A-level results released today, 10 August by the Joint Council for Qualifications, show the declining trend for uptake of music A-level continues.

Statistics released today by the JCQ reveal that the number of candidates for A-level music has fallen by a staggered 44% since 2011, with a decrease of 0.2% since 2020. Entries for Music Highers have increased by 2.5% since 2020, and 0.7% since 2016 and Advance Highers have increased by 13% since 2020 and 11% since 2016 according to figures released by the SQA.

Last week the Department for Education published its ‘Report on the call for evidence: Music Education’ that showed that students appreciated music education with 84.3% of responders saying it improved their wellbeing and 83.2% saying it improves their confidence.

The decline of music as an A-level subject has been exacerbated by the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) which does not include creative subjects, and therefore pushes students towards other subjects as A-level choices.

Since the introduction of the EBacc there have been widespread concern that music has become unavailable as a subject for select, the ‘call for evidence’ supported this statement, stating; ‘For those young people who wanted to study a music qualification but were not able to, a number of them said that they felt under pressure to choose other subjects instead or that music was not available as a GCSE or A-level option at their school.’ (Page 27)

The level of achievement remains high in music education as 54.8% of students achieved A*A grades in music compared to 44.8% for all subjects.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM said:

‘This has been another testing year for everyone involved in A-Levels as COVID-19 continued to disrupt and change our education system. Today we pay tribute to all our teachers who have yet again gone the extra mile as well as the students who have given their studies their all in these trying circumstances. We are delighted to see attainment so high with percentage of top grades achieved at 54.8% but sorely disappointed that declining numbers of a-levels taken has decreased again.

Sadly, what remains clear is that the EBacc is devastating music education and creative subjects, which is demonstrable by the continuing decline in the number of students taking A-level music, the EBacc should now be urgently reformed to include creative subjects or scrapped altogether.

Every child deserves access to high quality music education, and it is incumbent on the Department for Education to make sure that they are providing access for all.”