Various music education bodies welcomed the news last week that Michael Gove was abandoning his controversial plans to replace GCSE exams in England with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate. Although controversial in various circles, in the music community the alternative examinations system was mainly criticised for focusing on “core traditional subjects” to the detriment of creative disciplines, including music.
The change in emphasis was criticised by Billy Bragg at the Radio Festival last year. He argued that the changes would hit most the children of less well-off families, who could not afford to pay for music education outside the core school curriculum, and added: “Evidence shows that pupils from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to go on to higher education. Young people do better in English and maths subjects if they study the arts. They are more easily employable, more likely to vote, to volunteer and to get a degree. You might add to that they will be more likely to get into the charts too”.
Welcoming Gove’s u-turn on the exams system last week, David Lipsey, the Labour Lord who became chair of the board of governors at London-based music school the Trinity Laban Conservatoire Of Music & Dance last year, told Times Higher Education: “Amongst the army of critics [of this policy] the arts have been prominent – and rightly so. [The plans] would have poisoned Britain’s culture at its roots, reducing the standard of students we attract and therefore limiting their ultimate achievement. This is a great day for the arts and a good day for Britain”.
Meanwhile Deborah Annetts, CEO of the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, which also campaigned against the removal of music from the GCSE-level curriculum, told CMU: “We welcome this announcement; this is good news for children and good news for education. We must learn from the last six months of consultation and ensure we work together to create high quality and rigorous GCSEs and A-Levels with appropriate assessment fit for the 21st century. Creative subjects such as art, music and design and technology need to stay at the heart of education so that we can develop talented youngsters to feed our creative industries and generate growth”.