Shedding some thought and light on AQA’s decision to cut History of Art studies and examinations

As an artistically passionate, well influenced individual and a Durham University History of Art student, it came with great shock and disappointment to learn of AQA’s choice to cut History of Art from their examinations. Therefore I decided to look into and reveal the reasons behind this decision.

The examination board apparently described the decision as ‘difficult’ but backed it with reasoning and facts that are to them deemed sufficient. The decision seems to be primarily rooted in the evidence that there were not enough experienced examiners to mark and award specialist topics when assessing the examinations.

With only 839 students taking the A-level and 721 the AS level this year it seemed a very small number and thus discouraging to the examination board. One can contrast this with the number of individuals taking the Art & Design A-Level exceeding 43,000 and realise the vast difference. But should this be a reason? Surely AQA should look into promoting the course and help stimulate academic curiosity within students and schools. Can we criticise Human Resources at AQA? Or do we look to Britain’s education system?

I believe that this cut will have a knock on effect for the number of individuals applying to History of Art courses at University as a direct result. With prominent universities such as Cambridge, St Andrews, UCL, Exeter, and the Courtauld Institute running the leading History of Art courses in the country, shouldn’t examination boards be promoting a course that so many universities consider valuable?

Before the cut was announced there were vast developments and improvements made to the curriculum that were going to offer students a new possibility of studying art from across the world, creating a much more multi-cultural and global course, as opposed to a primary focus on Western artworks.

One can argue that the day and age we live in should be one in which we place immense value on the meaning of culture and art – with Brexit taking place, shouldn’t the promotion of British artistic and cultural values be taught of instead of stifled? In Cornelia Parker’s article for The Guardian she speaks of the importance of a global understanding of art for Picasso who was greatly inspired by African sculpture in his founding of the Cubist movement, a practice which swept throughout and influenced many artists in the West. I believe that the British education system should be promoting such a curriculum and providing opportunities for this as a means of gaining a wealth of knowledge to our students.

Many young people who engage with art feel disappointed by this outcome. A History and History of Art Student at Durham said to The Bubble that when thinking of ‘A-Levels the Government could cut, History of Art certainly should not be the first. As a History student, I find drawing parallels between the two is fascinating and has made me approach my studies from an entirely new angle. History of Art provides an engagement with cultural practices in the past in a way that no other subject does, I think it is an outrageous decision’. Another student who carried out the AQA History of Art examination commented that she ‘absolutely loved studying History of Art, it really helped to give a broad understanding of hundreds of years of history and stimulated a passion for art that has sustained until today. It is sad that today’s students have had this opportunity taken away from them.’

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