Art history A-level saved at last minute
Campaigners for art history A-level say they are “absolutely thrilled” by a late decision to save the subject, which was set to be discontinued.
Exam board Pearson has confirmed plans to develop a new history of art A-level for teaching from next September.
October’s decision by the AQA board to drop the subject provoked an outcry from experts who argued “society had never required its insights more”.
“It’s amazing – just about in the nick of time,” said teacher Sarah Phillips.
Ms Phillips, from state sixth form Godalming College, developed the new syllabus with AQA and added: “Now we need to get the message out to Year 11 students as soon as possible.”
Subject to approval by Ofqual, Ms Phillips says she expects Pearson to build on her work which has been made available to the Department for Education by AQA.
“It is a global specification. Students won’t just study the work of dead white men,” she said. “They will have the opportunity to study Islamic architecture and work by men and women of all colours and creeds. The support has been overwhelming,” she added.
In October, top experts signed an open letter to AQA condemning the decision not to offer the A-level to new students after this year.
AQA was the last board to offer the subject and the decision represented “a vital loss for students”, they argued.
At the time AQA said the change “was not about money or whether history of art deserves a place in the curriculum”, but said that it feared the new qualification was so wide-ranging that accurate marking would be impossible.
Pearson, which also announced plans to take on AS and A-levels in statistics, also dropped by AQA, said awarding organisations, government and schools should work together in the interests of students to secure the future of important qualifications.
“The response from the public, from teachers and from young people shows many people have a real passion for these subjects. We’re happy to help make sure they remain available,” said the company’s president, Rod Bristow.
The move was welcomed by leading academics and museum directors as well as by Turner Prize winners Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker and Jeremy Deller.
Mr Kapoor said it was “a huge relief” while Mr Deller called it “a good day for art and culture” and added: “Art history is the study of power, politics, identity and humanity, it makes perfect sense to keep the exam.”
Ms Parker said she had studied art history “as a working-class girl, receiving free school dinners… It has hugely enriched my life”.
The Association of Art Historians hopes the battle to save the A-level will boost the subject’s popularity, particularly in the state sector.
“The threat to the A-level has galvanised support for art history, which will, I hope, provide a platform for a concerted effort to ensure that more people get the opportunity to study a subject that will enrich their lives,” said Dr Ben Burbridge of Sussex University who was central to the campaign to save the A-level.