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The Decline in Numbers Taking GCSEs in Creative Subjects

Figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications on 22nd August, as GCSE results were announced, showed that although applicants for GCSE Art and Design and Performing Arts increased, overall, the number of students taking GCSEs in Creative subjects, (defined as define arts subjects as Art & Design, Dance, Design & Technology, Drama, Media/Film/TV Studies, Music and Performing/expressive arts), has decreased.

The number of applicants for GCSE Music has dropped a further 2.3% this year, with an overall decline of 18.6% in GCSE intake over the past five years.

This echoes the findings of Dr Alison Daubney in her Music Education: State of the Nation report that numbers of applicants for A Level music are also dropping.

Read more at: https://musicworkshopcompany.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/state-of-the-nation-music-the-appg-speaks-out/

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM and founder of the Bacc to the Future campaign said of the figures:

We are delighted that the uptake of art and design has enjoyed a 9.5% increase and performing arts a 7.7% increase in uptake this year. However, when looking at the wider context, this spike is not enough to correct several years of long-term decline in uptake, nor the issues within the art and design teacher workforce and diminishing curriculum time. We are also concerned that the uptake of other creative subjects is continuing to decline, including music (-2.3%), drama (-0.5%), design & technology (-23%), media, film and TV studies (-12.9%). Overall, since 2014 there has been a 28.1% decline in the overall uptake of creative subjects* at GCSE and a 16.9% decline in creative subject entries at A-Level.

While the Schools Minister is right when saying there has been an increase in the uptake of ‘arts’, this has only been within the art and design specifications. We, therefore, would urge the government to look at creative subjects as separate entities.”

The Cultural Learning Alliance’s analysis show the drop since 2010 with a 25% drop between 2010 and 2018 in Music GCSE numbers from 46,045 to 34,725.

The figures for A Level applications show a steeper decline for music from 2010 to 2018 with a reduction of 42% in music from 8,790 to 5,124.

The figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications also show that there is variation across the country of number of students taking GCSE music, with nearly 50% of GCSE music students living in the South, and just over 20% coming from the North. This is reflected in other Creative subjects with over 50% of applicants in Drama and Performing / Expressive Arts coming from the South with 20% coming from the North.

A Level Music applications mirror the pattern of GCSE applications, with again nearly 50% of applications coming from the South and just over 20% of applications from the North with similar figures for Drama and Expressive Arts.

Research by Birmingham City University, released earlier this year, highlights this issue, identifying ten parts of the country – including Blackpool, Bury and Hartlepool – where there were fewer than five entries for A-level music for the entire area.

Dr Adam Whittaker, a research fellow at Birmingham City University and the report’s lead author, stated:

It is deeply worrying that students in the most deprived local authorities are not able to study A-level music, while other more affluent areas see high numbers of entry.

The study found that independent schools account for a disproportionately high number of A-level music entries.

The report states:

It seems significant that the average class size for many of the entry centres in these local authorities does not exceed the national average of 3.3 students,” the report said, adding that the subject is “disappearing” altogether from schools in deprived areas.

Sources:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2019/05/31/average-a-level-music-class-now-has-just-three-students-study/

https://www.jcq.org.uk/

https://baccforthefuture.com/news/2019/gcse-results-day-2019

‘State of the Nation’ Music – the APPG Speaks Out

As part of MWC’s wider engagement in music education, Artistic Director Maria Thomas attended two key music education events this month, the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and the 2019 ROH Bridge’s annual conference, The Thriving Child.

In this blog, Maria shares her thoughts about the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Music Education. We’ll take a look at the findings of the ROH Bridge Conference at the end of July.


“The APPG for Music Education meeting took place on Wednesday 19th June at the Palace of Westminster. The event was Chaired by Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North and Chair and Registered Contact of the APPG. In attendance were a wide range of people engaged with music education, from MPs to Music Hub heads, Conservatoire heads, music organisations, and small charities that support young people.

The first speaker was Ian C. Lucas, MP for Wrexham and member of the DCMS Select Committee. Mr Lucas talked about his experiences of music education in Wrexham and his concerns following the loss of the council run music service. He demonstrated how music is being used to bring people into the town centre through festivals such as Singing Streets. With reference to the work of his wife, who is a music teacher and very engaged with the local music community, he lamented that although it benefits schools, students and the community to put on school shows, Ofsted gives no credit for this work.

Lucas went on to discuss recent reports on Live Music including research from Arts Council England and Youth Music, and Participation in Culture and Sport, published by the DCMS Select Committee. He said that while it is clear all these reports give the same message concerning the value of music education, that message is not getting through to Government. 

When the discussion was opened up to the floor, Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, said that schools should not be awarded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted unless they have a strong music offer.  Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen stressed that music should not be just about Head Teachers and Heads of Music.

Discussion about Music Hubs flagged up the fact that funding will be ending in 2020 and at present Hubs have no information about future funding. This naturally makes planning impossible and results in a workforce who have an uncertain future.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, explained that the focus on linking sports to health benefits has enhanced the delivery of sport. She suggested that stronger links should be made when it comes to the positive effect of music on mental health. She stressed her concern that music and the Arts are becoming only available to the elite. A suggestion was made that funding for music be ringing-fenced, as funding for sport has been, with a focus on schools working with their local music hubs. MPs agreed to explore this as an option.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, admitted that there is pressure on finances, but said that music in schools is also being squeezed by time pressures with the focus on SATs and other exams.

One Music Hub raised the point that Music Hubs are tasked with working with every school in their area, but schools are not pressured to work with their local Music Hub. It was also highlighted that some schools that join an Academy chain are told they cannot use their local music hub and must instead use suppliers identified by the Academy chain.

The second panel member, Zena Creed, Director of Communications and External Relations for The Russell Group, updated the attendees on recent developments at the Russell Group Universities, including the changes to their subject choice guidance and the decision to scrap facilitating subjects. She highlighted that the previous approach by Russel Group Universities of highlighting ‘facilitating subjects’ at A-Level had led to confusion and potentially impacted negatively on the number of young people taking Arts A-Levels. Their new website has more specific guidance and is now actively promoting Music and other Arts A-Levels.

The third speaker was Dr Alison Daubney, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Sussex and author of the recent Music Education: State of the Nation report. She underlined the lack of KS2 and Year 9 music in some schools, and the decline in the number of young people taking GCSE and A-Level music – leading to Music becoming the fastest disappearing A-Level subject. She mentioned that some geographical areas have no A-Level music applications and that the strongest number of applications come from private schools: In essence, there is no equitable access to A-Level music across the country. 

Dr Daubney also discussed the lack of Ofsted reports exploring music, pointing out that where music is discussed, it is sometimes only mentioned in one sentence in the report! She emphasised her concerns that Music Hubs are being expected to be ‘all-things-to-all-people’, delivering early years through to A-Level.

It was mentioned that the system of bell curve marking severely impacted the number of students getting high grades due to the small number of applicants which may encourage high achieving students to select other subjects at A-Level.

Two key concerns for many in the room were the fact that Academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum and the impact of the EBacc, something the ISM have been actively campaigning against. The worry is that with no requirement to teach music in Academies and no focus on the Arts in the EBacc, many schools will choose to omit music from the classroom altogether.”

Are you a teacher or music educator? We’d love to hear your response to these points and your ideas for the future of music education. Let us know in the comments or find us on Facebook.

The Best of the Guest

As we regroup for the start of the new term and a new academic year, we thought it would be interesting to look back over some of our recent guest blogs. This year we’ve been privileged to be able to share forward-looking contributions and ideas from exam board AQA, the ROH Bridge Project, Alex Stevens of Rhinegold Publishing and Handel and Hendrix in London among many others. Our guest bloggers continue to inform and inspire, enriching our view of music education.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 17.22.23

Updates from AQA

In July 2016, Sarah Perryman, Music Qualifications Developer at AQA, wrote for us, sharing the many updates and new online resources in the run up to the first year teaching the revised music A and AS Levels and GCSEs. These resources are relevant whether or not you teach with AQA, and are a great way to develop your students’ understanding of the subject. If you’d like some ideas to help with your new-term lesson planning, check out Sarah’s blog here>> 

Handel and Hendrix

One exciting musical highlight of the upcoming term is October’s Black History Month – carte blanche to explore many wonderful genres of music and outstanding musicians from African, African-American and Caribbean cultures. Jimi Hendrix was one such influential African-American musician, and a new exhibition celebrating his life opened in February 2016.

6. The main room of 23 Brook Street

Hendrix, known as one of the greatest instrumentalists in rock history, was inspired by Rock and Roll and electric blues genres, and he influenced other iconic musicians such as Prince. The London flat where he lived in 1966 is directly next door to Handel House, motivating Handel House Museum to develop an exploration of the two musicians, separated by only one wall and 200 years of history. Check out the guest blog and the learning resources at Handel Hendrix for inspiration.

Shakespeare Anniversary

Another fascinating window on society was provided by historic performance specialist, Emily Baines, in a blog celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of playwright, William Shakespeare.

The music and stage directions in Shakespeare’s plays offer an opportunity to creatively explore ideas of drama in music and how music reflects society and current affairs. Have a look at Emily’s blog here >>

Shakespeare's_comedy_of_the_Merchant_of_Venice_(1914)_(14578447349)

The Rhinegold Music Education Expo

Music Expo 2016 logo.indd

We were lucky enough to hear from Rhinegold’s Alex Stevens in the run up to the 2016 Music Education Expo. Alex gave us some insight into the planning of one of the UK’s biggest Music Education events. Visit the 2017 website to register for the next Expo, which will take place on February 9th and 10th 2017.

Other Highlights, valuable for students on their journeys forward, included advice from Martin Lumsden of Cream Room Recording Studios on making an album, and a detailed look at the BA(Hons) Music Industry Management degree at the University of Hertfordshire with MWC’s Maria Thomas

We’d like to thank all of the contributors to our guest blog so far and look forward to sharing some new, exciting posts with you in the new school year! And if you’re involved in music education and would be interested in writing a blog for us, we’d be delighted to hear from you. 

 

 

All Change at AQA

Since the Rhinegold Expo back in March, Maria at the Music Workshop Company has been working to create a guest blog spot, to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the world of music education.

This month the MWC team are excited to welcome Sarah Perryman, Music Qualifications Developer at AQA, as she explains what’s new for GCSEs, AS levels and A-levels, and how the exam board created their new music qualifications… 

A-and-AS-music-imageYou’ve probably heard that due to new criteria set out by Ofqual and the Department of Education, GCSE, AS and A-level Music is changing.

Change can be healthy, progressive and in the best interests of your students. It can also be worrying and stressful for teachers who are under pressure to get results.

I’m honoured to have been asked by The Music Workshop Company to talk to you about the forthcoming exam changes and tell you about our new GCSE, AS and A-level Music.

So, what’s new at AQA?

Firstly, I’m new! I’m thrilled to be a Music Qualifications Developer for AQA. Previously, I’ve completed a Music degree, trained as a musical theatre actress at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, worked in theatre, radio and TV, and run my own production company.

How did we create our new music qualifications?

Many people don’t realise that we’re an independent education charity and the largest provider of academic qualifications taught in schools and colleges. This means that we use the money we make to advance education and help teachers and students realise their potential.

The exam alterations gave us the opportunity to create positive change across all three of our music qualifications. Our Qualifications Developer Jeremy Ward, brought huge energy to their development, hardly surprising considering he’s an experienced musician and previously Executive Director at Rockschool. Students will now study The Beatles, Labrinth, Daft Punk and music technology is fully integrated.GCSE-music-image

We’re incredibly proud of the evolution of our qualifications. They’re engaging, inspiring and sufficiently rigorous to be highly valued by employers and universities.

The response to our draft proposals has been overwhelming – particularly our GCSE, which sparked huge interest. We enjoyed coverage in the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, NME Magazine and on BBC radio.

See our press coverage >

Music companion guide P20009 cover high resExplore our draft music qualifications

Draft AQA GCSE Music specification >

Draft AQA AS Music specification >

Draft AQA A-level Music specification >

Highlights of our draft GCSE, AS and A-level music specifications

  • They’re relevant and contemporary – more styles and genres, more artists and composers and more opportunities to compose and perform.
  • Designed to be taught the way students learn – we’ve scored excerpts of the GCSE study pieces for modern and classical instruments so that your students can get to know them even better.
  • All music styles are valued – our specification appreciates all styles and genres, skills and instruments, catering for different learning styles and musical tastes.
  • Music technology is fully integrated – many areas of study have artists or composers who have written works in this format and students can perform and compose using technology.

If you’re feeling unsure about any of the changes, don’t worry. The new music specifications don’t launch until September 2016 so you have plenty of time to prepare. The timetable below shows when the switchover takes place.

Date Current specification New specification
May 2015 Download our draft specifications here
July to September 2015 Available: GCSE, AS and A-level Book your place at our free launch events (also available online for GCSE only)
Autumn 2015 Download our accredited specifications and practice papers here
Spring 2016 Free prepare to teach meetings for GCSE, AS and    A-level
Summer 2016 Available: GCSE, AS and A-level
September 2016 First teaching GCSE, AS and    A-level
Summer 2017 Last chance to sit for first time: GCSE, AS and A-level AS first exams
Summer 2018 Resit only: AS and      A-levels First exams GCSE and A-level;AS available
Summer 2019 Available: GCSE, AS and A-level

 

We can support you in all sorts of ways

  • Our music subject advisors are just a phone call away
  • Our Music team and Teacher Network Group offer advice and support.
  • Free teaching resources from our music community which includes the BBC, The Royal Albert Hall, Music for Youth and the Museum of Liverpool.
  • Email updates keep you informed of our new resources and events. If you’d like to receive them, email music@aqa.org.uk
  • Free introductory launch meetings for GCSE, AS and A-level tell you all about our new specifications, resources and exams (book early if you’re interested, these are always popular!)

155308470-edit-MEDAll that’s left to say is thank you to The Music Workshop Company for inviting me to contribute to their blog. I hope you’ve found this helpful and that your students’ examinations go well.

Best wishes,

Sarah Perryman – AQA Qualifications Developer – Music

 

 

 


If you would like to talk to the Music Workshop Company about a workshop for GCSE or A-Level students, please contact us and we’d be delighted to help.

 

 

 

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