Sunday 23 July 2017

A Year of Campaigning for Classics Education Begins!

Devoted Current &Would-be Teachers of Class. Civ. at Cambridge 7 July
The last three weeks consisted of serious and exciting work on the project that will occupy much of the next year of my life—advocating the teaching of Classical Civilisation and Ancient History in secondary education nationwide (ACE). I have always been puzzled why teachers in universities have not involved themselves more in the entirety of British Education. In Classics, which has been struggling to survive outside the private sector (where only 7% of our teenagers study), support of the fun and heroic teachers out there at the coalface is a matter of urgency.

So I was delighted that the Arts & Humanities Research Council have had the foresight to make me a Leadership Fellow to campaign to get Classical Civilisation GCSEs and A-Levels into as many state schools as possible, and to fund my inspirational colleague on this initiative, Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson. The award of this grant is the first serious sign that Britons at the highest level care about Classical Civilisation qualifications, historically and ludicrously seen as the poor relation of the Latin and Greek languages.

Arlene at Milton Keynes 17 July
In most parts of the UK Classical Civilisation (or alternatively Ancient History) can be introduced wherever there is a teacher, qualified in any subject, keen and permitted to do so. At ACE we are working with people who currently teach English, Drama, History, Languages, Philosophy & Religion, Sport, Business Studies and Physics. Money is available from educational charities to support the costs of introducing it (further information available on our website).

ACE teachers at KCL launch on 1 July
We have 16 partner institutions across the nation, from Belfast and Glasgow to Swansea, Exeter and Kent, ready and able to support YOU. We will be holding public events in all of them (for dates, times and venues see our website, with star speakers including some of our patrons, illustrious classicists Mary Beard, Charlotte Higgins, Bettany Hughes, Paul Cartledge, Michael Scott and Natalie Haynes.

We are campaigning to get Classical Civilisation recognised on the English Baccalaureate as of equivalent value to e.g. Ancient History and Geography. This objective is a no-brainer. There will be a large press coverage beginning in September. Arlene and I are writing a book about the history of the subject since its inception in the 1950s and the manifold transferable skills and cultural literacies it bestows. The book will provide an instrument for informing policy-makers, teachers, students, parents and employers about this wonderful subject. It will be available free online.

If you want to help, please turn up to our events, join our Facebook Group, follow us on Twitter at @ClassCivAncHist, lobby your MP (a draft letter for this purpose will soon be available on the website), and above all fill in the questionnaire by pressing the big green button on our website

We need to hear from as many people as possible, ever educated at secondary level in Britain, about what Classics they did or did not get access to, and how they feel about it. The book will only be as good as the crowd-sourced information that goes into it. It is your chance to help us write educational history and affect education's future.

After the massive response to my article in the Guardian about People's Classics two years ago, I decided to run ACE because Aristotle says that a mistake of omission—not doing something worthwhile that lies within your power—is as blameworthy as one of commission. In her moving book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, the end-of-life nurse Bronnie Ware says that people regret failure to do things far more than things they have done. 
Talking at the Cotswold School in Bourton-on-the-Water

Giving all British teenagers access to the life-changing opportunity to study some of the most momentous intellectual revolutions in the history of homo sapiens between 1000 BCE and 400 CE does lie within our collective power. Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained! Please help!


  1. Inspirational work, keep it up, we are all behind you. Civilization is an advanced state of an organized society that, among many values, promotes culture and refinement. The Classics are the building blocks of our culture and refinement teaching us who we are as individuals and as part of our society, critically evaluating our strengths and weaknesses. If we deprive our society and our children's education of these foundations, what will the future of our civilized country be?

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