Picture an argument about academic standards, not photography

20th June 1997 at 01:00
One can only assume that Graham Dunn has had no experience of the existing GCSE and A-level photography syllabuses for him to argue that their demise will have no effect on the quality of photography teaching (TES, Letters, June 6) .

These syllabuses do not distinguish themselves from art-endorsed syllabuses simply by having a technical component. They have written components that encompass technical, scientific, aesthetic and historical aspects of photography. This, combined with photography's unique documentary role over the past 150 years, encourages pupils to develop a fuller understanding of the subject and other subjects. It has a real educational role that is far superior to the endorsed syllabuses. Given that GCSE and A-level photography students share their timetable with other subjects, the students need a structured and wide-ranging course to obtain a sound grounding in what is a multi-faceted practical and theoreticalsubject.

A pupil studying these syllabuses would realise that Graham Dunn's point that "most of the images we see are only reproductions of photographs (a subtle but distinct difference)" was irrelevant to the argument, as once the photomechanical reproduction of images was feasible many photographs were taken precisely to be printed in this way.

Likewise, the advent of digital photography in no way weakens the case for the existing syllabuses. On the contrary the existing syllabuses, unlike the endorsed syllabuses, would help the student understand its importance.

The argument is not about photographic independence, it is about maintaining academic standards in education. The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority is enforcing a serious lowering of standards simply to reduce the list of syllabuses by one subject, a unique opportunity for substantial cross-curriculum study is being lost, and both schools' and pupils' choices are being limited. Further, unlike the current A-level photography syllabuses, the art-endorsed syllabus will not be accepted by universities as an entrance qualification for courses that are not directly related to photography. Perhaps the question should be asked as to why SCAA does not force the examining boards to consider introducing an academic component to some of the art syllabuses to give them a broader educational value?

ASHLEY LA GRANGE Head of photography Rickmansworth School Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

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