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Harriet Clifford

Taking music qualification linked with higher achievement, study finds

11:08, 16th December 2020

Research from Cambridge Assessment has found that taking a music qualification is linked with higher achievement in school. 

Conducted by Tim Gill, the study of 478,085 students found that the effect of taking GCSE Music on overall attainment at KS4 is equivalent to a sixth of a GCSE grade per qualification for students in comprehensive schools. 

This equates to a typical student taking nine GCSEs getting one grade higher in one or two of their other GCSEs. 

A positive association was also found between comprehensive schools students taking graded music exams and KS4 attainment. For those achieving Grade 4 and above in music exams, the effect was estimated to be a third of a GCSE grade per qualification for girls, and half a grade for boys. 

However, none of these results were present in selective schools. 

The large dataset used in the research included a range of factors known to affect attainment, such as gender, deprivation, ethnicity, special needs and school type. The main source of data was the National Pupil Database, which is administered by the Department for Education (DfE). 

Tim Gill said, ‘The size of the effects, while not large, are not trivial’. He also acknowledges the limitations of the study, highlighting that we must be cautious about correlation and causation. For example, it may be that students who were more motivated to do well academically were also more likely to learn a music instrument. 

He points out that GCSE Music is not extracurricular, so the positive link found here is more robust.    

The full report can be read here

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