‘Alarm bells ringing’ after drop in GCSE Music uptake

Michael Dugher, chief executive of UK Music, has warned of a ‘worrying decline’ in the uptake for GCSE Music courses after figures reveal a 7.4 percent drop in pupils studying the subject.

The total number of students enrolled on GCSE Music courses across the UK has fallen from 42,507 in 2017 to 39,538 this year.

This comes after the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) warned that A-level music courses were under threat, as schools and colleges could not afford to keep them running.

In a statement, Dugher said: ‘Alarm bells should be ringing for everyone who cares about the importance of music participation for young people in our schools. This year’s GCSE results show once again a worrying decline that is now becoming a trend. This potentially undermines efforts to nurture future talent for Britain’s £4.4 billion world-leading music industry.

‘As well as the vital importance of ensuring that we are a country where children from all backgrounds have access to the arts, there is a crucial economic imperative too, especially given the fact that the creative industries contribute £92 billion to our economy and that this sector is growing twice as fast as the economy as a whole.’

A survey carried out by the ASCL found that around four in ten schools (39 percent) had cut back on staff, facilities or lesson time for A-level music since 2016.

The Cultural Learning Alliance claims that participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities in students by around 17 percent and that learning through arts and culture can improve performance in subjects like Maths and English.

As Dugher explained: ‘There is also a solid education argument in favour of promoting music participation in our schools: evidence to suggest that young people who are engaged in their education through music, as well as other subjects like Drama and Sport, do better at their Maths and English.’

According to a study carried out by the University of Sussex, however, one fifth of schools did not offer GCSE Music as a course option at the start of the 2016/17 academic year. And of those that did, 11 percent teach the subject outside of curriculum time.

The number of schools offering pupils a chance to study BTEC Music Level 2 has declined by 70 percent over the last four years.

Overall, the number of GCSE entries rose 0.2 percent this year, with 5,470076. This is despite a dip in the number of 16-year-olds in the UK population.

Photo: Nathan Dumlao