Is music is disappearing from our schools?

Many music artists and professionals first encountered music and singing at school. Not too long ago exposure to music at school was taken for granted. Now it seems each year we are advised that there is to be less and less funding available for the arts in secondary schools.  

Budget cuts are not the only threat to music in schools. With the UK government’s ambition to see 90% of GCSE pupils choosing EBacc core subjects by 2025 schools are prioritising the narrow suite of EBacc subjects – English language and literature, maths, the sciences, geography or history and a language.

Speaking at the Industrial Cadets Awards earlier this year the Prince of Wales warned that within the school system the “creative arts” are in danger of being “forgotten and left out”. Charles stated, “It is clear to me that the rapid pace of change in the way that our industries operate is bringing a host of new challenges and opportunities, not only in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but also of course in the creative arts.

“A sector that contributes enormously to this nation’s GDP but which is in danger of being forgotten and left out within the school system.”

The stats are supporting a significant drop in the number of students taking GCSE music. This year shows there has been a 7.4% decline in the number of students taking up music at the GCSE level. This follows an 8% drop from the previous year.

Michael Dugher, UK Music CEO 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.

He also said, “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.”

In a survey of 400 schools run by Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) 39% of the respondents admitted that for the last two years they have made A-level Music cuts to lesson time, staff or facilities.

Dugher and The Prince of Wales are not the only people to express their concern for the state of music at schools. A letter published in The Times a few days ago signed by over 85 leading music sector leaders, began their plea by saying,  “Music should be the birthright of every child but it is fast becoming the preserve of the elite”

“It is central to our cultural life, a key driver of economic growth, and gives our children the tools to navigate a fast changing digital world.”