AQA have announced that as of 2018, Art History will no longer be offered at AS and A Level due to being viewed as a “soft subject”.
Art History is the study and interpretation of art in its historical and stylistic context. Students, teachers and parents, as well as art academics and professionals, are appalled following the announcement that the subject will be scrapped as part of the government’s plans to reform AS and A Level qualifications.
The decision comes with a series of other changes set by Michael Gove, who has proposed cuts to numerous creative and art based subjects such as Classical Civilisation and Archaeology. They have been accused of being “soft subjects” as former education secretary Gove wanted to make way for more “challenging, ambitious and rigorous” subjects, he told The Guardian.
The cut has caused outrage amongst many, particularly Art students. Layla Hawley-Brandt, 20, who studied A Level Art was disappointed in the decision, saying, “So often in classes these days you are told exactly what to study and how to study it. Art gives that little bit of freedom”. She also felt that students need the option of Art History as “for some, art is a passion”.
The art industry is worried that due to the government phasing out the subject, fewer will be interested in studying it at university, and over time will lead to little expertise and interest in the visual arts and its history.
Arabella Macrae, 19, who studied Art as part of her International Baccalaureate (IB), disagrees with the claim that History of Art is a ‘soft subject’, saying that “the student forms a wider range of knowledge spilling into all areas of art, social issues and culture”.
Arabella’s sister Flora Macrae, 17, who intends on studying Art at university, believes that Art History is important for any Art student. She regrets not taking the subject when she had the opportunity as “it would have been such an appropriate subject as I really enjoy both creating and learning about art.” She also believes that it would have allowed her to achieve higher grades in her final exams.
The subject is offered by only a handful of schools in the country. A spokesperson from the Association of Art Historians told The Independent that “the loss of that A Level means that for many prospective students of the subject that door will close and future opportunities will be lost”. Last summer only 839 students sat the A level exam, making it a very expensive course to maintain, which AQA claims is one of the reasons for the cut.
However, a spokesperson for Ofqual told BBC News that “the option for AQA or another exam board to develop a specification… in future will remain open,” suggesting that the termination of the subject may not necessarily be permanent.
By Hannah Boulton