Monday, August 13, 2007

The future for Classics A-Levels?

Again, rogueclassicism brings an important story to my attention.

The Times reports that the OCR exam board are planning on amalgamating the current Greek, Latin, Ancient History and Classical Civilization A-Levels into one single Classics A-Level.

What is wrong with the OCR? Earlier this year, they were planning on scrapping the Ancient History A-Level. In May, they said that they'd changed their minds, having been put under a great deal of pressure from the universities and government and opposition ministers. Yet here they are, three months later, seemingly going back on what they said, and indeed apparently taking an even more extreme approach. Do they somehow think that people won't notice? Presumably they will argue, as they did before, that they aren't abolishing the particular subjects, but continuing them in a different format. That didn't wash last time, and I doubt it will this. The chief executive may say that all the classicists he's talked to think this is the best way forward, but I can't imagine any of the ones I've heard speak about this taking the same view.

But maybe I'm being unfair. When planning just to get rid of Ancient History, a spokesman stated that the OCR board still offered "a comprehensive suite of A-levels". The only thing I can see on OCR's own website is a news item about their plans for the new revision of an Ancient History qualification within the Classics A-level suite. Looking at the subjects there, it seems quite a comprehensive and intense list, and there's easily enough material for two years' school study. What it looks like to me is that there is planned to be a single Classics A-level, with Latin, Greek, Ancient History and Classical Civilization options.

Okay, so perhaps one can argue on that basis that the OCR are preserving coherent A-level syllabi in all four subjects. But the crucial question is whether students will be able to take this Classics A-level suite in more than one form. I would think not, otherwise why not keep them as discrete A-levels.

And that I think would be a problem. When I was at school, I took Greek, Latin and Ancient History A-levels. It looks to me as if such an option be not be available under the OCR's plans. As a result, no school child will get the same education in the Classics that I benefited from. Someone who takes a single Classics A-Level will not learn as much about the subject as someone who takes three.

Having lost over Ancient History (though now apparently pretending that they haven't), I expect OCR might well lose over this as well. I will be following this story with interest.


Anonymous said...

Chris Pelling has sent an email to the classics-l list explaining that this was a mistake on the part of the journalist, and that the real story was the creation of an amalgamated A level in place of Ancient History, but in parallel with Latin and Greek. I don't buy the paper so I don't know whether there was an apology.

Tony Keen said...

I can't see this message on the Classics-L Archive, so I remain puzzled. Amalgamated with what? A new Classics A-level instead of Ancient History?