Although this year’s numbers actually illustrate that the decline in A-level music students has slowed down, Morris pointed to a 32% drop off over the past six years.
Morris offered congratulations to pupils for their A-level music results during “such a challenging year for students and teachers”. However, he expressed concerns over the future of music education.
“The decline makes it hard to continue to nurture and produce talented and highly skilled professionals that truly reflect our society and who often go on to play in our world-leading orchestras or teach the next generation of musical stars,” said Morris.
“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,” he continued.
We need to do more to encourage young people to study music
Dr Oliver Morris
“Music contributes a huge amount to our economy and the cultural fabric of all of our lives. We need to do more to encourage young people to study music in schools, ensure that all have equal opportunities to pursue this as a career and make sure they can make a living by playing music.”
The number of students opting for A-level music fell from 5,125 in 2019 to 5,030 in 2020 – a drop of 1.85%. Since 2014, the number of A-level music students has fallen by 32%, from 7,355 in 2014 to 5,030 in 2020. That is five times the 6.3% drop in the total number of people studying A-levels over the same period.
Morris also voiced his concerns over the government’s decision to lower the grades of many students and indications that schools in poorer areas had fared worse.
“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,” he said. “Barriers to involvement that stifle diversity in music threaten the talent pipeline which is so vital to the UK music industry."
We have real concerns about what the situation will be for music in schools in the next academic year
Diane Widdison, Musicians' Union
Diane Widdison, national organiser for Education and Training at the Musicians' Union and chair of the UK Music Education and Skills Committee added: “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."
“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 and accommodate," Widdison contined.
“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.”