As we progress towards the new academic year following what will have been a tumultuous 6 months of uncertainty, the conversation about the shape of the curriculum for this coming year is increasingly prominent.

Many will have seen the concern expressed by a number of headteachers about the feasibility of continuing on ‘as normal’ with GCSEs and A-Levels, with the expectation that learners will take their full set of examinations in the Summer of 2021 as planned prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, the narrative often turns to the reduction of GCSE subjects, with the Arts being identified as one of the primary victims.

As an awarding body specialising in the Creative Industries, here at RSL Awards we see the positive impact of Arts education every day, be it in the form of a graded exam in Music or Dance, or in the schools, colleges and training providers working towards our practically-focused Vocational Qualifications.

Since their inception in 2005, RSL’s Vocational Qualifications have become a popular alternative to the more traditional GCSE qualifications in Music, Dance and Drama. Equivalent in size to a GCSE, our Tech Awards are practical, creative and accessible to a wide range of learners, whilst retaining rigour and recognition. Instead of a written examination, these qualifications contain a controlled assessment in the Spring Term, alleviating some of the pressure of the end-loaded Summer exam period. With these qualifications potentially complete by the beginning of the Summer Term, learners are then able to focus on core curriculum at the climax of the academic year.

Our Tech Awards carry Progress 8 points and sit in the Open Bucket alongside GCSEs in Music, Dance and Drama, offering equivalent value for the learner and for the school. Where these GCSEs are in danger of exclusion from the curriculum, the Tech Awards offer a solution that allows learners to balance core learning with the fundamental personal development offered through experiential creative learning.

"In terms of data, Pupil Progress has improved dramatically and department residuals have been in the top 3 in school for the last 4 years. RSL assessment focuses on what the pupils can do, rather than penalising them for what they can’t. We now offer L1 and L2 Music Performance, L2 Technology & Composition and L2 Creative and Performing Arts (Acting). Staff and pupils really enjoy the RSL VQs and they have allowed us to tailor our curriculum provision so that it is relevant, accessible and purposeful to all our pupils, enabling them to be the best they can be."

Claire Maud (Head of Performing Arts, Clifton Community School) – excerpt taken from a recently published article in Music Teacher Magazine (June 2020).

Rightly so, there is an increased focus on the mental health of learners returning to schools and colleges in September. Disruption has been experienced by everyone and will have affected people in a number of different ways, but we now need to do what we can to allow these learners to return to relative normality and to the balanced curriculum they deserve. The collaborative learning experienced through the Arts builds a sense of community that is arguably now more pertinent than ever before. A creative curriculum encourages both independence and teamwork, and builds confidence and communication through self-expression. This essential learning paves the way for those wanting to continue in the Creative Industries; a sector that contributed £111.7bn to the UK economy in 2018.

"The arts help young people flourish. Evidence shows that children who study the arts tend to do better in other subjects; they are more likely to attend university, and are more employable."

ImagineNation: The value of Cultural Learning, Cultural Learning Alliance (2017)

For more information on our Vocational Qualifications, please fill in the form below or contact

Syllabus specifications for our Tech Award qualifications can be downloaded by clicking on the following links:

Music Practitioners – Pathways in Performance or Technology & Composition

Level 1 & 2 Tech Awards for Music Practitioners (Confirmed for 2023 DfE Performance Tables)

Creative and Performing Arts – Pathways in Acting or Dance

Level 1 & 2 Tech Awards in Creative and Performing Arts (Confirmed for 2023 DfE Performance Tables)

All other syllabus downloads can be found here...

"Cultural and arts education underpin success in life, work and society. I’m convinced that it is as important to ensure our best scientists and technologists understand the importance of creative skills as it is for our best creatives to contribute to science and technology. The digital world of the 21st century is crying out for well-rounded students who can see that a separation of STEM from culture and arts simply doesn’t make sense anymore."

Mary Curnock Cook – Chief Executive, UCAS (2017)

For more information on our Vocational Qualifications, please fill in the form below contact

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