Call for UK government to stop “damaging” plans to pull funding for post-16 music qualifications

UK music has called on Education secretary Gillian Keegan to stop “damaging” plans to pull funding for post-16 music qualifications.

According to UKmusic.org, the intervention follows Government plans to defund the current suite of vocational Level 3 qualifications for music by 2026, which has left education and industry leaders dismayed and now fear the move would damage the sector’s talent pipeline.

Level 3 qualifications focus on giving 16 to 19-year-olds skills and knowledge to be able to grow into training, study and employment options within various music production and performance disciplines.

The Government plans to stop funding the qualifications within the next two years which puts thousands of kids who planned on embarking in a music career with in an uncertain future.

UK Music’s Interim Chief Executive Tom Kiehl wrote a letter claiming that the government’s proposed pause in funding will have “serious consequences for learners, educators, the talent pipeline, and ultimately the music industry – which contributes £6.7 billion (GVA) to the economy, generates £4billion in exports, and employs 210,000 people.

Students raising instrument bows in music class - stock photo. Credit: Hill Studios via Getty
Students raising instrument bows in music class – stock photo. Credit: Hill Street Studios via Getty

“Our primary concern relates to the planned defunding of the current suite of vocational Level 3 qualifications for music by 2026. There are not enough alternative options to fill the void that this creates.

He continued: “In the absence of a T-Level for Music, defunding for existing qualifications places a massive administrative burden on many in the music education sector, with qualifications having to be rewritten as Alternative Academic Qualifications (AAQs) and approved by Department for Education.

“This could leave the approximately 30,000 young people a year that study vocational music qualifications with the main providers – RSL Awarding Body, Pearson (BTEC), NCFE, and University of the Arts London (UAL) Awarding Body – without a viable alternative.

“Moreover, this approach to learning risks diminishing accessibility to a subject that has traditionally empowered learners from diverse learning styles and backgrounds.

“The proposals have a particular impact on many members of UK Music’s Music Academic Partnership (MAP). Formed to strengthen links between the music industry and educators, this network brings together a range of Awarding Bodies, Further Education, and Higher Education Providers, as well as institutions such as the BRIT School and Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA).

“UK Music has constructively engaged in developments that impact music education, such as apprenticeships and T-Levels, through our membership of the Creative Industries Council (CIC) and via public consultations.

“However, we remain unconvinced that the unique challenges our sector faces in moving to AAQ are being understood by ministers and officials.

“We therefore ask for an immediate pause in the defunding of all music qualifications that are due to be effectively ‘turned off’ by 2026 and ask for a meeting with you and a representative group of impacted music education providers to find a way forward.

“As an industry, we acknowledge that our success depends on a diverse and accessible range of education and skills options at various levels. Vocational Level 3 qualifications are crucial for the music talent pipeline and are often overlooked.”

Dr. Oliver Morris,UK Music’s Director of Education and Skills who runs UK Music’s Music Academic Partnership, also commented on the letter and said: “I implore the Government to take a breath and not to plough ahead with this damaging timescale. Young people and educational professionals are facing an awful time ahead with the issues around defunding of current vocational music qualifications over next two years.

“These qualifications help set young people on the path to creative industry careers and frankly often offer hope to those who find other routes stultifying or inaccessible.

Father explaining electric guitar to teenager - stock photo. Credit: John Fedele via Getty
Father explaining electric guitar to teenager – stock photo. Credit: John Fedele via Getty

He added: “This timescale could leave around 30,000 young people without options. Pausing the defunding would allow for new AAQs to be trialed and embedded properly and for an easy transition to take place without losing or damaging whole cohorts of students.”

Elsewhere, the Music Venue Trust said that 2023 was “worst year for venue closures” while “no one in music industry seems to care”.

The stats from the MVT show that last year saw 125 grassroots venues shut down in 2023 – causing a loss of 4,000 jobs, with 14,500 events no longer possible and 193,230 opportunities lost to musicians.

It was also revealed that UK festivals at “critical” point, without VAT reduction from government. 

The report was shared by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) – a trade association representing the interests of 101 UK music festivals – and revealed that without intervention and support from parliament, festivals across the UK will be set to be lost.

According to the research, at least 36 festivals were cancelled before they were due to take place in 2023 – namely due to economic pressures between sales and costs. The issues have since continued into 2024, with six more festivals having already been cancelled including Dumfries’ Doonhame FestivalNASSNottingham’s Splendour and Barn On The Farm.

Now, the association has launched a new ‘5% For Festivals’ campaign – seeking to inform festival-goers about the problems that music festival promoters have faced over the last five years and encourage them to contact MPs to push for a VAT reduction on tickets.


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