UK Drops Art History From High School Curriculum in Controversial Move

One teacher calls the decision "completely crazy.”

Art history will no longer be taught in UK high school classrooms. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Art historians have reacted with shock, dismay, and anger after news emerged that art history will be taken off the educational curriculum of UK high school students in 2018.

In the UK, high school students take the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (or A-level). Art History is the latest “soft” A-level subject to be axed under education reform started by former UK education secretary Michael Gove.

Only 839 students across the UK took the A-level art history exam this summer, and interest is dwindling, according to AQA, the last exam board to administer the subject.

Education reform was started by former UK education secretary Michael Gove. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Education reform was started by former UK education secretary Michael Gove. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Association of Art Historians criticized the decision for denying cultural education to young people. In a statement to the Guardian the AAH said, “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.”

Caroline Osborne, an art history teacher in London and founder of Art History In Schools, derided the decision as “Crazy, completely crazy.” She explained, “the timing is insane. AQA is saying that there aren’t enough teachers to teach the subject—that is one of the very subjects that we have founded this organization to address.”

“Our decision has nothing to do with the importance of the history of art,” an AQA spokeswoman told the BBC, “it won’t stop students going on to do a degree in it as we’re not aware of any universities that require an A-level in the subject.”


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