By the numbers: the decline of specialist subjects

4th November 2016 at 00:00
The loss of archaeology A level could affect the house-building industry
There has been an outcry over the withdrawal of ‘specialist’ A levels such as archaeology – and there are a number of subjects with far fewer entries

A levels in “specialist” subjects such as archaeology, history of art and classical civilisation will be dropped next year, partly owing to challenges around marking. Only 369 students sat an A level in archaeology last summer, while 839 took history of art.

Critics have warned that infrastructure and house-building projects will suffer as a result of the subject’s removal because of the key role that archaeologists play in preparing sites. A petition to save the A level has gained more than 12,000 signatures, and has even garnered the support of former Time Team presenter Sir Tony Robinson.

Low-entry A levels

Although archaeology is going to be withdrawn as an A-level option, there are other subjects that attract far fewer students.

Last year, just 20 students sat a science in society A level with AQA and 44 took an A level in critical and contextual studies with Edexcel. Meanwhile, only two students took pure maths at A level with OCR, while six sat an exam in humanities.

In Scotland, the lowest number of entries for a subject at Higher was for Gaelic as a foreign language, with 84, while 92 students took Urdu.


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers

Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today