On Wednesday the AQA decided to scrap the A Level in Archaeology, and unsurprisingly the Archaeological world has responded.
As an Archaeologist I think this is a terrible idea to lose this qualification. As others have highlighted, there is a shortage in Archaeologists. Further, having a degree should not be the only gateway into a career which doesn’t have to be academic. Beyond encouraging people to start a career in archaeology there are a host of other reasons as to why archaeology is a great subject and others have written about them far more eloquently than me.
Before I continue, I have signed the petition, and I do think you should to.
However, I’m concerned with how the A Level is being discussed. It must offer a fantastic grounding for those wishing to begin their career, I don’t know because I didn’t have the opportunity to study it at A Level. It wasn’t offered at my 6th Form (the local comprehensive). You could argue I could have gone to an institution which did offer it or possibly studied it as an evening class. I possibly could have attended a different HE, but it wasn’t really an option. I’m not convinced there was a route via public transport and if there was it would have involved at least two buses and a journey winding through rural Wiltshire for over an hour in each direction. The argument with evening classes is the same, no buses ran out of my village after 6pm.
If we are being totally honest neither of these is the real problem. If I had really wanted to do an A Level in Archaeology either at a college or in the evening my parents could have taken me. I’m a white girl from a middle class background growing up in a village in the Cotswold’s with parents who have supported me through 10 years of education.
But that’s the point really isn’t it. Not everyone has that option.
When I started my degree 10 years ago I came straight from school with A Levels in Chemistry, Geography and Maths. I had done a bit of volunteering at a museum and had the standard long term love of the past. At every interview I had attended to get my place at university I was informed that I wouldn’t be any worse off for not having an A Level in Archaeology, History or a related subject. However, when I started I did feel behind my peers who had a stronger grounding.
I currently work for a commercial unit. A high percentage of our staff have a degree, but not all of them. Some staff have worked on commercial sites since they were 15, others have come into the company via our trainee scheme after they finished Further Education. Would the A Level have set them up any better for their career?
The opportunity to study, and now work in archaeology has been fantastic and I have loved every minute of it. I do not want to see that lost, and A Level’s particularly at colleges offer a fantastic gateway for people of all ages to engage with the subject or start their career. I would have loved to have taken it, I think I would have achieved better results and been more engaged with the other subjects I studied. But can we be clear that having an A Level in Archaeology is not essential or crucial, and it isn’t the only way to begin.
(Written in haste and trying to not whine)