ISM concern over trend of falling music GCSE entries and call for… Jump to main content

ISM concern over trend of falling music GCSE entries and call for urgent reform to EBacc

Today students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have received their GCSE results, and figures from the Joint Council of Qualifications show music entries at GCSE have continued to fall.

The statistics show GCSE music entries have fallen by a staggering 19% since 2011 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Despite the trend, there was a slight increase of take up this year of 1.6%.

The declining trend means that 12,000 fewer students took GCSE music in 2021 than in 2010.

Meanwhile in Scotland, music entries to the National 5s have increased by 8% since 2020 and 10% since 2016.

The GCSE results come in the same week as A-levels, which showed more reason for concern with music entries at A-level having fallen by 44% since 2011.

The continued fall in the number of music entries has prompted the ISM to call for ‘urgent reform’ to the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) or for it to be scrapped altogether, because the EBacc does not include creative subjects, and pushes students to select other subjects at GCSE.

‘Report on the call for evidence: Music Education’
published by the Department for Education last week supported this view, 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.’

The same report found that music education is important to students, with 84.3% of responders saying music education improved their wellbeing and 83.2% saying it improves their confidence.

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


'Today our respect and thanks go out to music teachers and students for their hard-work and dedication in a difficult year. Despite the deeply concerning trend of declining music entries at GCSE, this year saw a slight uplift. That increase should be a benchmark to build on. Music education brings so much to students and last week’s report from the Department of Education showed that while students appreciated music education, it acknowledged that young people were under pressure to choose other subjects or it simply wasn’t available at their school.

Despite the mounting evidence, the Government continues to preside over a dramatic decline in music education and is clinging onto its EBacc agenda, no matter the consequences. It’s time for urgent reform of the EBacc to include music and creative subjects, or it should be scrapped altogether.

High quality music education should be available to all students and the Government must work to ensure this as an urgent priority. Only by fully embracing music and creative subjects can we build an education system fit for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.'