A-level music education in schools could “disappear” in just over a decade

A-level music education in schools could completely disappear in just over a decade, new research has claimed.

Falling access to the music qualifications has been accelerated by cuts to local and central government funding, according to researchers at Birmingham City University.

They now warn that the qualifications could disappear entirely by 2033, cutting off an entire pipeline of future talent from the UK.


Lead researchers Dr Adam Whittaker and Professor Martin Fautley’s findings have now led music academics and music industry professionals to call for an urgent intervention and package of policy and funding measures to support the UK’s state music education system.

Dr Whittaker said: “We know from trends in A-level uptake over the last few years that the number of pupils taking A-level music has fallen to a very concerning level.

“We are now in a position where there are parts of the country with very limited access to A-level music or, in some cases, no access at all.

“Children can’t choose a qualification that isn’t offered to them. What is the child who wants to take A-level music to do if the nearest school offering it is 30 miles away? We need A-level music, and other specialist subjects, to be offered in a range of schools right across a local authority area.

“This is important as A-level music can support young musicians to pursue music in higher education and their future careers, including as the next generation of music educators.”

In their research, which is available here, Dr Whittaker and Professor Fautley claim that “Those who lack the means to support private instrumental study are unlikely to have sufficient income to pay for independent school fees, even if a bursary supports them to a greater or lesser extent…the current rates of decline in entries in recent years shows A-level music is likely to have zero entries by 2033 if the current rate of decline continues in a linear manner.”


In the report, it was also revealed that independent schools account for a disproportionately high number of A-level music entries when compared to national entry statistics – potentially causing a gulf in talent.

Their research also confirmed that the proportion of students taking music education in the Midlands has dropped to just 1% following a fall in the number of schools and colleges offering the course as an option – in line with national uptake.

Calling on the government for change, UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “There has been a worrying decline in the number of young people studying music at A-level in recent years.

“Unless action is taken to reverse that trend, there is a real risk of serious damage to the talent pipeline on which the music industry relies.

“Music education enriches the lives of countless children and young people, but it also brings huge cultural, economic and social benefits to the UK.

“At UK Music, we are continuing to talk to the Government and education leaders about how we can ensure that children from every background get the best possible chance to study music which is one of our great national assets.”

Professor Martin Fautley added: “We have been concerned about the falling numbers taking A-level music for some time. Music is an important part of the lives of many of our young people, yet fewer and fewer of them are choosing advanced studies in it whilst at school.

“With the increasing fragmentation of the education system that this government has overseen, there exists the very real possibility than many of our youngsters will simply not have the opportunity for this study, even if they should want to do so.”