Don't take away our music, Edexcel

14th July 2006 at 01:00
Schools' costly sound equipment may be redundant if profit-making board axes A-level that inspired the Arctic Monkeys

Teachers and senior examiners united in outrage this week after an exam board said it would scrap the course that propelled Britain's hottest new band to stardom.

Schools and colleges which have invested tens of thousands of pounds in equipment are furious that Edexcel is scrapping its music technology A-level, which was taken last year by members of the Arctic Monkeys. The board also plans to scrap its music A-level.

However, as The TES went press the board was reconsidering in the face of the reaction. Unless Edexcel changes its stance, the last courses will begin next year.

The board has been widely accused of scrapping the courses because it makes a loss on them - a charge it denies.

Thousands of students wanting to study music technology at university will be left with no worthwhile course after the last A-levels begin in September next year, teachers have warned. Senior examiners say they were not consulted, as do schools and colleges.

The Arctic Monkeys this year had Britain's fastest-selling debut album within months of passing music technology A-levels at Barnsley college.

The controversy has focused fresh attention on Edexcel, which is England's only profit-making major board. One senior examiner said: "I really am uncomfortable that a privately-owned board can take the decision to withdraw from a qualification of which they are the sole provider."

A parliamentary early day motion, due to be tabled yesterday by Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, called on Edexcel to reconsider "for the good of future generations of musicians".

In a letter senior examiners received last Friday, Edexcel said it was not seeking re-accreditation for music and music technology A-level after 2009.

Edexcel runs the most popular music A-level, with more than 10,000 candidates. Music technology numbers have soared from 2,000 AS students five years ago to 9,000 AS and A2 candidates now.

Edexcel's letter said vocational Btecs could be offered instead, but many teachers argue that more academic students will not want to take them.

Edexcel has argued that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's subject criteria have made it impossible for them to design "sufficiently differentiated and affordable" A-levels.

Rob Wilding is head of music technology at Canon Slade school, Bolton, which opened a pound;200,000 music studio in January to run the course. He said: "To make this move without consulting the people it affects, or looking into the educational implications it has for those who would take these courses, is appalling."

Jonathan Sanders, head of music at Hills Road sixth-form college, Cambridge, which has 50 pupils doing music technology A-level and 75 doing music, said its pound;100,000 music technology suite would be largely redundant if the course was scrapped.

Some teachers on The TES on-line staffroom said the move highlighted the danger of exam privatisation. However, Edexcel's non-profit rival AQA, has scrapped GCSE and A-level Greek and Latin on cost grounds.

Edexcel was bought by the Pearson publishing group in 2003. An Edexcel spokeswoman said the board was unhappy with QCA rules that students have to be tested on every assessment area at both AS and A2.

he added: "We have been hugely encouraged by the overwhelming support for these qualifications. Because of that, we have asked QCA for a meeting so that we can review the (exam) criteria."


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today