Time Team presenter Tony Robinson claims A-level subjects being cut by exam board feels like the ‘Visigoths at the gates of Rome’
Sir Tony Robinson, who fronted the hit television show Time Team, has condemned the recent scrapping of archaeology A-level as “a barbaric act”. Almost 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for the subject to be saved, and Robinson has voiced his support for the campaign.
His intervention comes a week after a similar howl of protest at news that the last examination board to offer history of art A-level is to drop the subject from 2018. And it doesn’t end there – classical civilisation is also for the chop, according to examination board AQA.
The exam board explained its decision on archaeology, saying: “Our number one priority is making sure every student gets the result they deserve – and unfortunately the number of very specialist options we have to offer in this subject’s exams creates too many risks on that front. That’s why we’ve taken the difficult decision not to continue our work creating a new AS and A-level.”
Robinson, who describes himself as “a slightly informed layman rather than an authority” after witnessing hundreds of Time Team excavations, described his shock at first hearing that the art history A-level had been scrapped. “I thought, blimey, surely they can’t be doing that to art history?”
Then Robinson heard that archaeology was going, and soon after that classical civilisation. “It feels like the Visigoths at the gates of Rome,” he told the Guardian, “All these incredibly valuable and important subjects are being cast into the fire.”
He said it appeared to be a purely economic decision on the part of AQA. “They are minority A-levels and AQA gets paid per student. Full stop. I can see no other justification whatsoever.” This summer just under 1000 students sat AS and A-level archaeology.
An AQA spokesperson denied that the decision was financial and pointed out that the exam board continued to offer a very wide range of smaller-entry subjects. According to AQA, the problem stems from the small number of students split across a wide range of optional topics on offer as part of the syllabus, which makes it hard to compare students’ performance to set appropriate grade boundaries.
Mathew Morris, the archaeologist who uncovered Richard III’s skeleton in a council car park in Leicester and has travelled the world telling his extraordinary story ever since, echoed Robinson’s concerns. He didn’t study archaeology at A-level, but would have, had it been on offer. “It’s a real shame that it’s being scrapped. I would have loved to have done A-level archaeology if it had been an option.”
A petition has been launched to try to get the decision overturned which has already collected almost 6,000 signatures. Dr Daniel Boatright, subject leader for archaeology at Worcester Sixth Form College, who is leading the campaign said: “Specialist A-levels like archaeology are vital tools in sparking students’ interest in learning and in preparing vital skills for use when they go onto university courses.