Number of students taking performing arts A level drops 15%

A-level results for the UK reveal a 15% drop in the number of students taking performing and expressive arts.

This category includes a range of subjects such as dance A level. Separately, there has also been a significant drop in those sitting drama A level.

It comes after numbers for GCSE drama also showed a decrease in students sitting exams in the subject.

Key A-level findings:

  • The number of students sitting performing arts A level fell from 2,573 last year to 2,179, a 15.3% drop.
  • There was a significant drop in those taking drama A level, which fell from 13,226 last year to 12,373 this year, a decrease of 6.4%.
  • The number of people taking A-level drama represents just 1.5% of the total A levels sat.
  • England saw a higher drop in students sitting performing arts A level than the UK average, down 17.5%.
  • Northern Ireland saw the largest decrease in students sitting drama A level, down 14%.
  • More females study drama across the UK, with 8,578 sitting the subject compared with 3,795 males.

Joint Council for Qualifications director general Michael Turner said the “reason why some subjects have declined by a greater proportion than others cannot fully be explained by the data”. However, he added that “whether students have prior experience of a subject from having studied it at GCSE may be a factor”.

Campaigners have been urging the government to make arts subjects a part of the core GCSE curriculum. Industry leaders have previously warned that the EBacc puts arts subjects at risk.

Deborah Annetts, campaign coordinator for the Bacc for the Future campaign, said the decline of entries to creative subjects was:

“a clear indication that the EBacc is already having an impact, if this pattern continues, we will start to see the effects in our creative industries as the route to progression inevitably narrows. We simply cannot afford for this to happen,”

Broken down by country, while England reported the largest decrease in students taking the performing arts A level, down from 2,468 to 2,036, the number of people taking exams in the subject in Northern Ireland grew, from 87 to 120, as it did in Wales, which was up from 18 to 23.

In relation to drama A level, 11,284 people in England sat an exam in the subject, down 5.7% on the previous year, while there was a 14.1% drop in Northern Ireland, with 463 studying drama, down from 539 in the previous year.

The percentage of people studying drama in Wales fell from 724 to 626, a 13.5% decline.
Overall, entries to A-level exams were down across the UK, from 850,749 last year to 836,705.