Number of A-level music students falls by a third in six years

Examinations hall with students

In 2014, 7,355 students sat A-level music examinations. This year, the number is only 5,030, representing a fall of 32%, according to examinations regulator OFQUAL – five times the 6.3% drop in the total number of people studying A-levels over the same period.

However, this year’s annual change, a drop of of 1.85% compared to 2019, is lower than in the previous year.

UK Music Director of Education and Skills Dr Oliver Morris said:

‘Congratulations to everyone on their A-level music results, particularly in such a challenging year for students and music teachers.

‘This year’s A-level entry numbers does show a slow-down in the decline in the number of students taking A-level music. But there has been an alarming drop of 32% over the past six years.

‘It is vital that children and young people from all walks of life should have access to music and there is strong evidence to suggest that students who are engaged in their education through music fare better at maths and English.’

Barriers to involvement

Morris also highlighted concerns over the controversial decision to lower the grades of many students and signs that schools in poorer areas had fared worse. In England, 36% of entries had a lower grade than teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades, in results for exams cancelled by the pandemic.

He said:

‘The results reveal an inequity that demands our attention if we hope to level the playing field and ensure anyone no matter their background has an opportunity to develop to the best of their ability.

‘Barriers to involvement that stifle diversity in music threaten the talent pipeline which is so vital to the UK music industry.’

Diane Widdison, National Organiser for Education and Training at the Musicians’ Union and Chair of the UK Music Education and Skills Committee, said:

‘Our many members who work across the whole of the education sector have worked hard to ensure their students have been able to continue their music education through this very difficult time.

Debacle around A-level results

‘We have real concerns about what the situation will be for music in schools in the next academic year as schools are under tremendous pressure to comply with the challenges of pupils returning and music as a subject is sometimes easier to sideline than it is to try to accommodate.

‘The debacle around the A-level results and downgrading of predicted grades, which has disproportionately affected pupils from less affluent backgrounds needs to be addressed immediately to ensure that these pupils who have already had to cope with leaving school prematurely are not disadvantaged further by flawed processes.’

OFQUAL statistics on A-level results can be found here.

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