Music in secondary schools has declined to the point where it is at ‘significant risk of disappearing’ from the curriculum, according to research by the University of Sussex. Music staffing levels, teaching hours, even the number of schools offering music as a subject are in decline.

The newly published research by the University of Sussex into provision of music in the secondary school curriculum since 2016 found the EBacc (a performance measure of how many pupils get a grade C or above in the core academic subjects at Key Stage 4), together with other performance measures and a squeeze on funding, were the main drivers in the decline of the subject.

The study of 423 state schools and 41 independent schools found that an increasing number of schools had reduced the music curriculum for Year 7, 8 and 9 students, and some no longer included music as a curriculum subject or taught it only on an ‘enrichment day’ once a year.

Dr Ally Daubney, senior teaching fellow, said: ‘Having warned in 2016 that performance measures and funding cuts risk making music education in school extinct, our recent research highlights that the situation is now at crisis point in many secondary schools. We need to act now in order to reverse this decline and find ways to support schools to offer a sustained music education for all.’

There has been a decline in the number of schools offering GCSE and other Key Stage 4 qualifications in music, with some schools only offering it outside of school hours or not at all. The Ebacc was found to have caused this negative impact on provision and uptake (both within and beyond the curriculum). In those schools that do offer music at KS4, some discouraged top set students from taking music because of the EBacc. In others, lower ability students were prevented from taking music so they could concentrate on core subjects.

At sixth form there were 15.4 per cent fewer centres offering A Level music, and a 31.7 per cent reduction in A Level music technology.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said: 'Schools are under pressure to focus their curriculum through the narrow lens of the EBacc and, as a result, provision and uptake of music is suffering and at risk of disappearing completely. Music is central to our cultural life, a key driver of economic growth, and gives our children the tools to navigate a fast changing digital world. We urge the Government to reverse its EBacc policy altogether to keep music in our schools.’

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