Pearson Extended Project Qualifications with Art History Link-Up

The following was written by Rose Aidin, Chief Executive at Art History Link-Up.

Since 2018 Art History Link-Up, a registered charity, has offered state supported sixth form students the opportunity to take an extra-mural Art History Pearson Edexcel Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) via free taught Art History A level courses taught on term-time Saturdays.

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Until March 2020 our Art History for Everyone courses were based at two venues in London: the Wallace Collection and the National Gallery. Our classes pivoted online when the National Gallery and Wallace Collections closed in March as a result of the pandemic, with great success, and support from the sector with volunteer guest lecturers including Dr Xavier Bray, Director, the Wallace Collection, and Dr Caroline Campbell, Director of Collections and Research, the National Gallery.

"My Art History EPQ has pushed me to think more deeply and critically. It has been an invaluable opportunity to improve my research, analysis and essay writing skills in preparation for university. The EPQ has been particularly great as it has been a channel in which I can focus my passion for Art History into one area of interest and learn so much."

Our courses are entirely online for the foreseeable future. We have doubled our numbers of students, and expanded our reach nationwide, with students in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. On average, at least half our students – and often more – are BAME and/or from Widening Participation backgrounds. Our ‘Wallace Collection’ course delivers the Nature theme and Baroque modules, our ‘National Gallery’ course the Identities theme and Renaissance module. Students have the option to study a further two modules and sit the A level exam at the end of the second year. Our courses are structured around works of art that can be seen in our great public collections.

"The main thing I will take away is that anyone, no matter their background can partake in and do Art History."

For the past two years each student is encouraged to complete an Art History EPQ. We swiftly discovered that the EPQ is an immensely creative and flexible undertaking, which has been hugely beneficial to our cohort of state supported students, the majority of whom are from Widening Participation backgrounds. We have been supported and advised by Dr John Taylor, one of the architects of the EPQ, Director of Learning, Teaching and Innovation at Cranleigh School and Pearson Edexcel EPQ Chief Examiner.

"My EPQ mentor is a really experienced individual who continually assesses and provides feedback for my work, which is a really effective way of pushing one to not only complete, but really commit to the EPQ. The EPQ course provided me with academic tools, which I had never even heard of before!"

Students are supported by volunteer mentors from across the sectors – including head teachers, curators and academics – and the experience can be profoundly transformative, as you will see from the student quotes.

"Looking at artworks beyond the Western tradition made me feel the most as a POC, it was really nice to see works of art being celebrated from different cultures."

This year, there was much disruption to the A level awards process and so to have an EPQ was hugely beneficial to many of our students in securing their university places.

This year, seven of our students applied to and were awarded Oxbridge places. They tell us that the EPQ was an important aspect of their application process and discussed at length at interview. One of our students says of his time studying Art History with AHLU at the Wallace Collection, “Doing my EPQ in such a setting was so friendly and challenged my thinking about art, history and philosophy. Having a mentor that was as passionate about my subject as me, I went from knowing very little about art to writing a thesis on the Spanish bodegones in less than an academic year - a feat I could only have achieved with the amazing support of my teachers.”

The support on Pearson Edexcel’s Qualifications and Future Ready web pages are very helpful, giving us the confidence to encourage our students to range widely and freely with their EPQ topics, with outstanding results.

Pearson Edexcel Project Qualification

Future Ready

The EPQ offers our diverse students almost limitless opportunities to realise their potential, and to explore topics outside the curriculum, and for teachers and mentors to engage fully with them along the way. One of our students said, “The EPQ was a great opportunity for me to research artworks that I resonate with, and my mentor has helped me through the whole process….I know students taking EPQs at my school don’t have anything like this!“

The EPQ titles are as varied as the students themselves – some are copied below – however what unites them is that almost uniquely in secondary education, they are student-led and give the students their own voice. The EPQ is invaluable preparation for FE/HE, and with the right support can be achieved in any setting, whether in school or externally, as with AHLU.

We believe that Art History has the potential to transform our students and that our students in turn have the potential to transform the sector. Over half of our students on average tell us they want to study the subject at FE/HE and / or pursue careers in the arts. Likewise the EPQ is a powerful tool for educational and social change with its full potential yet to be realised: AHLU is proud to be part of this exciting journey. To find out more about AHLU please visit the Art History Link Up website

Some examples of AHLU student EPQ titles:

  • Can we remove Rivera from The Two Fridas?
  • Has Jenny Saville changed the ways we see the female body?
  • How important was the relationship between muse and artist to the work of Pablo Picasso and David Hockney?
  • Has Sigmund Freud’s influence on the Surrealists been exaggerated?
  • Is the British presentation of Tipu’s Tiger in the EIC Museum and the V&A justifiable?
  • Are the portraits of Elizabeth I the ultimate expression of female empowerment?
  • Should there be a universal return of all looted artefacts?
  • What has caused the change in attitudes towards the work of Yayoi Kusama from the late 20thC to now?
     
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