Changes in Secondary Music Curriculum Provision over time 2012-16

The research was undertaken in the second half of 2016. We have further data to analyse but this brief summary focusses on the main findings relating to changes in curriculum provision for Music.

  • 705 schools responded from across England providing a representative sample of the Secondary school provision. These broke down into 657 State schools and 48* Independent schools.
  • Responses were from a range of different types of schools with 80% having an Ofsted grading of ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’.

* Schools categorised themselves. 'Other' includes one Independent school with specialist music status.

The results highlight widespread evidence of change and include:

Impact of the EBacc

  • In a neutrally worded question, 59.7% (393) of the State schools highlighted the EBacc specifically as having a negative impact on the provision and uptake of Music in their school (within and beyond the curriculum). Evidence from our research supports this perception. Conversely, just 3% considered that the EBacc had a positive impact on Music. The number of students taking Music qualifications other than GCSE has reduced. For example, there is a 70% reduction in schools offering BTEC at Level 2 from 166 in 2012/13 to 50 schools in 2016/17.
  • The number of schools offering GCSE Music at the start of the 2016/17 academic year was 79% (down from 85% in 2012/13). Thus students in some schools do not have an opportunity to take Music GCSE.
  • Of those offering GCSE Music 11% of these are taught out of core curriculum time.
  • 18% of schools reported that not every pupil was able to opt for Music as an examination subject at Key Stage 4 should they wish to do so. Evidence from the data shows that the EBacc has a detrimental impact on whether students are able to opt for Music where it is offered. It is also important to note that GCSE uptake figures for 2016/17 will have been artificially boosted where schools have changed to a three year Key Stage 4 starting in Year 9 this year as these figures will include two different year groups starting the qualification in the same year.

Staffing changes

  • The average number of full time equivalent music staff is reducing year on year. 39% of respondents reported falling staffing levels for Music departments, with only 17% indicating levels had risen.
  • Single teacher Music departments are up from 22% in 2012/13 to 30% in 2016/17. This is a concern in terms of the potential for further isolation of music teachers but also, given the expected rise in the number of students entering Secondary education, the capacity for all children from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 5 to receive a quality Music education.

Dr. Ally Daubney and Duncan Mackrill – University of Sussex
February 2017