Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Advocating Classics Education: an update for 2020

by Arlene Holmes-Henderson

The Advocating Classics Education (ACE) project is a national campaign to increase access to the study of the Classical world in secondary schools and sixth form colleges across the United Kingdom. Led by Professor Edith Hall and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson and based at King’s College London, ACE is a partnership of fifteen partner universities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Since 2017, the project has co-hosted twelve high profile events for teachers, students and members of the public to raise the profile, currency and status of qualifications in Classical Civilisation and Ancient History. The project was awarded a major grant by the CA in 2019, and it is my pleasure to provide an update on our activities.

British Museum

An exciting new development in our collaboration strategy is our partnership with the British Museum. Launched in December 2019, ACE is working together with the Schools and Young Audiences Team at the British Museum to optimise the support available to Classics teachers and students. On 6 December, we contributed to the British Museum’s Troy Study Day, which was a sold-out event for 100 sixth form Classics students and their teachers. Professor Hall gave three subject knowledge enhancement lectures, then a plenary lecture, on themes including Greek drama, Greek religion, Homeric epic and Roman epic.

On 13 January, we hosted an ACE event at the British Museum for teachers only. This lecture provided additional textual breadth and depth for the ‘World of the Hero’ component of A Level Classical Civilisation. Afterwards, attendees were given complimentary access to the Troy exhibition. 

On 24 February, we again collaborated to offer ‘OCR Classics in 20 British Museum objects, a day for learners and teachers to experience the prescribed objects for Classical Civilisation and Ancient History ‘up close’. Afterwards, attendees had free access to the Troy exhibition. Completely free, 125 tickets for this day ‘sold out’ just 48 hours.  Clearly there is significant demand for this type of museum-based learning event.

© A.Holmes-Henderson

Classics in Scotland

We held a successful ACE event at the Hunterian museum, University of Glasgow in March 2018. Since then, the Classical Association of Scotland has made good progress in promoting Latin and Classical Studies as Curriculum for Excellence subjects viable for study in primary and secondary schools. We look forward to co-hosting an event entitled ‘Introducing Classics in State Schools’ on 11 March with the CAS and our partner, the University of St Andrews. Invitations have been issued to teachers and school leaders in Fife, Perthshire and Dundee. Contact Nikoletta Manioti at nm66@st-andrews.ac.uk for further details.

Judging Competitions

Dr Holmes-Henderson has recently made her first trip to the country’s largest Classical Association branch to judge the Lytham St Annes Classics competition on 7 March. This year’s question was ‘Which three characters from the ancient world would you invite to a party and why?’.

On 25 March, Professor Hall and Dr Holmes-Henderson are judging the Latin spelling bee at Harris Academy Chafford Hundred in Essex. 30 schools have entered so it promises to be a buzzy event! Professor Hall will give a keynote lecture to all teaching staff and pupils and Dr Holmes-Henderson will provide a CPD workshop for Classics teachers on Classical rhetoric and critical literacy.

Classical Association Conference

ACE is giving a panel of papers at the CA conference in Swansea on 18 April. Our panel title is ‘Accessing Classical Civilisation and Ancient History in Britain, Past and Present Perspectives’. Professor Hall will provide a historical overview. Dr Henry Stead (St Andrews) will share his research into access to Classics via adult education in the 19th century. Dr Holmes-Henderson will provide and analyse statistics showing who has access to Classics in British schools today and Peter Wright (Blackpool Sixth form College) will talk about the growing community of Classics learners in Blackpool. We will join our partners at Swansea University for the schools’ session on 17 April and will use the occasion of the conference to promote the benefits of collaboration between schools and universities.

Promoting Classical Civilisation and Ancient History around the UK

We continue to visit schools and multi-academy trusts to promote the study of the classical world in translation. Professor Hall has made successful visits to Bristol, Hartlepool, Derby, Bromley, Oxford, Guildford and several London schools in the last few months. In a special initiative, she has been visiting NewVIc Sixth-Form College in East London for the Curriculum Enhancement Programme; this college now has a tradition of sending students to read Classical subjects at KCL. The entire group of Gifted and Talented students came to KCL to participate in a 'play-in-a-day' performance of Sophocles' Antigone, with a workshop afterwards on its relevance to political problems today. Professor Hall was also a keynote speaker at a national conference on Curriculum Enrichment at NewVIc in January 2020.

Dr Holmes-Henderson is also providing CPD workshops for English teachers this year. On 1 February, she was the keynote speaker for the TM English Icons conference in Sheffield, and in June she will lead a session at TM Leeds. These events are attended by hundreds of English teachers and are an excellent way of showcasing the appeal of Classical subjects.

Hosting school groups at KCL

Professor Hall has organised, hosted and spoken at several events in the winter of 2019-2020 at KCL. Large groups of school students have come to hear bespoke lectures connecting the ‘World of the Hero’ option to the Troy exhibition at the British Museumparticularly successful events have been run for Runshaw College and Maidstone Grammar School.

© A.Holmes-Henderson

Teaching materials and videos to support Classical Civilisation GCSE and A Level courses

Following our highly successful teachers’ summer school in July 2019, we have uploaded a range of resources to support the learning and teaching of Classical Civilisation qualifications in schools.  These include videos from KCL academics on GCSE, AS and A Level components, and accompanying powerpoint presentations and handouts.  See the ACE website for full details.

Policy influence

We successfully applied for funding from Research England to accelerate the strategic impact of our advocacy work, and in 2020 we will work with key stakeholders in Westminster, Whitehall, the Senedd, Holyrood and Stormont to raise the profile of Classical subjects within national curricula and assessment frameworks.

International interest in the work of ACE continues to grow; in April and May, Professor Hall will be addressing national conferences of teachers and classicists in both Belgium and the Netherlands on the merits of Classical Civilisation and Ancient History courses and ways to introduce them. We are thrilled to be continuing this important and exciting work for Classics education nationally. If you have any requests, suggestions or ideas you’d like to share with us, please email us at ace@kcl.ac.uk.

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is a Research Fellow in Classics Education at King’s College London.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Spring Books 2020

by Philip Hooker

Once again, we have studied the Bookseller’s Buyers Guide and picked out the books on classical themes which publishers believe will be of interest to the general reader (plus a number sourced elsewhere).

Pride of place goes to two big, wide-ranging, books by two of our most notable scholars. Greg Woolf has The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History, due in May. This covers Athens and Sparta, Persepolis and Carthage, Rome and Alexandria, a vivid panorama of the ancient world. Meanwhile Paul Cartledge offers Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece, also due in May. Thebes was once the most powerful city in Greece, the birthplace of Hercules, the home of the Sphinx and Oedipus, which sided with Xerxes and the Persians and later with Sparta to quash democracy in Athens, only to be utterly destroyed by Alexander the Great. It’s a big story.

In different vein, we call attention to Helen Morales with Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of Ancient Myths – and its modern legacies, from MeToo to the imagery of BeyoncĂ©. It is seriously feminist, as might be expected from the author of Pilgrimage to Dollywood. The most notable work of fiction is probably from Lindsey Davis with The Grove of the Caesars, the eighth instalment of the Flavia Albia series. There is still a possibility of a television series featuring Falco; in November, Mammoth Screen announced that they were in “advanced development” talks with ITV; this probably means that the BBC turned the project down (again), but that ITV are now looking at it. In the meantime, we must rest content with occasional repeats of the Anton Lesser radio serials on Radio 4 Extra.

Many of the works featured in previous notes are about to appear in paperback – those of Daisy Dunn, Armand D’Angour, Jerry Toner, Mary Norris, Natalie Haynes, Simon Turney, Adrienne Mayor, for example, who were all favourably reviewed and sold well in hardback.

Among scholarly works, we single out The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Science, edited by Liba Taub and How Dead Languages Work by Coulter H. George (Greek, Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Old Irish, Biblical Hebrew). Philip Matyszak with Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World covers 40 ancient civilisations – from the Hyksos to the Hephthalites and everyone in between – and certainly has range. Andrew Bayliss offers The Spartans, a useful paperback guide.  Denise Allan and Mike Bryan have compiled Roman Britain … And Where to Find ItPiero Boitani’s A New Sublime: Ten Timeless Lessons on the Classics is based on a popular series for Swiss radio.

For lighter entertainment, we commend Sarah Rowley with Latin Rocks On, based on a renowned Twitter account, with Latin versions of popular song lyrics from Martin Gaye to Madonna, Take That to Taylor Swift. Simon Walters with The Borisaurus: The Dictionary of Boris Johnson explores the great man’s extensive vocabulary and explains most of his classical references. We also note the growing number of audio books, ideal for long journeys – Naxos are about to publish Xenophon’s The Persian Expedition read by David Timson; he has previously done Herodotus, Apollonius, Apuleius and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall; Anton Lesser has voiced the Iliad and the Odyssey; others have done Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Thucydides and Plutarch’s Greek Lives. The great recent bestseller is Stephen Fry with Mythos.

New translations include After Callimachus by Stephanie Burt, Josiah Osgood’s translated selections from Suetonius (How to be A Bad Emperor - An Ancient Guide to Truly Terrible Leaders), Sophocles' Oedipus the King (in verse) by David Kovacs and Aristotle's The Nicomachean Ethics by Adam Beresford (from Penguin). New texts include Loebs of Appian (another volume from Brian McGing) and Livy (another volume from J. C. Yardley), Oxford Classical Texts of Aulus Gellius (by Leofranc Holford-Strevens) and ApuleiusPhilosophical Works (by Giuseppina Magnaldi), as well as Cambridge Green and Yellows of Virgil's Aeneid Book XI (Scott McGill), Plautus' Pseudolus (David Christenson), Achilles TatiusLeucippe and Clitophon (Tim Whitmarsh) and EuripidesCyclops (Richard Hunter and Rebecca Laemmle). There is also is a new Collins Latin Essential Dictionary “for all the words you need every day”, which is presumably rather basic and inexpensive.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association, and writes regularly for the CA Blog on Classics in the Media