I say ‘penultimate’ because Classical Civilisation, thankfully, is still offered by the other exam board, OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA), which has just revised its specs from 2017 and as yet shows no sign of pulling out on the Greeks and Romans in British schools.
But the AQA decision, surrounded in secrecy, is a body blow. It comes while I am anxiously waiting to hear the results of a major funding application to support a nationwide campaign, starting next May, to get Classical Civilisation and Ancient History teaching expanded and into as many schools as possible.
It is easy to criticise AQA, which claims on its website to be ‘an independent education charity’ (the impression is spoiled by all the links to the businesses in what AQA calls its ‘family’, selling resources you can buy for the classroom or your teenager).
The AQA Council is in charge of its ‘overall strategy, policy, educational initiatives and development, and for steering AQA to fulfil its educational and charitable objectives’. Unfortunately, these objectives are nowhere stated, and when one discovers the identity of the Chair of the Council, things begin to become clearer.
|Paul Layzell Walks through RHUL Sit-In for Classics, 2011
But the problem is systemic rather than personal. Layzell and the other bureaucrat-profiteers who have taken over our national education system can only do so because we have let them. Aristotle, no political ‘leftie’, was astonished that any self-respecting society should allow the curriculum followed by all its children and young adults to be determined by anything other than informed public interest—it is simply far too important to be left to ‘market forces’.
Members of all the constituencies—academics, teachers, subject associations, educational charities—believing that the Greeks and Romans belong to everyone need to react publicly to this development and unite to prevent OCR from following AQA’s suit and killing off Classical Civilisation in UK schools for good. We do not want to suffer the same fate as Art History and Archaeology, for which AQA has now ensured no school qualifications are available in the UK at all.
|Simon Schama is Defending Class Civ