Ancient history to be saved from extinction

18th May 2007 at 01:00
(Photograph) - Triumphant cries of 'Veni, Vidi, Vici' rang out among classics teachers this week after the Government intervened to safeguard England's last remaining A-level in ancient history, writes Warwick Mansell.

The subject, it seems, is likely to no longer be a thing of the past in sixth forms across England after Lord Adonis, the schools minister, sought to veto the OCR exam board's proposal to scrap it.

As revealed in The TES in March, the board planned to subsume ancient history into its classical civilisation exam next year under a rationalisation of A-level provision.

However, academics, teachers and students argued that this would offer only a watered down version of ancient history, which has seen candidate numbers triple to 1,000 in recent years.

Earlier this week Boris Johnson, the flamboyant shadow higher education spokesman, donned a toga and accepted a 4,000 signature petition against the plans at a protest outside Parliament (see picture).

Then on Wednesday, Lord Adonis, schools minister, indicated a likely change of course. Answering a question in the House of Lords, he said: "The Government is not content to see the withdrawal of ancient history as a free-standing exam-ination at A-level. We have invited OCR and the QCA to come forward with proposals for its continuance."

Peter Jones, of the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, said: "All we have wanted all along was for OCR to agree that they got this wrong."

Tom Pearson, head of history and politics at Queen Mary's sixth form college in Basingstoke, where 200 students are taking ancient history, said: "This is excellent news."

Photograph: Dillon Bryden

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