A-level History of Art goes online

A new A-level in art history has been launched with help from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, thanks to a campaign to stop the subject disappearing from the curriculum.

The innovative online qualification — awarded by Pearson — stems from a partnership between the Association for Art History and the National Extension College, working with universities, schools and teachers.

Artists, museum and gallery professionals and academics across the country have welcomed the development. A hard-won campaign in 2016 to keep History of Art on the A-level curriculum led to renewed interest in the subject, but large areas of the country still lack access to it in schools and colleges.

Registrations for the course opened following a launch event on 12 November at The Grammar School at Leeds. Colleagues from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies worked in partnership with the Association for Art History, as their designated Centre for Excellence in the North, to deliver the launch in Leeds. This is part of the School’s wider work to ensure as wide a diversity of young people as possible can benefit from studying art history.

At the launch, Griselda Pollock, Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art at the University of Leeds, delivered a lecture on Margaret Atwood, dystopian fiction, women and image to students from schools across the Leeds area.

Professor Pollock said:

“I am delighted to support the launch of the online version of the A-level in History of Art. The study of art history gives us the tools to analyse both the images the past has left us and the image cultures we are making in the present and that are making us.

“As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, it is fantastic to be a partner in this important project to engage a much wider diversity of people in the history of art. The School was very involved in helping to save the A-level, having worked to support its development as a much more global, inclusive and exciting qualification. From the moment it was saved, we have worked hard with the Association for Art History to try to expand its reach.”

Abigail Harrison Moore, Professor of Art History and Museum Studies, said:

“This has been a very personal project for me. As a state educated girl from Yorkshire who had never heard of art history before discovering it by chance at university, I have been passionate about enabling young people in my region to access a subject that has given me so much.

“We are delighted to have been able to co-host the launch with The Grammar School at Leeds, and look forward to delivering activities with our gallery partners in the city to support the students undertaking the on-line A-level.”

Gregory Perry, Chief Executive of the Association for Art History, said:

“The A-level has always been a cornerstone of our ongoing work to promote art history in schools. Our partnership with the National Extension College allows us to develop more opportunities to study art history anywhere, anytime.

“Launching the online course with our partners in Leeds also represents our continued commitment to ensure access to art history throughout the UK.”

Further information about the course, how to enrol and starting dates can be found on the National Extension College website.


Professor Griselda Pollock discusses the new A-level History of Art with school students at the launch event in Leeds. Photo by Simon Dewhurst.