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UK Music Chief warns “alarm bells should be ringing” following another drop in take-up of GCSE Music

The number of students taking GCSE Music fell 7.4% this year

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23/08/18: UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher warned of a “worrying decline” in GCSE Music after the latest GCSE results revealed a 7.4% drop in the number of pupils taking the subject.

The number of students taking GCSE Music fell from 42,507 in 2017 to 39,358 this year. This followed a drop of 8% the previous year.

Overall, the number of GCSE entries rose 0.2% this year, with 5,470,076 entries despite a decrease in the number of 16 year olds in the population.

Commenting, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said:

“Alarm bells should be ringing for everyone who cares about the importance of music participation for young people in our schools. This year’s GCSE results show once again a worrying decline that is now becoming a trend. This potentially undermines efforts to nurture future talent for Britain’s £4.4 billion world-leading music industry.

“As well as the vital importance of ensuring that we are a country where children from all backgrounds have access to the arts, there is a crucial economic imperative too, especially given the fact that the creative industries contribute £92 billion to our economy and that this sector is growing twice as fast as the economy as a whole.

“There is also a solid education argument in favour of promoting music participation in our schools: evidence to suggest that young people who are engaged in their education through music, as well as other subjects like Drama and Sport, do better at their Maths and English.”

The latest GCSE figures come after the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) warned last week that A-level Music was under threat because schools and colleges could not afford to keep the courses running.

A survey by ASCL of more than 400 school and college leaders found that just under four in 10 (39%) have cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities for Music A-Level over the last two years.

According to the Cultural Learning Alliance, participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17% with growing international evidence that learning through arts and culture can improve attainment in Maths and English.

According to Changes in Secondary Music Curriculum Provision over time 2012-16 – a study conducted by the University of Sussex – one fifth of schools did not offer GCSE Music at the start of the 2016/17 academic year. Of those schools that do offer Music GCSE, 11 per cent are taught outside curriculum time. Beyond GCSEs, the number of schools offering pupils a chance to study BTEC Music Level 2 has declined by 70 per cent over four years.

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