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UK Music Calls On Education Secretary To Halt “Damaging” Plans To Withdraw Funding From Post-16 Music Qualifications

01.02.2024: UK Music is calling on Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to halt “damaging” plans to withdraw funding for post-16 music qualifications.  

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01.02.2024: UK Music is calling on Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to halt “damaging” plans to withdraw funding for post-16 music qualifications.  

The intervention follows Government plans to defund the current suite of vocational Level 3 qualifications for music by 2026. The proposed reforms have dismayed education and industry leaders who fear the move could seriously damage the sector’s talent pipeline.  

In a letter to the Education Secretary (attached) UK Music’s Interim Chief Executive Tom Kiehl urges the Cabinet Minister to pause the controversial proposals, which are set to hit around 30,000 young people a year.  

Level 3 qualifications in music are aimed at giving 16 to 19-year-olds the skills and knowledge to progress to other training, study, and employment options in a range of music production and performance disciplines.  

The qualifications develop the transferable skills, knowledge, and behaviours necessary to pursue a music career, meaning students are both enthused and well-prepared for the often non-linear career progression found in the creative industries. 

However, the Government’s plans for a phased pause in funding for the qualifications over next two years risk leaving thousands of young people keen to embark on a career in music facing an uncertain future.  

In his letter, UK Music’s Interim Chief Executive Tom Kiehl warns the proposed pause in funding will have “serious consequences for learners, educators, the talent pipeline, and ultimately the music industry – which contributes £6.7 billion (GVA) to the economy, generates £4billion in exports, and employs 210,000 people”.  

Mr Kiehl added: “Our primary concern relates to the planned defunding of the current suite of vocational Level 3 qualifications for music by 2026. There are not enough alternative options to fill the void that this creates.  

“In the absence of a T-Level for Music, defunding for existing qualifications places a massive administrative burden on many in the music education sector, with qualifications having to be rewritten as Alternative Academic Qualifications (AAQs) and approved by Department for Education.   

“This could leave the approximately 30,000 young people a year that study vocational music qualifications with the main providers – RSL Awarding Body, Pearson (BTEC), NCFE, and University of the Arts London (UAL) Awarding Body – without a viable alternative.   

“While the introduction of AAQs is not new, its requirement for “assessment by examination” poses a great challenge for educators to implement the necessary course changes within the timeframe available.  

“Moreover, this approach to learning risks diminishing accessibility to a subject that has traditionally empowered learners from diverse learning styles and backgrounds.  

“The proposals have a particular impact on many members of UK Music’s Music Academic Partnership (MAP). Formed to strengthen links between the music industry and educators, this network brings together a range of Awarding Bodies, Further Education, and Higher Education Providers, as well as institutions such as the BRIT School and Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA).  

“UK Music has constructively engaged in developments that impact music education, such as apprenticeships and T-Levels, through our membership of the Creative Industries Council (CIC) and via public consultations.  

“However, we remain unconvinced that the unique challenges our sector faces in moving to AAQ are being understood by ministers and officials.   

“We therefore ask for an immediate pause in the defunding of all music qualifications that are due to be effectively ‘turned off’ by 2026 and ask for a meeting with you and a representative group of impacted music education providers to find a way forward.   

“As an industry, we acknowledge that our success depends on a diverse and accessible range of education and skills options at various levels. Vocational Level 3 qualifications are crucial for the music talent pipeline and are often overlooked.” 

Concluding the letter, Mr Kiehl said:  

“The current suite of vocational qualifications provides a well-rounded, industry-informed perspective of music career paths, while nurturing creativity and developing a range of transferable skills. They often also cement a passion for music in an individual into a desire to become involved professionally in the creative industries.  

“Defunding of current vocational Level 3 qualifications when AAQs are introduced could leave approximately 30,000 students annually without an option in music.  

“Pausing the defunding is essential to explore viable means of supporting the impacted students and further developing alternative qualifications that can address the void left behind.  

“We hope that you will give serious consideration to this request. Both UK Music and MAP members have a wealth of experience and knowledge in this area and would be happy to share this further with you.” 

Commenting on the letter, UK Music’s Director of Education and Skills Dr Oliver Morris, who runs UK Music’s Music Academic Partnership, said:  

“I implore the Government to take a breath and not to plough ahead with this damaging timescale. Young people and educational professionals are facing an awful time ahead with the issues around defunding of current vocational music qualifications over next two years. 

“These qualifications help set young people on the path to creative industry careers and frankly often offer hope to those who find other routes stultifying or inaccessible.  

“This timescale could leave around 30,000 young people without options. Pausing the defunding would allow for new AAQs to be trialed and embedded properly and for an easy transition to take place without losing or damaging whole cohorts of students.” 

Find out more about the issues facing music education and what we’re asking Government to do in our Music For Manifesto here

Find out more about UK Music’s Music Academic Partnership here

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