Saturday, September 4, 2010

Greek threatened in Scottish schools

Ian Ruffell (Glasgow) reports:

As you may be aware, Scotland is currently revising its national curriculum and associated qualifications in the so-called "Curriculum for Excellence". Some on the list may have been involved in the efforts to retain Latin throughout SCQF levels 3-7 in this curriculum (that's roughly the equivalent of pre-GCSE, GCSE + A level in England & Wales terms). The good news is that the lobbying of the SQA and the Scottish Government has been successful and that in the current proposals Latin has been reinstated to all levels.

There is, however, bad news for Greek. The original proposals had Greek playing a restricted role as a stand-alone language, but with a Higher (roughly AS level) and entry points to Higher being more-or-less retained, plus the possibility of featuring at lower levels in a generic "languages" curriculum. Advanced Higher (roughly, A2) was disappearing, given its negligible uptake.

At some point between June and the end of August the decision was taken to remove Greek from this new curriculum altogether. There was allegedly a consultation with stakeholders, but discussion with SQA representatives suggested that this took the well-known form outlined in the opening of Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (i,e, the electronic equivalent of a locked filing cabinet in a disused toilet in a basement with a sign saying "beware of the tiger" - I paraphrase). There is a publication on the website; you have to know where to look even to find the document and then it's advisable to use the "search" facility in Adobe Reader to find the information in question. An email was apparently sent to Universities Scotland and to local authorities, but the contents apparently said: there is a document on the website.

All is not lost, however. The curriculum (the details of which have not yet been developed) is only a proposal at this stage, and there is a reasonable window of opportunity to address this proposal. There is a "Have your say" button on the SQA website and I would also urge people to contact the Minister for Education, Mike Russell, who has made very public pronouncements about the need to retain languages.

Please pass this on to your networks.
Progress report on languages, May 2010: this sets out some of the problems with Greek and other parts of the curriculum, although there is no proposal to kill it at this stage.

The "Overview of Languages" document announces the abolition of Greek, at the bottom of page 8.

Use the "Have your say" button at:
Contact the Scottish Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning

Colleagues in Scotland might also consider lobbying their MSP. Contact details
can be found at

On a happier note, here's Will Griffiths' letter in The Times (August 26) about Latin:

One of our researchers recently spent five months telephoning every secondary school, state and independent, in the country and asking "Does your school offer Latin?". In addition to the occasional delight of being routed to the dance department, we found that of the 1,081 secondary schools offering Latin, 634 are state schools and 447 are independent. Current indications are that a further 58 state schools will start offering Latin in September.
The rise of Latin in the state sector is due to a combination of factors: the Government's "Gifted and Talented" initiative, £5 million DfES funding for digital materials to support the subject, funding for schools from the Friends of Classics and our own work supporting teachers and promoting the subject. New Latin qualifications from the WJEC examination board, whose first candidates receive their results today, are a further sign that the subject is re-establishing itself in the UK education system.
Director, University of Cambridge School Classics Project

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