Breakthrough For Chiswick 'Female Composers' Campaigner

A-Level exam board promises to include women on syllabus


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The Chiswick schoolgirl who started a petition to have female composers and musicians recognised in the A-level exam syllabus has met the head of the company which is responsible for setting the exam syllabus.

Jessy described the meeting as "incredibly productive" and said she had been assured that the 2016 Edexcel A-Level Music syllabus would feature women cmposers. And all other Edexcel qualifications were being reviewed to ensure they were diverse and inclusive.

Jessy (17), an A-Level student in a local state school, gathered over 2,600 signatures to her petition, for change and received support from leading women in the music industry.

Clara Schumann

She also received 152 replies with suggestions to her Twitter account with named composers such as Clara Schumann, 12th-century composer Hildegard Von Bingen, and 17th-century Italian composer Barbara Strozzi as potential candidates for inclusion on the A-Level Music syllabus. Kate Bush, Carole King and Annie Lennox were popular suggestions for the contemporary music arena.

Jessy pointed out that the current 2008 Edexcel A-Level Music syllabus has a total of 63 different set works from a variety of musical genres and eras. Yet not a single one of these set works was composed by a woman.  

"I thought the lack of women was simply a mistake, an oversight, as clearly their aim cannot be fulfilled without the representation of women. However, a series of emails highlighted that Edexcel oppose any possibility of change to ultimately meet their own aims of creating a richer, more diverse musical world.

"This has got to change. How can we expect girls to aspire to be composers and musicians if they don't have the opportunity to learn of any role models? How can we accept that the UK's largest awarding body doesn't adequately acknowledge the work of female musicians? Why are we limiting diversity in a subject which thrives on its astounding breadth?  "

Annie Lennox

. The idea to campaign on the issue originated from her participation in a Fearless Future's gender equality workshop at school.

"Among other things, the programme looked into the way in which we are desensitised from noticing the lack of representation of women across different aspects of society. It was during this programme that I was shocked to realise I had never before noticed that there are no female composers included in my Music A-Level.  So I decided to do something about it."

Her petition received support from eminent women in the world of classical music, including composer-in-residence at Dulwich College, Cecilia Mc Dowall, and Judith Weir, Master of the Queen's Music.

Judith Weir

Jessy, who is hoping to study music at university is now optimistic that in future the contribution of women composers will be taken seriously.

Mum Jane said "I am extremely proud of Jessy for highlighting this important issue and would like to thank those who have supported her and the cause, particularly Fearless Futures for their invaluable guidance."

Hanna Naima McCloskey (CEO of Fearless Futures) commented: "Jessy's campaign underscores how important it is to empower girls and young women to understand systemic gender inequality and show them not only the power of their leadership and voice, but how necessary it is to creating an equal world. Without knowledge of inequality we cannot seek to challenge it, and without deep belief in our right to equally shape the world, we may not act to do so. Jessy is courageously doing what no one has done before her, being the change she wishes to see in the world and I'm extremely proud of her."

Further information from or for petition enquiries.


September 5, 2015

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