Deal keeps classics on life support

8th April 2005 at 01:00
The Scottish Executive has agreed to fund placements for students to allow them to train as classics teachers next session.

The move follows an agreement with the Scottish Council of Independent Schools that the private sector will offer four probationer places for those with a single qualification in classics. The Executive will fund these in 2006-07 as well as a few others who have dual qualifications such as classics and English or classics and history.

Strathclyde University - the only teacher education institution in Scotland where classics teachers can train - suspended the course for the current session amid much criticism and controversy because of a lack of demand for classics teachers. This coincided with the retirement of Tony Williams, the senior specialist in classics at the university. It is now actively seeking a replacement.

Despite the reinstatement of the course in the next academic year, Iain Smith, Strathclyde's dean of education, made it clear the reprieve was for a year only. The situation would continue to be reviewed on an annual basis, Mr Smith said.

The latest development also depends on the co-operation of the independent sector where classics teaching has traditionally been in a healthier state.

The deal will allow independent schools to take probationer students qualified in Latin or Greek or classical studies, or a combination of these. Graduates in one of the classics subjects who wish to teach in the state sector must be qualified to teach another subject if they are to be guaranteed a place in the one-year induction scheme.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Executive Education Department confirmed the new package. "On the basis of a one year agreement reached with the Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS), where the independent sector offers four probationer places in its probationer scheme for those with a single qualification in classics, SEED are prepared to recommend recruitment to classics in session 2005-2006."

The spokesperson added: "The department will offer the small number of probationers there may be above this with dual qualification (such as classics and English, classics and history) places - in classics if at all possible or, if not, in their second subject - on the publicly funded teacher induction scheme."

Mr Williams welcomed "this astonishing turnaround", but doubted that it was a sufficient manifestation of the Executive's professed support for classics in schools.

Brian Boyd, professor of education at Strathclyde University, said: "If the Executive's Curriculum for Excellence is really about choice and flexibility, it should not allow subjects like Latin to disappear and wither on the vine.

"The thing that concerns me most is that the only places to learn those subjects are largely in the independent sector. That is not what comprehensive schools should be about: they should be offering exactly the same choice as elsewhere. Following market forces is taking a short-term view."

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