Education & Family

Protest at axing of archaeology A-level

archaeologists Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Capturing the imagination: Archaeologists excavating a site from the Roman era

A campaign is calling for the reversal of a decision to scrap A-level archaeology - saying it would cause "irrevocable harm" to the development of future archaeologists.

Time Team presenter Sir Tony Robinson has backed the protest.

The Chartered Institute of Archaeology says there is already a shortage of archaeologists, needed to work alongside major building projects.

The AQA exam board says there will be no more new entrants for the subject.

But students who have started the A-level this year will be able to continue and complete the course.

Teachers who are campaigning against the loss of the subject, with about 400 students taking the A-level exam this summer, say the decision came "out of the blue".

Both the A-level and AS level in the subject will no longer be offered.

Daniel Boatright, who teaches the subject at Worcester Sixth Form College, says that pupils benefit from such specialist subjects, which might find skills that would otherwise "have been left undiscovered".

Dr Boatright says it is "extremely naive" to narrow student choices to a curriculum of "major subjects" - and he has launched an online petition which has gathered more than 5,000 signatures.

At the top of the petition is a quote from Roman philosopher Cicero: "To be ignorant of what went before you were born is to remain always a child."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Big infrastructure projects such as Crossrail have been accompanied by archaeologists

A student taking the A-level at the school, Jamie Williams, said he was now applying to take the subject at university, but only realised he wanted to take a degree in archaeology because he had been able to study it at A-level.

Sir Tony Robinson, who presents TV archaeology shows, sent his support to the campaign, saying: "I'm certainly with you."

Mike Heyworth, director of the Council for British Archaeology, said: "This is disastrous news for archaeology. Another vital route into the study of the subject is being removed."

Image caption TV history presenter Sir Tony Robinson is supporting the campaign to keep A-level archaeology

The exam board, explaining the decision, said that its "number one priority is making sure every student gets the result they deserve".

But it says that for archaeology - along with classical civilisation and history of art - "the complex and specialist nature of the exams creates too many risks on that front".

"Our decisions have nothing to do with the importance of these subjects, and it won't stop students going on to do a degree in them as we're not aware of any universities that require an A-level in these subjects."

But the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Archaeology, Pete Hinton, said: "The A-level in archaeology is an important route into the archaeological profession.

"This should be seen as a serious affront to those who believe that the study of past cultures can bring both positive benefits in terms of cultural understanding, as well as practical transferable skills for students."