An excavation organised by Museum of London Archaeology. The subject is being scrapped as an A Level due to falling numbers

Decision to scrap A Levels in heritage and arts subjects condemned

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 25.10.2016
Culture and heritage professionals say it will restrict routes into the sector
The decision by the examination board AQA to drop AS and A Levels in history of art, classical civilisation and archaeology from September 2017 has been met with widespread condemnation from culture professionals and academics.

AQA, which is the largest provider of qualifications to schools and colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said it had chosen to scrap the subjects because their specialist nature meant they were challenging to mark and posed “major risks when it comes to safely awarding grades”.

The charity added that its decision to drop archaeology had also been influenced by falling numbers, with less than a thousand students sitting AS or A Levels in the subject this year.

In a statement, the Association of Art Historians said the scrapping of the history of art qualification was “a considerable loss to young people’s access to – and understanding of – a range of different cultures, artefacts and ideas”.
 
 “The potential impact to the creative and cultural industries into which the higher education sector feeds should not be underestimated,” continued the statement.

The association said the subject gave students valuable research and analytical skills that could be used “in a wide range of careers”. It said it was working with stakeholders to secure a future for the qualification.
 
In a letter to the Times last week, representatives from the British Academy described the loss of the subjects as “a narrowing of opportunities for young people to engage with some of the most pressing issues of human culture, of what it means to be human, as well as providing important routes into the burgeoning heritage sector”.
 
Tony Robinson, the frontman of BBC’s Time Team archaeology show, told newspapers last week that the loss of the archaeology A Level was a “barbaric act” and an “assault on a tangible part of British heritage”. He is backing a petition to save the subject, accusing the AQA of scrapping it to save money.  

Academics have also spoken out against the decision. “We may end up going to school just to learn English, maths, science and computers – how strange, and how dull,” wrote Barry Dufour, a professor of education research at De Montfort University, Liverpool, in a letter to the Guardian.  

AQA, which is independent of the government, denied that it was targeting so-called “soft” subjects or that its decision had been influenced by the Department for Education, which has in recent years taken steps to push students into disciplines seen as more rigorous and employment-oriented, such as maths and the sciences.

“The decision not to continue with redevelopment of the subjects was taken by AQA,” said the charity. “We wouldn’t describe any qualification as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. All our academic qualifications are rigorous.”

A vox pop on the impact that scrapping the history of art A Level may have on museums will appear in the November issue of Museums Journal

Clarification
26.10.2016


The article originally stated that these subjects would still be on the curriculum for some private school pupils. This isn't the case, although art history and classical heritage are available to study through Cambridge Pre-U, an alternative qualification to A Level taught in a number of independent schools, as well as a handful of grammar and comprehensive schools.

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