New A-Level league tables to rank key subjects preferred by leading universities

With bated breath:

“The list of “key subjects” or so-called “facilitating subjects” includes : maths, further maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern or classical languages. 

Follow the story here:


If you are a JACT member you will be aware of this and hopefully will have already taken action.
Because of financial constraints the Classics department at Leeds is considering cutting its straight language degree courses in Latin and Greek in order to ensure its survival as a department still able to provide courses and research opportunities in Classical Civilisation. Furthermore the university authorities are considering the closure of the whole department, thus ending more than 100 years of Classics education in the city. The university is committed to seeing all students who start a course in September 2010 through to the end of their degree, and this assurance stands good for the 2010 intake on the language programmes too.
For more details see the Classics@Leeds blog at
Above all please sign the petition at

That report on Primary Schools being to narrow

The Primary Schools Report from Cambridge is here.

Universities warn of stiff competition this year


Universities warn of stiff competition as recession prompts big rise in applications

• Mature students opt to retrain during downturn
• Weak pound boosts numbers from overseas

* Polly Curtis, education editor
* The Guardian, Monday 16 February 2009

The recession has triggered a scramble for a place at university with a record-breaking 465,000 people applying to begin a degree this September and a significant increase in the number of older applicants, official figures suggest.

Vice-chancellors warned last night that with a 7.8% increase in applications – 34,000 more than last year – students face the most intense competition in years.

A last-minute boom in applications in the run-up to the December deadline is thought to have been triggered by people wanting to use academia to escape the recession and be better qualified by the time the jobs market picks up again. The number of applications from over-24s rose by 12.6% and the 20-24 age group increased by 12.9%, the figures published yesterday by the university application service Ucas revealed.

There are also signs that the recession is affecting people’s choice of degree, breeding a new generation of economists and mathematicians. The number of applications for economics degrees increased by 15.7% to a total of 44,750. Applications for maths rose 10.4% and for politics 16.7%.

More people have applied to do training degrees to work in the public sector. Applications for nursing rose by 16.7%, education degrees by 10.7% and teacher training by 3.7%. It is thought that people are opting for “safer” jobs outside business and commerce.

There was a 7.6% decline in applications for building degrees as the construction industry slows, though there were modest rises in business degree applicants.

Applications to Oxford and Cambridge rose 9.9%. The University of Exeter said it had an 18% increase in applications from British students and 88% rise in those outside the EU. New universities and smaller specialist institutions also reported record rises. Bedfordshire University had a 24% rise in home applications.

The race for a place will be intensified this year after the government was forced to reduce the planned expansion of student numbers by 5,000 following a miscalculation of the cost of grants for the poorest students. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was facing a £200m black hole in its funding last year and decided to lower the threshold for partial grants and reduce the planned expansion of student numbers to make it up. Universities have been warned they could face penalties if they expand their student numbers at all to meet demand.

Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University and a board member of Ucas, said: “It feels like the rise in applications is linked to the recession. That happened in previous recessions so we’ve been expecting it. The big problem is that admissions numbers are capped and we’ve got a 7.8% increase in applications. It is the case there will be more competition this year.”

He said it was likely that clearing, the process by which students who haven’t got the grades can find a place at university in the summer, would be much briefer. Where universities often apply some discretion and admit students who have only just missed their grades, they would no longer get this chance, he added.

The Ucas figures also showed that applications from within the EU had risen by 14% and from outside the EU by 9% because of the weak pound.

The National Union of Students last night called for the government to lift the cap on student numbers. Wes Streeting, president of the NUS, said: “The government needs to weigh up the costs of putting people through higher education with the cost of unemployment. It is cruel to raise aspirations, convince people to apply and then close the door on them.”

Diana Warwick, chief executive of the university umbrella group Universities UK, said: “These are very encouraging figures. Applicants are making informed choices and thinking carefully about the value of higher education, particularly in the current economic climate. Following last year’s record-breaking year for applications and acceptances, we call on government to ensure this growth is matched with continued financial support.”

A source close to the universities secretary, John Denham, said there were no plans to change the cap on numbers.

Anthony McClaran, Ucas chief executive, said: “There has been considerable speculation about the effect of current economic conditions on applications for higher education but these figures give some assurance that demand remains strong. Education is a long-term investment for the individual and for society as a whole.”

Latin danger alert – Solihul Sixth Form College

If this message is accurate, it is worrying, and I invited anyone with a voice that might be heard by the college authorities to use it loudly and clearly.

I am a student at Solihull Sixth Form College in Birmingham, which has recently been in difficulties because of a new sixth form attaching to a local secondary school, and I believe this is responsible for the decision to now stop the teaching of Latin in our college. We have a very small ancient languages department, despite there being over 2000 students in our college. I will be leaving this year and the only other student and I have been informed that Latin shall no longer be taught directly in our college after we have left. This is very distressing as I believe we are one of the few, if not the only, college in our area which even teaches it anymore. I am not sure if there is anything we can do, but I would still like to try, as I know there are students coming in from secondary school who would like to continue the study of Latin and the teaching in our department is fantastic and it would be devastating to lose it. If anyone can offer any advice, please don’t hesitate to contact me on the email above. Thank you to anyone who does, please help us save our Latin department! Valete, Rhian Morgan.

Teachers have a fortnight to comment on new Latin qualification


How to get a Latin qualification of equivalent difficulty to a GCSE in other subjects? With elite schools insisting that Latin GCSE remain as hard as it is, the GCSE route is blocked. The alternative is here:

WJEC is pleased to announce the development of a range of Level 2 qualifications in Latin, for first teaching from September 2009. Working with subject specialist advice from the University of Cambridge School Classics Project, we are creating three qualifications to broaden the range of assessment options available to teachers at Key Stage 4 and thereby help you to increase the number of students who study Latin to examination level in your school or college.

The Latin Literature specification is here, and the language specification is here.

This could be another step on the road to bring Latin back from the brink of extinction. The large number of comprehensive schools that now offer Latin would have a qualification that their pupils could realistically aim for.

Do visit the site and add your comments before the end of the month.

Hansard: the question of Latin

I used the words ‘if this report is accurate’ in relaying what the Telegraph wrote. I have just looked up Hansard for confirmation:

25 Nov 2008 : Column 1346

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, Latin is an important subject. It is valuable in supporting pupils’ learning of modern languages and can provide a useful basis for students’ study across a range of disciplines. It is for schools to decide whether it should be included in their curriculum. The number of non-selective state schools offering Latin has more than doubled since the launch in 2000 of the Cambridge Latin resource, for which the Government provided £5 million of funding.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. I am pleased that she shares my view on the importance of Latin as a way of understanding virtually all Romance languages, particularly English. That being so, is she not disappointed that 85 per cent of state schools still offer no Latin at all? Is she not concerned that each year 35 new Latin teachers are trained but more than 60 leave the profession? Is it not time that Latin was reclassified as an official curriculum language and given the same encouragement as other languages?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his question. He is correct that the number of Latin teachers in training is around that number. Indeed, it has been approximately 35 to 40 for the past 10 years and it is obviously worrying if a number of teachers retire or move out of the field. However, the Languages Diploma Development Partnership is considering the place of Latin within the languages diploma. Beginning in January, there will be a consultation about that, in which my noble friend may be interested in being involved.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, will the Minister ensure that the new careers services advise students that Latin has a wide application to future careers, not just in the classics and the modern languages based on Latin but also in the sciences, in particular biology? A biologist cannot manage without a good knowledge of Latin. Will she ensure that, even if an individual school cannot offer Latin to a student, Latin can at least be part of a local authority-wide curriculum offer and thus be made available to that young person?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am not sure that I can ensure it in the way that the noble Baroness suggests but I will certainly think about her comments and take them back to the department. We recently introduced a new form of qualification for modern languages called the language ladder, which I am advised is used for a range of languages from Welsh and Gaelic through to other modern languages and which emphasises the value of teaching, listening, speaking and writing. So we are thinking carefully how languages are promoted in our schools.

The BBC has good coverage:

A decline in the number of Latin teachers poses a serious threat to the teaching of the language in schools, peers have been told.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester said he was concerned the number of Latin teachers leaving the profession each year was far outnumbering those being trained.

He urged the government to give Latin the same priority in the curriculum as modern languages to reverse this trend.

Ministers said modern languages were their priority at primary school level.

Important subject

For every 35-40 new Latin teachers entering the profession every year, more than 60 were either retiring or opting to do something else, Labour peer Lord Faulkner said in the House of Lords.

He also expressed dismay about the 85% of state schools he said did not currently teach Latin at all.

“Isn’t it time that Latin was reclassified as an official curriculum language and given the same encouragement as other languages?” he told peers.

Where individual schools could not offer Latin, ministers should urge local education authorities to include the subject somewhere on their curriculum.

For the government, Baroness Morgan of Drefelin said Latin was an “important subject” and a valuable tool in helping people learn a broad range of other languages.

She said it was “worrying” if a growing number of teachers were exiting the profession, for whatever reason, every year.

The number of non-selective state schools offering Latin had doubled since 2000, she said, while there would be a consultation on Latin’s inclusion in the languages diploma next year

But she stressed: “It is for schools to decide whether it should be included in the curriculum.”

Figures published earlier this year showed the number of non-selective state secondary schools in England teaching Latin rose from 200 in 2000 to 471 last year.

But education specialists have expressed concerns that the rise in pupils learning the language is limited to Key Stage 3 pupils aged 12-14 and is not mirrored at GCSE and A-level.

There are also concerns about a continuing shortage in the number of postgraduate teaching colleges offering Latin courses.

“Latin is set to be returned to the school curriculum”

If this report is accurate it is really good news for Latin teaching. The worrying figures are of the extremely low numbers of Latin teachers being trained. This seems to be because of deliberate government policy in the past. If hoi en telei are beginning to see the light, then perhaps more centres than just Cambridge and London may be allowed to train Classics specialists. Have I not heard, for example, that Oxford used to have a Classics Faculty? As a Cambridge man I can’t be sure …

But to be serious, unless something drastic is done very quickly we shall not have enough teachers for a renewed demand in state schools – indeed, we don’t have enough as it is.

Perhaps as a temporary measure we can mobilise the equivalent of the Chinese barefoot doctors, people who have enough training to do the job, though lacking full qualifications.

Daily Telegraph

Latin is set to be returned to the school curriculum following an official review.

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor
Last Updated: 9:05AM GMT 27 Dec 2008

Ministers believe it is an “important subject” and may help school pupils to learn modern languages.

Less than 15 per cent of state schools teach Latin and the number of qualified teachers is falling.

However, the Department for Education is understood to be considering adding Latin to the new Languages diploma, which will run alongside GCSEs and A-levels from next year. Baroness Morgan, the schools minister, has indicated that the Government wishes to see Latin regain its status as an important language.

She said it was “an important subject and valuable for supporting pupils’ learning of modern languages”. She added that the Language Diploma Development Partnership was “considering the place of Latin”.

Well-placed sources said that the language was expected to be reinstated as an official curriculum language next year.

Baroness Morgan made the comments in response to calls from another Labour peer, Lord Faulkner of Worcester who said it helped students to learn other languages.

“Each year, 35 new Latin teachers are trained but over 60 are leaving the profession,” he said. “Isn’t it time that Latin was reclassified as an official curriculum language and was given the same encouragement as other languages?” Over the past 20 years, the teaching of Latin has rapidly declined in state schools and classicists have predicted that it could disappear altogether in the next decade.

In 1988, 16,023 students were entered for GCSE, with 53 per cent from state schools. However, since 2000 only about 10,000 pupils annually have entered for GCSE Latin, with only 37 per cent from the state sector.

Lady Morgan said that the number of younger children studying Latin had already risen sharply over the past decade following Government investment in computer software and other teaching tools.

There are only two teacher-training courses in Latin, at Cambridge University and King’s College London. Therefore, the number of Latin teachers is falling rapidly as staff retire.

Bob Lister, a lecturer in classics education at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC: “Unless someone at a senior level comes up with serious ways of supporting Latin I fear that within the next generation it will pretty much disappear.”

He added: “We don’t want to be seen to be dumbing down the classics but for an average school student who doesn’t start to learn Latin until they are 13, GCSE Latin is extremely hard work.”

Meanwhile, peers have also asked to be given access to Latin lessons in the House of Lords. Baroness O’Cathain, a Conservative peer, asked for Latin courses to be added a list of 10 modern languages on offer to peers.

Primary curriculum to be changed radically

So, yet another educational change proposed.

According to the BBC news site,

The report from government adviser Sir Jim Rose wants to create a more flexible, less “overloaded” timetable.

As I’ve noted before, when the National Curriculum was proposed I assumed that it would provide for a minimum of stuff that every child would be expected to know, and that individual schools and teachers would be able to organise their teaching as usual, provided that this minimum was included.

I became more and more horrified as I learned just how all-embracing the NC was going to be.

Now at last, many years later, it looks as though primary schools are to have something more like my original expectations. There are to be six areas of learning:

  • understanding English, communication and languages
  • mathematical understanding; scientific and technological understanding
  • scientific and technological understanding
  • human, social and environmental understanding
  • understanding physical health and well-being
  • understanding the arts and design

My fear is that civil servants in the education department will take these as the outline which they will colour in (to use, clumsily, a primary school image) with just as much prescriptive jargon as before. Give the whole schools section of the department an extended holiday while the report is handed to schools – as guidance rather than command – and then let them come back from holiday and turn their attention to something else, like repairing leaking classrooms. Leave teaching to teachers.

Number One Son was at primary school before the NC came in, and was caused by a trendy teacher to spend a whole term writing and illustrating a project on birds. Nothing else, as far as I could see. No textbooks in the classroom. The headmaster assured me that Number One Son would reach the same levels as if he had had conventional teaching (and in fact he got a good Cambridge Classics degree); but perhaps the NC was devised to avoid extremes like that.

It is encouraging that the first area of learning is to be “understanding English, communication and languages” – languages plural.

The all-party Parliamentary Classics Group

A friend has given me the url (web address) giving the officers and members of the all-party parliamentary Classics group. It is

The group is chaired by Michael Fallon; the treasurer is Tim Loughton. Contact details:

Mr Michael Fallon MP, House of Commons, London SW1A OAA. Tel: 020 7219 6482