THE head of a school that was criticised for a recent shake-up of its music GCSE system has said the changes have led to a huge boost in the number of pupils taking the subject.

Bingley Grammar School changed the way it offered GCSE music in October after the number of pupils taking the subject declined over a number of years.

Instead of offering the subject in school hours, the school now runs out-of-school sessions, run by professional musicians, for pupils off all ages who want to sit GCSE music. The classes cost pupils £5 per week.

The change recently drew criticism from the Incorporated Society of Musicians, which raised fears that it could lead to the subject becoming the “preserve of those who can afford it”.

But head teacher Luke Weston told the Telegraph & Argus that the decision was not about money, and the numbers of pupils now sitting GCSE music had leapt from two or three a year to almost 25 this year.

The school told parents of the changes, and that those wanting to sit the subject could take the new extracurricular class, with a message on its website saying: “As this is an out-of-hours class with specialised teaching, parents will be asked to contribute a nominal amount of £5 per week.”

ISM’s chief executive Deborah Annetts released a statement this week, saying: “This new development is shocking and deeply troubling. Music is at risk of becoming the preserve of those who can afford it and the Government must act now to ensure it is available to all.”

But Mr Weston said there had been no complaints from parents, adding: “We had an email from the ISM about this, and we’d told them that any children with lower-income parents wanting to do this subject would get the same support as they would for school trips or other activities that cost money.

“This wasn’t because of funding – we had the numbers sitting the subject falling away and were down to about two or three students sitting music GCSE. We looked at ways to improve this, and what we’re basically doing is allowing students to do an extra GCSE.

“We got in two external professional musicians, and it has really increased the levels of children taking music GCSE. We decided to charge £5 because it was outside of school hours.

“We’re still subsidising the subject, as a GCSE doesn’t cost £5 a week.

“I’m really surprised we have been referenced by ISM in their statement. This has boosted the take up of GCSE music, and we’re pleased more students are doing the subject.”