The AQA - assessment and qualifications alliance - announced in October that it would be removing both A-level and AS level Archeology from the syllabus. Students currently studying the subject will of course be able to complete it, but it will not be taught to a new set of pupils from next September.
Many have been outraged by this decision, seeing it as a move to erode cultural understanding and wider social issues. Daniel Boatright, the teacher of Archeology at Worcester Sixth Form College, has said that that subjects outside mainstream academia are hugely beneficial to pupils, enabling them to discover skills that would otherwise have `been left undiscovered.`
Dr Boatright has said it is `extremely naive` to restrict the curriculum to only the major academic subjects, and has launched an online petition to have the Archeology reinstated. This petition, which has collected more than 13,000 signatures, is headed by ; the words of the Roman philosopher Cicero: `To be ignorant of what went before you were born is to remain always a child.`
The actor Tony robinson, who presents numerous archeology TV shows, including the popular Time Team, has been strongly opposed to the excision of A-Level Archeology from the syllabus. Talking to the Guardian Newspaper, he said `To take away the chance for children to study archaeology at A-level seems to me to be a barbaric act How could you remove such a tranche of valuable subjects from our A-levels? The removal of all that knowledge is awful It feels like the Visigoths at the gates of Rome!`
Mike Heyworth, The Director of the council for British Archeology, has stated that `This is disastrous news for archaeology. Another vital route into the study of the subject is being removed.`
AQA has the jurisdiction to remove the subject simply because it is the only examining body permitting students to study the Archaeology before university. Demand for the subject has not been particularly high over recent years, with just 369 students sitting the exam in in 2016, and an additional 621 taking the AS level test.
Along with the AQA exam board`s announcement of the dropping of A-level and AS level Archeology, a number of other niche subjects are being phased our of the curriculum. Classical Civilisation along with Citizenship studies and Communication and Culture will also be removed from the 2017 syllabus.
As of the 1st of December however it was announced that Art History A-Level, which was due to be dropped, will remain as a qualification. It seems like the subject got a last minute reprieve, and was only saved by a high profile campaign to keep it on the syllabus. The historian Simon Schama described the decision to drop the subject as `a big dull axe wielded by cultural pygmies`
Others prominent figures who fought against the scrapping of Art History included the artists Cornelia Parker, Anish Kapoor and Jeremy Deller, along with the Director of the Tate Gallery Nicholas Serota.
`Art history is the study of power, politics, identity and humanity. It makes perfect sense to keep the exam,` said Jeremy Deller
`The arts are one of the great strengths of the UK and I am pleased that A-level provision in art history will not be interrupted for students starting sixth form in 2017,` said Dr Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery.
Many have said that if the UK is to remain competitive, and improve its standards of education - it ranked a lovely 23 in the international 2013 PISA scoring - it must focus more on the core academic subjects, and less on the more eclectic humanities. Many would retort that it is just these so called eclectic subjects that provide the greatest lessons regarding society and humanity. During the Second world war, when he was asked to cut the arts budget, Winston Churchill apparently replied: `Then what are we fighting for?`