A Level music decline and disadvantage attainment gaps

Researchers in BMERG have been investigating the decline of young people choosing music as an A Level subject, and whether or not it is actually available to these people in question.

New research has investigated why there has been a steep decline in young people choosing A Level music education.


Research background

We have been monitoring A-level music entries for a number of years as there has been a pattern of decline emerging. In 2018, we published a report, which showed the geographic and socio-economic disparities in A-level music uptake.

Research aims

In our most recent research on A-level music, we aimed to find out whether trends of decline were continuing, how these connected to disadvantage attainment gaps in parts of the country, and better understand the long-term sustainability of A-level music.

We hope that this discussion paper, and underpinning research, will help those in the music education sector better understand the precarity of A-level music in many schools and local authorities. In particular, the research aimed to highlight A-level music uptake in the Midlands region.

How has the research been carried out?

This research was entirely desk-based, drawing on a number of publicly available datasets. We combined these new data with our prior work in the field to understand how the trends we identified a few years ago were playing out in reality.

Outcomes and impact

The key finding from our research is that A-level music is continuing to decline in terms of numbers of entries and that, if the trend continues at the same rate, there won’t be any more entries for A-level music by 2033.

It provides a clear picture of what has been suspected for a while, that A-level music is increasingly not available to all young people across the country.

The resultant discussion paper raises important questions that the sector should consider, which we hope will help to support positive and transformative conversations to change the current state of affairs with A-level music.