The goal of the Academic Music Department is to assist pupils in becoming informed, imaginative and enquiring musicians. It aims to give them a wide range of musical skills and to enable them to use these skills creatively.

In addition to aural and composition classes, all Lower and Middle School pupils (Years 5-11) study a series of set works which form the basis of creative and analytical projects designed to expand their general musical knowledge and inform their practical instrumental studies. Pupils in the Middle School are entered for GCSE at the end of Year 10.  In Year 11 pupils undertake an intense harmony course and an in-depth study of larger scale works.  They also work on various creative projects, including training in workshop leadership, culminating in outreach performances in local schools. 

In the Senior School (Years 12 & 13) pupils are divided into small sets according to their level of ability. The Edexcel A-level syllabus is studied, although, in most areas, teaching goes beyond these requirements. Pupils are coached in preparation for Music College entry tests, and Upper 6th pupils who intend to go to university are given a series of lessons to prepare them for entrance examinations and interviews.

Purcell School students have often received the highest marks in England in both AS and A2 Music.