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Art History A-level back on the curriculum

High-profile campaign by leading art world figures helped save the subject

The British artist Jeremy Deller declared that yesterday was “a good day for art and culture” following an announcement that art history will remain on the English college curriculum. Thanks to a campaign by leading figures in the art world, including Deller himself, the English exam board, Pearson, will introduce a new art history A-level from September 2017. The move comes after widespread protest from the art community following the announcement by the London-based AQA exam board that it was axing the art history A-level in 2018.

The campaign to reinstate the art history A-level, which was led by the Association of Art Historians and supported by arts institutions including The Courtauld Institute of Art, the National Gallery, and the Royal Academy of Arts, was launched over fears that that the exclusion of art, music and drama at A-level would have long-term negative consequences for the arts and creative industries in England. In October, more than 200 academics and art professionals, including the Tate’s outgoing director Nicholas Serota and the artists Anish Kapoor and Cornelia Parker, wrote an open letter to express their “grave concerns” over the decision.

Rod Bristow, the president of Pearson in the UK, says, “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.” The UK's culture minister, Matt Hancock, who assisted with the campaign, wrote on Twitter that he was “thrilled” saying it was “crucial that students get [the] widest range of subjects to choose from”.

Low uptake of the AQA art history A-level, with only 839 students sitting the exams this summer, as well as “the specialist nature of the topics, the range of options, [and] difficulties in recruiting sufficient experienced examiners” were cited as the reasons for the ending the qualification, said Kevin Phillips, the chief executive of AQA, in a statement in October. Pearson’s art history A-level is subject to final accreditation by the UK government’s Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation.