There is a long-term downward trend in the numbers of students taking music at GCSE and A-level, which is damaging to the music industry’s talent pipeline that needs talented musicians to join our world-leading orchestras and teach the next generation of music stars.
It’s good that alongside A-levels and GCSEs, there is a fantastic range of other options for students looking to get involved in music, such as vocational technical qualifications and graded music exams, which make up an important part of the skills landscape for music.
There was a decrease in numbers in 2021, when the number of A-level music students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland fell slightly by 0.23% from 5,699 in 2020.
Things looked better in 2022, when figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) revealed the number of students taking music A-level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland rose from 5,686 in 2021 to 5,916 this year – an increase of 4%.
The increase was helped by a 6.5% rise in the number of male students taking up the subject, which rose from 2,937 to 3,129, while the number of female students also increased by 1.3% from 2,749 to 2,787.
In Scotland, the results for Highers, the Scottish equivalent of A-Levels, showed a fall in the numbers studying music, from 5,215 in 2021 to 4,935 in 2022.
But despite this year’s increase, the long-term trend is worrying. Since 2014, there has been an overall fall over the past eight years of 29.4 % in A-level music entries from 8,375 in 2014 to 5,916 in 2022, for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The GCSE results published in 2022 showed a 3.8% fall in the number of students in the UK taking GCSE Music from 39,914 in 2021 to 37,705 in 2022. This is compared to the total number of GCSE students, which fell by only 0.65%.
There has been a fall of 20% in the number of students taking music GCSE since 2014, when 47,125 took the exam to 37,705 in 2022.