Government publishes new GCSE, AS and A Level subject content for music

The Department for Education has published details of the subject content for the GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels in music to be taught from September 2016. It is anticipated that exam boards will soon publish their own specifications based on these guidelines.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the subject association for music, welcomed the shift in subject content from the Department for Education saying:

‘This is a significant reform of GCSE music and a huge opportunity for practical music making in the classroom. The new GCSEs will be required to encourage students to engage critically and creatively with a wide range of music. The broadening of the scope of GCSE music is welcome and we look forward to working with Awarding Organisations to bring this to life on behalf of our classroom teacher members.

‘There are some disappointments: Ofqual is wrong to suggest the assessment of musical processes such as performing and composing is too challenging. It is a shame that they have not felt able to follow the recommendations of the ISM (the subject association) and National Association for Music in Higher Education (NAMHE) in this area.

‘Nonetheless we are delighted that the Government has integrated technology, removed the references to minimum lengths for performing and composing, emphasised the integration of performing, appraising and composing in their consultation response and required a broader range of music – including the unfamiliar – to be analysed and studied. We are also pleased to see that the 1700-1900 historical period has been broadened to 1650-1910 and includes the opportunity to study Western Classical Music from outside this period right up to the present day.

‘In light of the creative possibilities for children to be engaged and excited by music making as part of the school curriculum we look forward with interest to see how the new Scheme of Assessment and Awarding Organisations’ specifications will bring life to this framework.’

More than 600 responses were received to the music subject content compared to for example 21 in response to the PE GCSE or 74 in response to the Modern foreign languages AS and A level.

The ISM will be producing a full briefing in due course, along with professional development materials and training sessions for its classroom members as the Awarding Organisations’ develop their new specifications for GCSEs, AS and A levels.


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About the ISM

The ISM is the professional body for those working in the music profession. We promote music and look after the interests of professional musicians.

Our membership of approximately 7,000 covers both individual musicians and corporate bodies. Individual members include leading conductors, featured and non-featured artists, orchestral musicians working in all of the UK’s leading orchestras, composers, animateurs and arrangers.

Our corporate membership of over 160 music organisations includes Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Royal Academy of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, British Voice Association, Rhinegold Publishing, Avid, Yamaha UK, YCAT, the Composer’s Edition, (MPA), NMC Recordings, Jazz Services Ltd, Association of Independent Music, Classic FM, the Royal Philharmonic Society, Help Musicians UK, Association of British Orchestras (ABO), Music Sales Ltd, the Music Industries Association (MIA), and more.

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