History of Art A-Level dropped by AQA

Exam board AQA are no longer offering History of Art as an A-level option due to a lack of experienced examiners able to award marks for the topic.

The specialised subject has been axed this month, as the exam board AQA is describing the subject as too “difficult.” As of recent government exam reforms, new syllabuses will be introduced and redesigned for all subjects.

The decision to remove the subject “has nothing to do with the importance of the History of Art”, assured an AQA spokeswoman.

As only 839 students are enrolled to take the A-level, and 721 the AS-level this year, compared with 43,000 taking A-levels in art and design, AQA announced it was struggling to recruit enough specialist examiners, and would then struggle with setting grade boundaries.

Former Education Secretary Michael Gove announced all A-level and GCSE arts subjects, including music, drama, art and dance are to be made more “rigorous and demanding.” Despite this year’s plans to change the History of Art syllabus – which after consultation received widespread approval – AQA then decided it will not be developed for teaching.

Students currently undertaking History of Art for AS-level or A-level exams will not be affected and will be the last group to sit the examinations in 2017 and 2018.

Many are accusing Michael Gove for culling perceived “soft” subjects and ending the access to a popular subject that provides a range of cultures, artefacts and ideas for young people.

Sarah Phillips, head of the subject at Godalming College in Surrey, said she even had to cap numbers due to a high demand of students wanting to take the subject.

Current UEA students studying the History of Art degree are shocked by this news. Candice Baune, second-year student of History of Art at UEA, has called it “appalling” and believes that History of Art is not a so-called soft subject.

She said, “there’s so much more to it like the history, the politics, the economics, the environment and it really gives you a holistic set of skills for life that are so important.”

She also said that cutting the A Level could could “snowball into a huge cultural downfall”.

The Association for Art Historians called the decision a significant loss, which would affect prospective students and limit their future opportunities.

Carlota Dolben, a History of Art and History third-year student at UEA agrees. She said, “It is ridiculous. If the government discards this subject, it is just closing doors in education.”

However, a spokeswoman for exams regulator Ofqual emphasised that AQA’s decision not to continue the development of the subject does not necessarily mean the end of the subject at A-level.

AQA also ensures that this new development “won’t stop students going on to do a degree in it” as the subject at A-level is not a requirement when applying to universities.


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September 2021
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