Lack of political will is killing classics

19th March 2004 at 00:00
An open letter to Peter Peacock

Dear Mr Peacock

I am writing to you in dismay at reports that the training of teachers in classics in Scotland is to end. To have "fallow years" and only offer teacher training every second year or so is not viable.

What this really means is that there is no intention of having classics on the curriculum of Scottish schools in the future.

Would you please clarify the position? To say that it is a matter purely for the teacher training institute to decide is not convincing. You are the minister; you make the policy; and, most importantly, you fund that policy.

It must be made clear to the people of Scotland why you are giving up on classics when in England there is now a demand for classics teachers.

In the United States there is growth in the numbers teaching classics, and in most western European countries classics is still very much on the curriculum.

If numbers are not great enough to justify the retention of classics in the curriculum, then those responsible for education in Scotland should be looking at how they have managed to let Latin, Greek and classical studies fall away, when other subjects have been promoted. Are we now so impoverished - financially and intellectually - that we cannot afford classics?

Not so long ago, a commitment was made by the then Scottish Education Department to have classics in at least one school in every area. This commitment was never met. Now only 34 state schools offer classics. Despite this lack of political will, which has at times bred hostility towards the subject, the number of students taking classics at Standard grade last year rose by 30 per cent, while numbers at Higher and at university level are growing.

It is a disgrace that, in a country which has produced so many world-renowned scholars in classics over the years, we are now depriving children of access to it. This demonstrates a lack of educational and academic aspiration in Scotland, a country where we used to think we had as good and as democratic a system as anywhere in the world.

Alan Milligan

High School of Glasgow

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