Music disappearing from curriculum, schools survey shows

Fewer schools in England offering subject at A-level and fewer pupils taking it at GCSE

Music could disappear from the curriculum, as research shows the number of schools offering the subject at A-level is in sharp decline and fewer students are taking it at GCSE.

A survey by Sussex University found that the number of schools offering a music A-level had fallen by more than 15% in the past two years. The picture is even worse for music technology A-level, which has declined by 32% over the same period.

Research also revealed a 10% fall in the number of students starting a GCSE music course since 2016, with fewer schools providing it as an option and some offering it only out of school hours.

The survey of 500 schools in England showed music is fast disappearing as a compulsory subject at secondary level. Whereas in 2012-13 music was compulsory for 13- to 14-year-olds in 84% of responding schools, the latest survey found it was compulsory in just 47.5%.

Of the schools that participated, 18% did not offer GCSE music at all; in some schools the subject was taught only as an “enrichment day” once a year. Staffing levels in music departments had fallen in nearly 36% of the schools that responded, with 70% of surviving music specialists having to teach outside their subject to fill gaps.

Almost six in 10 of the schools that responded said the government’s promotion of the English baccalaureate (Ebacc) suite of academic subjects was having a negative impact on music studies in their school. Just 2.5% said it had a positive impact on music.

The report’s author, Duncan Mackrill, a senior teaching fellow at Sussex University, said: “Music’s place in the secondary curriculum continues to be precariously balanced or disappearing in a significant number of schools. Without a change to require a balanced curriculum in all schools, we are in danger of music education becoming, in many cases, the preserve of those who can pay.”

In a separate report, the Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said music lessons in schools would be under threat if the government failed to cover the cost of the teacher pay rise to centrally employed music teachers.

The LGA says councils, which face a £3.9bn funding hole in 2019-20, have not budgeted for the the additional 1-2.5% salary increase for music teachers, who are directly employed by the council, which would cost an estimated £5.5m.

Anntoinette Bramble, the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Local government is already under massive financial pressure, with many services overstretched. If this additional cost is left for councils to pick up then they will be put in the very difficult position of being forced to reduce certain types of education provision including music teaching.”


Sally Weale Education correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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