Chetham’s is a co-educational, specialist music school with 300 pupils between the ages of 8 and 18. Many of our students are boarders and a proportion comes from abroad, usually with English as an additional language.

Although Chetham’s is a fee-paying school, around 90% of of Chetham’s pupils who are UK nationals receive up to full funding through the Department for Education’s Music and Dance Scheme. Further information available here. Entry to the school is decided purely on musical ability or potential; there are no academic requirements.

The Sixth Form makes up by far the largest part of the school; currently there are 130 pupils in Years 12 and 13. Approximately half of the pupils in the Sixth Form are new to the school; this is our biggest point of intake as it is often the point at which students develop sufficiently in terms of their musical ability to be able to follow the programme.

Due to the heavy musical demands placed on pupils, we usually offer a maximum of 8 GCSEs; a proportion of pupils, usually those applying to conservatoires, may only complete 2 A levels. GCSE and A level Music are compulsory. Students do not sit AS exams but we set rigorous mock exams in the Summer term of Year 12 and grades achieved in these, alongside continuous assessment, inform predictions.

Fast track pupils, selected from those who started at Chetham’s prior to Year 9, take Music GCSE and A level early and then go on to complete the AMusTCL diploma. Details of the AMusTCL can be found below.

Students will typically miss at least one academic lesson a week for music lessons and, in addition, will be in rehearsal or practice for between 15 and 20 hours weekly. Three weeks of the school year are taken up entirely with Music courses when all lessons are suspended and students prepare for concerts; we have 33 weeks in the classroom as opposed to the average 38.


The AMusTCL (Associate of Trinity College London) is a diploma level qualification offered by Trinity College London.   We have found this to be a really worthwhile Year 13 course for those of our students who have taken Music A level a year early.   Students are able to broaden their knowledge of repertoire, refine their compositional and aural capabilities, develop independent research skills and generally gain a more mature and critical approach to the study of music.

The full details of the course can be seen here, but, in brief, consists of:

  • Compositional exercises (in the examination, three are chosen from the following):
    • Lutheran chorale
    • Classical period orchestration
    • Early Romantic period piano composition
    • Musical Theatre song
    • 20th century melodic composition
  • Analysis of a set work
    • Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms or Schubert Symphony no.5
    • A brief, focused essay
    • Several shorter questions
  • Essay topics (a choice of one from four)
    • Arrangements of works by J.S. Bach, focussing on Jacques Loussier
    • Film Music
    • Musicals
    • Popular Music
    • Each has a long list of suggested works, from which individual candidates make their own selection for study and in addition to which they study complementary works of their own choice.

There is a single three-hour examination, without access to a keyboard.   The pass mark is 60% and a distinction is 80%.   Thus the demands are stringent.   The level of demand in the compositional tasks is at least the equivalent of ABRSM Grade 8 Theory, while the analytical and historical aspect gives a breadth not really required in the ABRSM Theory syllabus.