TEACHERS ARE accusing an exam board of dumbing down England's only remaining Latin and classical Greek A-levels after it revealed that the amount of literature students will have to study is to be cut by a quarter.
From next year, candidates will also no longer have to write an essay for their AS course, and for A2, it is questionable whether an essay will be required. Currently students have to write an essay for both.
The Joint Association of Classical Teachers warned that the changes stand to leave thousands of pupils ill-prepared for university study, where essay writing is the norm and the reading load is heavy.
The association's comments came after the OCR board published draft specifications for the new exams on its website.
The number of lines of original verse or prose on which students have to answer exam questions has been cut from 550 to 400 for AS, and from 660 to 500 for A2. Association members said this would mean students could memorise a translation of the shorter passages and regurgitate it in the exam hall. They branded the OCR's move as puzzling, given that the new A-levels have been billed as more stretching and as putting more emphasis on essay writing.
Clare Eltis, a teacher at The Lady Eleanor Holles school in Hampton, south-west London, said: "I worry for future students that this A-level will not be a proper preparation for university. There they might be expected to read seven books of Virgil and 18 of Homer, and all they will have read is a few hundred lines. The gap between A-level and degree study will be huge."
The association was also unhappy that, under the new specifications, schools and students would no longer have a choice of which authors to study. From 2008, they will have to read a set prose author and one for verse at both AS and A2.
OCR became the only board to offer Latin and ancient Greek A-level last year after the AQA board stopped offering the subjects.
An OCR spokesman said that the draft specifications were not yet final, they could be changed following consultation.
Some 58 A-levels are being amended.