully give you some great ideas that you can then pass on to your students to keep them busy! I am thinking that if the Corona Virus does shut schools then Year 11 & 13 will revise. But I think we need to guide them in this and give them some tools to keep going. I would start thinking and planning now, you never know when it might happen.

Working from Home

Ensuring students have work to complete at home is most definitely our responsibility. If schools are shut then we aren’t just going to be sitting around doing nothing. But of course there are practical barriers and also personal barriers. I have two children and so if I am at home then they will need looking after. So this has got me thinking about all the things I can give to my students to ensure that they can work from home. But I am also making sure that I have a plan to use the time wisely. Of course we may not shut at all, but it doesn’t hurt to plan anyway.

Working from home is going to require me to remember a number of things when I leave work, so here are some key things to remember to bring home:

  • Laptop – oh how I love leaving it at work so I know I don’t have to spend my evening on it
  • Laptop charger – crucial, although I also love it when I run out of battery and can’t work any more
  • Textbooks that I use regularly as they might be useful
  • Marking – I know, we all want to leave it, but we may as well get it done!


I am sure like me, you are hoping that students will revise for their Music GCSE & A-Level. However I think we need to guide them in this. I will be setting them some clear revision tasks and also giving them some questions to help with revision. For GCSE I plan on making sure they have some exam style questions and for A-Level lots of helpful essay questions. It is hard for us as we don’t have many past papers to give them, but we can create questions quickly and easily.

I am also thinking of getting Year 10 to do some research on composers linked to set works, and also lots of listening. Listening to music is something that students can easily engage with and it will help them to keep on track with the Set Works and Wider Listening. They more they get to know the set works the better. This relies on them taking home their folders, textbooks and anthologies – make sure you remind them if the school is closed due to Corona Virus.

Focus on Sound

One of the best things I have invested in over the last two years is Focus on Sound. This online resource from MusicFirst is a must have for any music department. It is also an amazing platform for providing work should the Corona Virus close our schools. Not only is it packed full of lessons, tests and resources, but it allows you to make & set both lessons and tests. The functionality is amazing and I am going to be asking my students to use this over the coming weeks. They use it anyway, great for cover lessons. But I think it is going to come into its own if we close. It isn’t expensive, it is easy to use and there is amazing support out there. Have a look and then use the Corona Virus to persuade your school to buy it! I would go for the Pro version and please get in touch if you have any questions!

Free Sibelius

Did you know that students can get a free version of Sibelius? It has its limits, but it is still something that they could use at home to make some music. You could set Key Stage 3 classes a virus related music task – compose music for a film about a virus spreading throughout the world! Here is a link to download the Free Version.


This website is so much fun and students can spend hours on Incredibox. This website will teach them about “A Capella” singing and get them interested in the genre. They could then start to create there own riffs and ostinati, or just enjoy using an engaging online tool. It is fun, and they will all need cheering up if they are stuck indoors.


This is another great online learning platform that I have been using recently. It does come with a cost, but again, you could ask for it to be covered by school so that you can get students making music at home. It is basically an online DAW and it is packed full of great loops, instruments and sample libraries. Easy to use and they can also make Podcasts. It is then something you can use in lessons and use to set meaningful music production homework.

Ableton Learning Online

Ableton is an amazing piece of software and they have some great starter websites that will get students making music. There are two that I use and I know that students really enjoy discovering & making music online. The first website introduces students to making loop based music, similar to the approach used in the Ableton Live Software. Learning Music (Beta) is a lot of fun and teaches them a great deal about building up a short piece of music.

The other website focuses on the interesting topic of Synths. It walks students through how to make synths and what they are. It is again a lot of fun and it guides students through a range of tasks. I think that Learning Synths will keep students engaged for an hour or so whilst at home on lockdown.


There are so many Podcasts out there for us to enjoy. Music Teachers and Students can benefits from some of the amazing work that people record and there are a couple I want to recommend. These Podcasts can be listened to by students throughout the year, but will of course fill some time if schools are closed due to the Corona Virus. These links are for the Apple Podcast site, but I am sure that they can also be found on Spotify or other podcasting platforms:

Tom Service – The Listening Service – So many interesting podcasts covering a huge range of topics.

Record Review Podcast BBC Radio 3 – A Great way to learn about “Classical” music.

Composer of the Week BBC Radio 3 – So many interesting composers, perfect for Wider Listening!

There really are so many Podcasts, start with these and then maybe you will find more!

50 Great Symphonies

I came across the website last year and I just love it. It is basically a list of 50 Symphonies compiled by The Guardian. It is a great way of guiding students through symphonies and this will help support their studies – Great Wider Listening. Check out the website and maybe make a playlist for your students in Apple Music or Spotify.


This is another fun online platform that students can use to learn more about music making. They can download the software for free and it then uses various challenges to teach them about playing and making music. Think a reduced version of Guitar Hero and you are almost at Melodics. There are options that they can buy into, but the free version is a lot of fun. It can be played using a Launchpad or Midi Keyboard. Check it out and see if it might work for your students.

Amplify Studio

I think this is still in Beta, but yet another great way for students to create music online using Amplify Studio. I have used this on my laptop and iPhone and it is easy to use and loads of fun. It might be another way of giving students something fun to do whilst at home.

Wash Your Hands!

Hopefully this blog has provided you with some ideas should your school be closed.We are all likely to be asked to set work and this blog has a few ideas to help cover your back and keep your students learning. But of course when the virus is all gone or if you don’t close at all, these ideas might come in handy for the future.

Look after yourselves, wash your hands and come up with a better tune than Happy Birthday to sing whilst doing it! And if you have any more ideas then please do share them in the comments on this blog so that others can benefit!

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  1. Great ideas! Focus on Sound / Music First is actually going to be provided for FREE for the duration of time that schools close, so definitely encourage teachers to explore this. We have had it for two years now and it’s brilliant as you say!
    Love your ideas, thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi there, we have recently subscribed to Focus on Sound (pro). I have got my classes set up and have set some existing lessons. I haven’t been able to work out how to set existing tests as homework tasks. Can you help with this please?

    1. You have to create lessons that include existing material and then assign them to a class. The tests are then part of the lesson.

  3. How about the free Dorico SE and Cubase LE ?… and you wont get ‘trapped’ into a subscription! Works on both Mac and PC … you could also use the brilliant Music Teacher resources for using Cubase Elements that James produced!! 😃

  4. Thanks for the reminder Richard! I will add those to the blog! I must admit I haven’t downloaded the free Dorico, but I should have remembered the cubase!

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