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16-19 Accountability Consultation


Rachel Cowgill, Chair of NAMHE, has written to the membership as follows:

Dear all

I'm writing to you as Chair of the National Association for Music in Higher Education on a matter that is, I believe, worthy of your attention. I'm grateful to several members of the Association who have had input into the substance of this message.

David Laws' 16–19 Accountability Consultation closes at 11.45pm on November 20th – this Wednesday. This consultation document will steer the direction of schools policy over the next few years. Please consider spending 10 minutes of your time to respond to the consultation – the most significant question (as far as university music education is concerned) is question 6, which asks about A-level accountability. In this section, I would encourage you to express your views on the use of Three 'Facilitating Subjects' as a school performance measure. It is worth pointing out that there are no university courses which require three facilitating subjects, even Medicine and Dentistry (despite what the Russell Group says in its Informed Choices FAQs, http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/informed-choices.aspx), and perhaps also that Sheffield and UCL list 33 preferred subjects. Further, to study Architecture it's useful to have Art, and even for PPE at Oxford there are no specific A-level requirements.

If schools are to be measured on Facilitating Subjects (ABacc), we in UK Music HE should be concerned that schools which are having to make tough financial decisions will be closing their arts departments; I gather that in some parts of the country such closures are already happening. This seems likely to have serious knock-on consequences for university music departments.

Responses to the consultation must be made by Wednesday, if they are to count, and it won't take long to fill in the questionnaire (particularly not if you only focus on question 6).

The actual consultation document can be found here.

The 'devil' is well hidden inside the consultation detail and questionnaire, and is not obvious on a first glance, especially from the consultation title.

A key passage is here, in the Proposed Changes section:

Recognising high quality qualifications and performance

Additional measures at level 3 will be:

AAB measures in facilitating subjects.


As part of the additional measures at level 3 we propose to retain the AAB measure for A levels in 'facilitating subjects' (see note below), introduced in the 2012 Performance Tables. This measure shows the percentage of students achieving three A levels at grades AAB or higher in two and in three facilitating subjects. These measures are designed specifically to help students to focus on the combinations of courses that are most likely to support progression to highly valued destinations post-19.

note: Facilitating subjects are: mathematics and further mathematics, English (literature), physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history, languages (classical and modern).


The existing two facilitating subject measure, which reports the percentage of students achieving A levels at grades AAB or higher in at least 2 'facilitating subjects', allows recognition of achievement in a third subject that has not been defined as 'facilitating' but is also highly rated by top universities. Examples of these subjects are given in the Russell Group's 'Informed choices' document (e.g. Economics, Religious Studies and Welsh). These important subjects could be counted as the third A level subject and we plan to monitor take up of these subjects.

By this reasoning, parents and children are encouraged to think of arts subjects as worthless, as far as entry into 'top' institutions is concerned, effectively reducing all A-level arts subjects to 'second-class' subjects at best.

I think we'd all agree that it's worth spending 10 mins of our time between now and 11.45pm on Wednesday to signal our concerns on this issue. If possible in the time available, please forward this email to other HE contacts as you see fit.

I would be glad to receive any thoughts or comments from members on this issue.

With thanks and best wishes


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