Classical history makes a comeback

23rd July 1999 at 01:00
PARENTS have surprised academics by demanding that their children stay in touch with the Emperor Hadrian and Alexander the Great.

Government-backed research on the English national curriculum in history suggests that classical study units at key stage 2 have not only been popular with children but well received by their parents too.

The report, Classical history in primary schools, has highlighted an urgent need for better technology aids for teaching history in primary schools.

Academics at Cambridge University monitored classical history teaching by 28 teachers at 10 schools last year.

They found the vast majority of pupils and teachers supported classical history at key stage 2. But they were most surprised by the parents' responses.

The report said: "The fact that 78 per cent of parents said that the ancient Greeks and the Romans were of 'significant relevance' to children today provides clear support for the continued presence of the ancient Greeks and Romans in national curriculum history post-2000."

Grant Bage, a lecturer at Cambridge University's school of education and one of the report's authors, said the national curriculum had helped to compensate for the decline in classics language teaching over the past 30 years.

He said he was "surprised and gratified" by the parents' positive responses and pupils' grasp of the issues. "Children have obviously taken history to their hearts and understand it from an earlier age than we realised," he said.

However, he said the researchers had found the quality of some of the written work to be poorer than expected. They also found that pupils were being hampered by not having enough computers when it came to learning history.

Mr Bage said the stress on literacy and numeracy targets had narrowed history education in all schools.

Barbara Finney, former head of classics at the Canon Slade school in Bolton and branches secretary of the Classical Association, said classical history teaching often led to a renewed interest in Greek and Latin.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority confirmed that the Romans and ancient Greeks would be retained as a compulsory unit of the revised national curriculum, when children will be required to learn about "people, events and places from recent and more distant times".

"Classical history in primary schools" by Grant Bage, Bob Lister and Rob Grisdale is available from Qualifications and Curriculum Authority publications, tel. 01787 884444

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