UK Music Exams Drop to Lowest Ever

By Michael Vincent on September 13, 2022

A recent report out of England has been raising concerns over a decline in the number of students taking music GCSE across the UK. The 2022 numbers show students completing a music GCSE is at an all-time low.

The GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) is a UK education designation that equates to a basic High School Diploma.

The exams require students to pass five subjects with a grade C or higher to graduate. It’s compulsory for students to study the theory of a subject, together with some investigative work, while subjects like music require practical study.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) reported music entry figures have fallen by 3.8 percent since 2021. In the last decade, this has marked a 19 percent decline, and a 27 percent drop since 2010.

Why this matters

A Music GCSE is an essential first step towards more professional music studies. The exam requires students to demonstrate the ability to perform music, compose music, apply music knowledge, and show the ability to evaluate scores.

What is behind the decline?

1: Increased focus on more applied programs. Some believe students are discouraged from taking creative subjects as they are seen as less valuable than subjects that form part of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). The program was introduced in 2010 and has had a significant impact on music education.

2: Music education has been slowly declining across the UK for decades, with some state schools dropping music altogether. Rising cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, asserted in an interview that students are not receiving a proper music education, which has led to a lack of diversity and opportunities in music education. Nicola Benedetti and Lang Lang have also joined the call to maintain music education in schools

Some good news

New data released in a report by the JCQ show that A-level music exams are on the rise by 4 percent. (NB: A-Level exams in the U.K. are the rough equivalent of SAT exams in the U.S.)

The data showed a modest increase from 5,686 students in A-level exams in 2021 to 2022’s 5,916. The increase marked the first in over a decade.

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