UK Music: Alarming drop in number of A-level music students

The body which represents the commercial interests of the music industry has warned of an “alarming drop” in the number of A-level students studying music.

The number who took the subject fell from 5,125 in 2019 to 5,030 this year, a decrease of 1.85%, according to Ofqual.

However, over the past six years the number studying A-level music declined by 32% – from 7,355 in 2014 to 5,030 in 2020.


Dr Oliver Morris, UK Music’s director of education and skills, said: “This year’s A-level entry numbers does show a slow-down in the decline in the number of students taking A-level music.

“But there has been an alarming drop of 32% over the past six years.

“It 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.

“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.”

Thousands of pupils’ A-level results in England were downgraded amid cancelled exams due to Covid-19.

Nearly two in five (39.1%) of teachers’ estimates for pupils in England were adjusted down by one grade or more, according to data from Ofqual, which amounts to around 280,000 entries.

Addressing this, Dr Morris said: “The results shared today 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.

“Barriers to involvement that stifle diversity in music threaten the talent pipeline which is so vital to the UK music industry.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson previously ruled out reversing the decision.