Improving Access to Classical Studies in Museums and Schools

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Classics


This follow-on project seeks to improve access to the study of Classical Civilisation and Ancient History by working in partnership with Liverpool World Museum (LWM) and OCR examination board, and alongside the Museum of Classical Archaeology (MOCA) as a collaborator, to provide subject knowledge enhancement training for teachers, curriculum-linked support materials, gallery trails and workshops for teachers and students which deepen the impact of studying the ancient world and engage new audiences. Our previous AHRC-funded research 'Studying Classical Civilisation in Britain: recording the past and fostering the future' uncovered a wealth of historical evidence pointing to the educative value of Classics as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. Today, only a fraction-around 10%-of Britain's teenagers have access to the study of the Greeks and Romans at school, and the majority of these are in the independent sector. This is a problem of social justice which our research and active dissemination strategies aim to ameliorate by taking the Classical world to new audiences. Our project with MOCA focuses on the mental well-being of young people in the community and we are confident that this approach offers an inclusive pathway to engaging new audiences of teenagers, whose schools do not currently offer Classical subjects.

The current Ofsted framework examines the quality of the curriculum offered to pupils: 'inspectors will consider the extent to which schools are equipping pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life... helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement' (Ofsted 2019). This is an opportune moment for Classics to stage a comeback. Our research has identified that an efficient way to do this is via the study of the ancient world in translation. OCR's qualifications in Classical Civilisation and Ancient History can be taught by teachers who are specialists in allied subjects e.g. English, Drama, History, Philosophy or Religious Studies. Some curricular content is shared, and almost all the skills are transferable (Holmes-Henderson 2018). Yet these qualifications require promotion beyond the schools where Classics is traditionally taught. This is particularly the case in the North West of England. It is for this reason that we plan to work closely with LWM to amplify the dissemination of our original project's findings to teachers and students in schools in the north of England. There could be no better time to do this than in 2021, when LWM hosts its Classical exhibition. Holmes-Henderson visited the Lytham St. Annes Classical Association Branch in March 2020 (VE2) to judge a schools' competition and engaged with state school teachers from Bolton, Kirkton, Runshaw and Ashton-under-Lyne. These teachers requested help and support in their region, not 'always in London'.

'There is not currently enough money in state schools for textbooks, stationery and science equipment' (Weale and Adams, Guardian Article, 8th March 2019) so funding teacher professional development is a low priority for schools in times of budget cuts. Yet both the professional competency and personal morale of teachers is boosted by attending high-quality training which in turn improves student achievement in such high-stakes assessments as GCSEs and A Levels. Together with MOCA and LWM, we will provide free professional development for teachers (non-specialist, newly qualified and experienced) to ensure that our research findings reach new audiences and that they impact on learning communities around the UK. We will also improve the learning and teaching resources available for Classical Civilisation and Ancient History, by working with OCR and will make gallery guides so that prescribed objects in the British Museum are more accessible to teachers and students. Our follow-on funding proposals respond to requests from participants over the lifespan of our original project.


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