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Gcse And A Level Arts Entries And Grades 2023


GCSE and A-Level Arts Entries and Grades 2023

Far fewer Arts GCSEs and A Levels are studied across England’s schools than in 2015. Grading has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. Here are the headlines from 2023.

  • As per the government’s commitment, GCSE and A Level grades in Arts subjects in 2023 are very close to where they were in 2019 
  • At A Level, Music and Drama are among the subjects with the highest fall in top grades awarded 
  • The fall in entry to arts subjects at GCSE between 2015 and 2023 is 35%
  • The fall in entry to arts subject at A Level between 2015 and 2023 is 16% 
  • GCSE Drama and Music entries have declined dramatically from 2022 to 2023

GCSEs in 2023

General Trends

The government and Ofqual committed to bring GCSE grades closer to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. This is reflected in overall GCSE outcomes this year, with both the percentage of top grades and passing grades awarded being much closer to 2019 levels compared to 2023 (With 22.7% of top grades awarded in 2023 compared to 21.9% in 2019, while 70.5% of passing grades in 2023 compared to 69.9% in 2019). 

Under these overall patterns, some disparities in results have narrowed and widened. The gap between independent/grammar schools and maintained schools has closed slightly. This is due to the percentage of top grades being awarded to pupils in independent schools decreasing by 6.5% and 7.2% for grammar schools. 

However, geographic disparities have widened. London has moved ahead of the rest of England, with the largest increase in top grades being awarded of all the regions (an increase of 2.7%). While there have been smaller increases in other parts of the country (such as 1.5% in the North East of England), this does mean a widening of the gap in attainment between London and the rest of the country. 

Arts GCSEs in 2023

Our analysis of GCSE results this year takes 2015 as our baseline year of comparison, rather than 2010 as we have used in recent years. This is to take a more detailed look at recent changes and pressures in our education system (e.g. the introduction of Progress 8 and the pandemic) as well as to account for the 2015 change of government. 


Since 2015 GCSE Arts* entries have fallen by 35% and in the last year overall entries declined by 3% between 2022 and 2023. Every Arts subject recorded a decrease in entries with the exception of Design & Technology (an increase of 0.7%) and an increase for Media/Film/TV Studies of 4%. Compared to other subjects, Drama, Music and Performing/Expressive Arts had the largest proportionate drop in subject entries between 2022 and 2023. 

Drama and Music had the largest falls from 2022, with a fall of 7.3% and 11.7% respectively. This is in the context of both subjects having experienced extraordinary falls in entries since 2015, with Drama take-up decreasing by a third, and Music by 37.5%. We do know that several schools have reported difficulties supporting the delivery of Music and Drama due to staffing and funding challenges, likely limiting pupils’ access to study the subject at GCSE. The decline in entries may also reflect the fact pupils would have selected their GCSE options in the Spring of 2021, a period when Covid was still affecting schools, and when Arts subjects that involved group activity may have been less appealing to young people. 


Grades for Arts subjects followed a pattern similar to all other subjects with the percentage of passing grades awarded in 2023 being in line with 2019 and lower than 2022. The percentage of passing grades typically fell by between 5-6% in Arts subjects from 2022. 

GCSE Arts Entries 2015-2023 (England only) 

 201520192020202120222023 % change from 2022-2023
Arts and Design Subjects194,637182,204190,725195,578194,040187,710-3.2%
Design and Technology204,78889,90389,03781,77478,40579,0250.7%
Media/Film/TV Studies62,45236,43734,71132,52831,63532,905+4.0%
Performing/Expressive Arts20,6259,2738,9968,6888,2456,890-16.4%

A-levels in 2023

Similar to GCSE results, our analysis of A-Level results this year takes 2015 as our baseline year of comparison. This is to account for the 2015 change of government as well as policy changes such as the raising of the education or training leaving age in England to 18. 

General Trends

As with GCSEs, the government committed to bringing 2023’s A-Level grades in line with 2019’s rate for awards. The government met this commitment, with 26.5% of grades this year awarded at A grade or above, compared to 25% in 2019 (and compared to 35.9% in 2022). 

This year’s results also saw a widening in socioeconomic and geographic disparities. Analysis shows that pupils in private schools are more than twice as likely to achieve an A grade or above in an A-Level qualification compared to their peers in a state-funded school. Similarly, this year has seen a slight widening of the gap between north and south in A-Level attainment, a gap that had already widened significantly over the pandemic. London has seen the largest increase of any region in the percentage of top grades being awarded since 2019 (3.1%) while the North East and Yorkshire and Humber have seen small decreases. 

Arts A-levels in 2023


Entry into Arts* A Levels has fallen by 1.7% between 2022 and 2023. There have been a range of changes to entry for individual subjects. The largest falls between 2022 and 2023 were in Dance (16.9%) and Design & Technology (7.4%). However, there were some increases in entry as well – uptake of Media/Film/TV Studies increased by 7.3%, while Performing/Expressive Arts went up by 4.8%. 

Taking a wider look, entries for Arts subjects at A Level have fallen by 16%  between 2015 and 2023. Falls have been especially stark in some subjects. Entry into Dance has fallen by 47% between 2015 and 2023, meaning the number of entries has nearly halved in that time period. The fall in entries to Performing/Expressive Arts is even greater, with a drop of 63% between 2015 and 2023. Similarly, while Media/Film/TV Studies has enjoyed an uptick in entry between 2022 and 2023, entries since 2015 have fallen by 18%. 


Arts A Levels largely adhere to the grading pattern found with other subjects in 2023 – the percentage of top and passing grades awarded is lower than 2022 and relatively close to pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019. However, the fall in the awarding of top grades (Grade B and above) is notably large for Music and Drama compared to all other subjects, with a fall of 17.7% in Music and 16.1% for Drama. For passing grades, all Arts subjects have a pass rate very close to the level in 2019. 

A-Level Arts Entries 2015-2023 (England only) 

 201520192020202120222023% change from 2022-2023
Arts and Design Subjects41,82039,21938,90739,29342,10040,930-2.7%
Design and Technology11,4609,2319,1678,3439,7259,000-7.4%
Media/Film/TV Studies26,40019,76519,50818,81020,05021,530+7.3%
Performing/Expressive Arts3,2901,0501,0601,1521,147 1,203+4.8%


2023 is England’s second year of relatively normal examination procedures after the pandemic. In line with the government and Ofqual’s strategy for managing the grade inflation that took place between 2020 and 2021, 2023’s rate of passing and top grades is much more in line with 2019. However, this has meant some steep falls in the awarding of top grades between 2022 and 2023 in Music and Drama, meaning there will be many disappointed young people who may have their progression to Higher Education frustrated. 

Entry levels are more concerning than grades. In line with the observed pattern since 2015, entry levels for arts at GCSE and A Level have fallen between 2022 and 2023. The fall is especially concerning at GCSE, where there has been a 35% fall in entries since 2015. This likely reflects the impact of the EBacc on arts subject uptake, but also the funding constraints on schools when delivery of arts subjects can often be resource intensive. The 37.5% fall in entries into Music at GCSE may also likely reflect the difficulties schools are experiencing with recruiting and retaining Music teachers. 

There is still more GCSE and A-Level data to be released. In particular, Ofqual’s Equalities analysis (to be published in Autumn) will provide a clearer picture of disparities in outcomes for pupils based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, SEND status and other demographic considerations in specific subjects. 

While we will cover these publications extensively, the available data already paints a stark and concerning picture for Expressive Arts education in our schools. The arts are being gradually squeezed out, year-on-year and major policy intervention and investment is required if we want to ensure all our young people have access to the arts education they are entitled to. 

Notes* We define arts subjects as Art and Design, Dance, Design and Technology, Drama, Media/Film/TV Studies, Music and Performing/Expressive Arts.**Dance GCSE and A Level numbers are from the examining board AQA and are for all the UK. JCQ only reports Dance GCSE numbers within the PE results.