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School leaders warn music education is in danger of ‘disappearing’

Uptake of music and arts GCSEs and A-Levels has fallen steadily over recent years.
Uptake of music and arts GCSEs and A-Levels has fallen steadily over recent years.
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Music education is in danger of disappearing from the state curriculum, school leaders have warned, as arts executives call for urgent reform of Government policy in the wake of a “stark divide”.

Uptake of music and arts GCSEs and A-Levels has fallen steadily over recent years, amid concerns of misery over funding cuts, rising pressure, and too targeted a focus on core subjects as a result of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

Today, the chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians told The Yorkshire Post that too many young people are denied access to realising their talents, warning action must be taken to reverse the decline.

“The pressure on secondary schools from the EBacc, combined with cuts in funding, is reducing opportunities in schools and actively lowering pupil participation in the music,” said Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM.

“This means many pupils are unable to realise their talents in music, as for some school is the only place where access to music is possible.”

Across the region’s four counties, just North Yorkshire saw students reach the national average for top grades in music in their GCSEs this summer, as entries fell by 17 per cent over the past five years nationwide.

There have been warnings of schools having to raise money themselves to fund teaching time, while others have faced difficult decisions over the curriculum. Results day showed a stark regional divide in terms of uptake of GCSE music, added Ms Annetts, warning: “Access to good music education should not be a postcode lottery.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, citing Ofqal figures showing a 26 per cent drop in entries at A-level music over five years, said: “The evidence is clear that music, along with several other creative arts subjects, is being pushed to the margins of the curriculum.

“There is a serious danger that this subject will disappear from the state sector unless action is taken to redress its decline. It is at risk of becoming the preserve only of those families who can afford private education.

“The marginalisation of these subjects undermines equality of opportunity and social mobility, as well as damaging the vibrant creative arts industry which plays a vital role in our economy.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We take the study of the arts extremely seriously which is why music and art remain compulsory parts of the national curriculum up to age 14.

“We invest heavily in arts and music subjects. In total, we have invested nearly £500 million in music and arts education between 2016 and 2020.”