The number of young people taking A-level drama has fallen below 10,000 for the first time, with 40% fewer entries recorded this year compared with a decade ago.
According figures published on A-level results day by the exams watchdog Ofqual, 9,265 candidates were entered for drama in 2019, down from 10,160 last year.
This represents a year-on-year drop of 9% – and since 2009, the number of young people studying drama at A level has fallen by 40%.
The A-level uptake, alongside that of GCSE drama entries, has steadily decreased over recent years, drawing continued criticism about the impact this is having on young people and on the broader theatre industry.
Last year, the Association of School and College Leaders warned that A-level drama was under threat of extinction in England as schools admitted cutting back on lesson time, staff and facilities.
It is also thought that the separation of AS and A levels is also negatively affecting arts subjects. Under new rules, AS level marks do not count towards a pupil’s final A-level grade, meaning some schools are choosing to focus on the three required subjects instead of studying a fourth option at AS level.
Other arts subjects also experienced declining numbers at A level this year. Entries for music fell by 6% to 5,125, and dance dropped 18% to 1,050.
An open letter to the education secretary Gavin Williamson, published this week, criticised what it described as deeply concerning figures revealing the falling number of young people studying creative subjects at school.
The letter, published by the Creative Industries Federation, has now been signed by more than 300 people including actors Lenny Henry and Sally Phillips, and leading industry figures such as National Theatre bosses Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger, former Arts Council England chair Peter Bazalgette, and Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House.
Despite ongoing concerns about diminishing A-level numbers, the removal of the Russell Group’s facilitating subjects list earlier this year prompted some to suggest that it may encourage young people to take creative subjects at A level in future.
The group of 24 elite universities scrapped its list of eight preferred academic subjects, which did not include the arts, in favour of an interactive website offering more personalised results.