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UK Music Chief Warns Music Exam Results Reveal Need For Urgent Action To Protect “Great National Asset”


UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin warned that this week’s A-level and GCSE results reveal the urgent need to “support and grow” music education in schools.

His warning comes after researchers at Birmingham City University predicted earlier this week that A-level music education in schools could disappear entirely in just over a decade.

Figures published on today (Thursday) by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) show the number of students taking music GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has stayed broadly level with last year. 39,194 took music GCSE in 2021, compared with 38,569 in 2020 – a slight increase of 1.62%.

However, there has been a fall of 16.83% in the number of students taking music GCSE since 2014, when 47,125 took the exam.

If the number of students taking GCSE music had risen in line with the rise of students taking GCSE’s since 2014, where the total number stood at 5,217,573, it would be expected that there would be 51,894 entrants for music in 2021. The UK has therefore lost a potential 12,700 music GCSE awards, a 27.89% difference. 

According to figures published on Tuesday by JCQ, the number of students taking A-level music in England, Wales and Northern Ireland decreased slightly by 0.23% from 5,699 in 2020 to 5,686.

There has been an alarming fall of 32.1% in A-level music entries from 8,375 in 2014 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland - and a decline of 31.47% in A-level music entries in England from the 7,353 entrants in 2014. 

Over the past ten years, there has been a sharp 51.5% decline in male students taking A-level music, with the total dropping from 6,059 in 2011 to 2,937 in 2021. For female students, there was also a major 31.4% decline - from 4,005 in 2011 to 2,749 in 2021.

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: 

“Congratulations to all A-level and GCSE music students after such an immensely challenging 17 months for both students and teachers.

While the numbers of students taking music GCSEs and A-Levels is broadly similar to last year, the long-term trends are deeply concerning – the numbers of A-level music students has dropped by almost a third since 2014, and there are 12,700 fewer GCSE music students than there would have been if numbers had risen in line with overall GCSE entries.

“We need action to support and grow music education in schools, and reverse this worrying decline.

“The music industry relies on a talent pipeline of accomplished and dedicated music students to produce the highly skilled professionals of the future. 

“Many of them will go on to play in top orchestras, become music teachers or contribute to world-class recordings.

“It is vital we continue to nurture music students and ensure children from all walks of life and every background have access to music and the chance to make a good living from it.

“Music is vital to our economyour culture and our society. It is one of our greatest national assets and will play a crucial role in our post-pandemic recovery – so it’s more important than ever that we invest in music education and reverse this worrying decline.”  

Overall, the total number of A-level entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland rose by 5% from 784,959 to 824,718 this year. In England, total A-level entries also rose by 4.68% from 718,857 to 752,554. 

If music entries had risen in line with the national average since 2014 there would have been 5,984 A-level entrants in 2021. 

The Government announced last week that Jamie Njoku-Goodwin has been appointed to an expert panel to help form the new National Plan for Music Education (NPME) to be published next year. 

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