We believe that participation is the key to musical success. A large proportion of the students receive instrumental tuition at the College in a wide range of instruments including, Orchestral, Drum, Guitar, Piano and Organ. The many ensembles and choirs work across the different years, strengthening the community atmosphere of the school. Teaching is practically based, which helps strengthen theoretical understanding.

The department is staffed by the Director of Music, Teacher of Music, Junior School Director of Music and a team of eleven Peripatetic staff. The department is housed in purpose built accommodation with numerous rehearsal and practice facilities. The Music classrooms have networked PC’s running notation software.

Results in the Music Department are particularly strong. For example, last summer, 80% of the entries were awarded A* and 100% of all students received A*-A grades. In practical music exam entries (including Associated Board, Trinity and Rock School), 60% of entries are either a Merit or Distinction. The standard of performance continues to rise, due to the high attainment of students in practical exams. Recently, one student achieved 141/150 for his Grade Eight Piano, placing him in the top 1% internationally!  A number of students attend conservatoire or perform with orchestras outside the College, as well as going on to read music after Ratcliffe.

Academic Programme

Key Stage 3

The Key Stage 3 programme is performance based and exploring a wide range of musical genres including Western and World Music traditions. Classes are taught in mixed ability.

Key Stage 4

Students follow the Edexcel Syllabus, in which students study twelve Set Works as well as writing two compositions and giving two performances. At this level, students perform in Concerts on a regular basis and contribute to the wider department.

A Level

At this level in depth analysis is needed for the extended works which are studied. An external examiner visits to assess the performances as well as students having to submit a portfolio of compositions, demonstrating a range of skills. Students in the Sixth Form who take Music, have leadership positions in the department and help organise Concerts and Workshops, as well as having the opportunity to conduct.

Extra-Curricular Activities

The Music Department has a very high profile around the school and students perform at all major functions and events, as well as in the less formal and ad-hoc settings. One of the strengths of the department is the way in which students from different years perform together.

At Key Stage Three, students many join the Intermediate Orchestra. This orchestra has students who are around Grade 1-4 standard and provides an excellent basis for entry to senior ensembles. All Year Seven sing in a choir and so have the opportunity to develop their voices whilst they settle into the year.

There are numerous smaller ensembles such as Brass Ensemble, Swing Band, String Ensemble. All these groups allow students to study specialist repertoire for their instrument whilst they develop ensemble playing.

The Senior Choir sings at all major services and functions in school; they also sing outside the College. They tackle complex repertoire and help support the whole school in their congregational singing. Highlights include the Last Night of the Proms and the Carol Service.

The Senior Orchestra is the flagship ensemble and comprises of students who have reached an advanced level. Although they perform at many events, the annual Picnic Concert is one of the most fun!

The Department is always looking for new ensembles so that students get the most diverse experience possible.


Edward McCall, Director of Music –
Merrony Markham, Prep School Music Teacher –
Rachel Argo, Graduate Music Assistant –

Paul Bennett, Brass –
Chris Earp, Drums –
John Boyd, Guitar –
Ben Matthews, Cello –
Clare Lee, Piano and Strings –
Kate Thompson, Piano –
Sarah Cheeseman, Piano –
Stephanie Hall, Singing –
Suzanne Forrester, Singing and Piano –
Graham Henderson, Woodwind –
Clare Bhabra, Violin –
Rebecca Reedman, Piano –

Picnic Concert 2016

A short video from the Ratcliffe College Picnic Concert 2016, together with photos taken throughout the event.