Students confront Clarke over classics comments

13th June 2003 at 01:00
FIVE teenagers, including the daughter of Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, have challenged Charles Clarke about his attitude to classics.

Doubts have been raised about the Education Secretary's feelings for the study of ancient civilisations since he was less than enthusiastic about the subject in an interview earlier this year.

But the pupils from Camden girls' school were keen to demonstrate their love of the subject to Mr Clarke at a meeting at the Department for Education and Skills.

Simon Carr, head of classics at the school, said pupils all came across as very enthusiastic and showed that there was a demand for more of the subject.

But Mr Carr told the minister that supply in no way covered demand, pointing out that about 65 out of 120 pupils at his school opted for at least one classical GCSE subject each year.

He said: "We are an ordinary inner-London comprehensive, but the only school in the whole of inner London with a decent-sized classics department. If we can pull in the pupils, there is no reason why other schools could not do the same if the right conditions are created."

Mr Clarke has been warding off accusations that he does not care for classics since January when the Sunday Times reported him as saying "education for its own sake is a bit dodgy", before adding: "If we had less people studying philosophy, that would be unfortunate. I feel very less occupied by classics."

Classicists objected and the row eventually reached the House of Commons where Mr Clarke said he had been misrepresented and was in favour of the study of classics for its own merits.

In a report to the National Co-ordinating Committee for Classics on the meeting with the Education Secretary, Mr Carr said Mr Clarke had insisted that said he supported the classics, but did not think learning Latin was the best way to learn French.

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