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Classic case of lack of options

Messrs Blair and Howard compete to trumpet the louder their commitment to choice in education. But is choice a beacon or an ignis fatuus?

Exam board AQA has just announced that it will cease to offer examinations in Latin after 2006 (TES, July 9). The schools and teachers of more than 3,000 students entered annually for AQA GCSE Latin were not consulted. Now their choice is to switch to OCR or give up.

It might seem that it hardly matters: the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's scrutiny ensures comparability of standard between the exams of different boards. But, as you report, state schools generally prefer the AQA course, which is more adaptable to fast-track working.

The OCR course, which includes compulsory coursework, is best suited to students who have been learning Latin on timetable for several years, typically in independent schools.

I'm a historian, not a classicist, but some 25 years back I exhumed Latin in a small rural comprehensive to provide opportunities for intellectually curious and academically ambitious volunteers.

Small groups have worked intensively on a two-year cycle for a couple of sessions a week at lunchtimes andor after school to achieve GCSE Latin, with gratifying success.

But unless AQA can be prevailed upon to reverse its decision - allegedly made for commercial reasons - the present cohort may be the last, and the message for the future, "If you want to learn Latin, go private."

Andy Connell

11 Mill Hill

Appleby

Cumbria

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