GCSE results day shows a continued decline in music entries Jump to main content

GCSE results day shows a continued decline in music entries

GCSE results published today by Ofqual show that the uptake of music continues to decline by 0.2%.

Since 2010 there has been a 25% decline in music entries at GCSE.

GCSE results were awarded to students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland today.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said:

‘GCSE music students experienced significant disruption this year and we hope that the grades published today fairly reflect their hard work, following the process changes announced earlier this week by Ofqual. However, the late notice about the delayed publication of BTEC results has caused unnecessary stress for hundreds of thousands of students so urgent measures must be taken to ensure they are not disadvantaged if they seek to continue their musical education.

‘It is concerning to see that yet again the numbers of pupils taking music GCSE have fallen, with a 25% decline since 2010.

'For many students, the classroom is their only access to music education. The Government has repeatedly ignored evidence that funding cuts and performance measures like the English Baccalaureate are removing arts subjects like music from our schools - as detailed in our 2019 State of the Nation report. After months of remote learning, it is vital that the DfE makes clear that subjects like music are worthwhile and are part of the broad and balanced curriculum to which all children should have access. They should also be at the heart of any recovery curriculum.

‘Studying music should not become the preserve of the privileged few, so we are calling on the government to either extend the EBacc to include arts subjects like music or scrap the pernicious EBacc altogether. We also call on the DfE to publish the refreshed National Plan for Music Education as soon as possible and ensure that our music education hubs are properly funded in the next financial year to at least the current level.

Notes to Editors

State of the Nation report

  • In February 2019 the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, in partnership with the University of Sussex and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), published a report entitled Music Education: State of the Nation which outlines the broad landscape of music education in England. The report found that government policy, particularly around accountability measures like the English Baccalaureate, has significantly negatively impacted on music education in schools in England. Curriculum time for music (which is statutory for Key Stage 1–3) has reduced, along with opportunities for children to pursue music to GCSE and A Level.
  • The report also revealed that the EBacc is negatively impacting young people from groups experiencing high levels of social deprivation. Students are discouraged from taking creative subjects in order to focus on subjects that form part of the EBacc. Yet a higher percentage of secondary students eligible for free school meals (FSM) were temporarily or permanently excluded from school last year than achieved the EBacc. You can read our press release and full report.

What is the National Plan for Music Education?

  • The Music Education in England report, otherwise known as the ‘Henley Review’, was published in 2011 and set out recommendations for the minimum expectations of what any child going through the English school system should receive in terms of music education. It highlighted high quality and sustained music education in the school curriculum as the cornerstone of every child’s music education. The Henley Review also highlighted challenges and threats to music education, including inappropriate accountability measures which worked against the Arts, insecurity of funding, patchy provision that led to inequality of access and issues regarding training, recruiting and supporting the diverse workforce.
  • The National Plan for Music Education (NPME) was born out of the review and is based on its recommendations. It was launched in 2012 and is due to expire later this year.
  • A consultation was held earlier this year in order to inform proposals for an updated NPME which is due to be released in the Autumn. However, on 22 July in the House of Lords, Baroness Berridge could not provide a time frame for when the plan would be refreshed.

About the ISM

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally-recognised subject association for music. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession.

We support over 10,000 music professionals across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds.

We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.

For more information, please contact [email protected]