A classical situation

17th February 1995 at 00:00
I used to teach classics and want to again, but that is looking less and less likely. In the mid-Seventies, when I was doing my PGCE, the Cambridge Latin course had just been invented. Classics teachers everywhere were filled with enthusiasm for the Roman character Caecilius and his family who lived in Pompeii - and in the imaginations of their pupils. Suddenly Latin could be enjoyed straightaway by pupils of widely differing abilities.

The Joint Association of Classical Teachers' reading Greek course and inspired classical studies syllabuses soon followed. For the 13 potential young teachers on my PGCE course (the department doesn't exist anymore), it seemed our subject was undergoing a long-overdue renaissance.

For 10 years I taught classics in two comprehensives. But gradually it began to be squeezed - I was teaching at lunchtimes, after school, and coping with fewer periods than any other exam subject.

Now, finally, the national curriculum has given classics such an almighty push that it has fallen off the plank. It still flourishes in the independent sector but this just makes me suspicious. If classics is considered so necessary for some of our children, why is it almost unavailable to the rest?

The only place children meet the Romans and the Greeks now is in the primary school. Perhaps the only answer is to retrain.

Glennis Foote lives in Cambridgeshire

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