Developing Classics in Wales

by Evelien Bracke

I recently gave a presentation about the state of Classics in Welsh schools at the CA conference. At first glance, Classics is very much marginalised in Wales: no teacher training exists, only 11% of secondary schools offer Latin with a similar number offering non-linguistic Classics subjects, very few primaries offer it at all, and there is a wide north-south divide. Moreover, in many of the schools where Classics – in whatever shape, whether linguistic or not – is offered, the subject is under pressure (teachers not replaced when they leave, lack of students due to a crowded curriculum, teachers lacking awareness of its uses,…).

The South West Wales Classical Association organises lots of community events in South Wales (see my previous post).  Through this we continue to increase awareness among local communities, yet impact remains, unavoidably, local.

I said at the CA that I look with envy at Classics in England.  However, the recent establishment of the Cymru Wales Classics Hub (CWCH) has already led to exciting and encouraging developments: it has brought teachers together from all over (at least South and Mid) Wales in a dynamic and passionate group. Swansea University hosted our first inset day in November 2015 and first annual conference in February of this year.  The three universities offering Classics in Wales – Swansea, Cardiff, and Trinity Saint David – have now decided to collaborate by hosting events alternately so teachers can benefit from the expertise of different institutions and there is a stronger geographical spread.  We have also set up a working group on Classics through the medium of Welsh (an important requirement if we want to put Classics back on the curriculum).

Meiros Richardson (centre) receives the award for most innovative teacher at the first CWCH conference, with Evelien Bracke and Kyle Erickson (Head of Classics at University of Wales Trinity Saint David)

CWCH was initially set up in preparation for my meeting with the Welsh Minister for Education, Huw Lewis, in November 2015, to discuss the possibility of re-introducing Classics into the Welsh curriculum and teacher training.  Thanks to generous funding and support from the Classical Association and Classics for All, CWCH can now start building onto the foundations that are already present in Wales and work together with the Welsh Government on hopefully introducing Classics at primary and secondary school in some shape or form in the next five years (though with several elections in the meantime, anything can still change, of course).  We are currently planning the following for 2016-2017:

  • translation of Latin-English resources into Welsh and creation of new resources (May 2016)
  • second inset day at Cardiff University (September 2016)
  • Latin teaching starting in a pioneer school to be used as a model for others in Wales (starts September 2016)
  • Latin weekend workshop for existing school teachers interested in offering it.  Teachers will be given a mentor and invited to attend our other events (2016-2017)
  • second annual conference at Gregynog (February 2017)
  • Latin workshops for PGCE students of other subjects in South and North Wales (February 2017)
  • third inset day at Trinity Saint David (late 2017)

Lots of exciting developments are thus ahead of us, and we look forward to the next steps.

For more information, please visit our website. All our events will be advertised there as well as by the Classical Association and on social media (twitter: @Evelien_Bracke).

If you would like to stay informed on teaching and learning of Classics in Wales, please do join our mailing list. Our email address is classicsinwales@swansea.ac.ukif you would like to send an email to reach all participants of the group. If you have any questions or would like to get involved, feel free to email me (e.bracke@swansea.ac.uk).

Dr Evelien Bracke is Senior Lecturer in Classics and School Liaison Officer in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Swansea.  She is also Chair of the South West Wales branch of the Classical Association and Co-ordinator of the Literacy through Classics Project. 

The Classical Association has recently awarded a grant of £10,000 over two years to the Cymru Wales Classics Hub in support of its programme of activities in 2016 and 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Classics in Communities Project

by Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson

Background, purpose and aims

The Classics in Communities project  is a partnership between the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Iris Project. It was set up to raise the profile of Classical languages in the primary sector and to widen access to the learning of Latin and Greek. The project particularly targets schools where Classical languages have not previously featured on the curriculum. It has twin aims: to equip teachers in primary schools with the skills and knowledge necessary to teach these languages; and to conduct parallel research to determine the impact of Classical language learning on children’s cognitive development.

What has been achieved to date?

Widening Access to Latin and Greek in schools and communities: conferences

Two conferences have been held, one in Oxford (2013) and one in Cambridge (2015), where language practitioners, school leaders, policy makers and academics met to share good practice in Classical language teaching, and discuss the role of Latin and Greek in the school curriculum in the 21st century.

Classical Languages regional teacher-training workshops

In 2014-2015, teacher training workshops were held in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast. These regional events were hosted by universities or schools and helped bring together those primary teachers interested in teaching Latin and Classical Greek with experienced teachers. Training was provided and useful teaching resources shared. The participants found the workshops very helpful (feedback was gathered via questionnaires) and are now helping to provide data for the ongoing research arm of the project.

Research

  • Quantitative Data collection in partnership with The Latin Programme (London), the Iris Project (nationwide).
  • Qualitative data collection with school leaders, teachers, pupils and parents through school visits.

Results

Initial analysis of the data reveals positive trends in the development of literacy skills, when a Classical language is used as the medium for (or supplement to) literacy learning. For example, at a large state primary school in outer London, where 51% of students have Special Educational Needs, 82% speak English as an additional language (i.e. they are native speakers of languages other than English) and 69% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, the results of teaching literacy through Latin are very compelling. After one year, 60% of pupils had progressed at least 2 sub-levels beyond their predicted literacy level. After two continuous years of Latin, 75% of pupils had progressed at least 2 sub-levels beyond their predicted literacy level, with many progressing 4 sub-levels beyond their prediction. By the end of 3 years of Latin, 86% of pupils had made this giant leap in literacy attainment. Similar results can be seen in schools across London, East Oxford and the West Midlands where baseline and interim data are currently being collected.

What next?

Thanks to generous funding from the Classical Association, phase 2 of the research project will evaluate the effect of teaching/learning Classical languages on student outcomes and teachers’ professional development, and will assess the impact and reach of the project. The data will continue to be analysed and the results will be disseminated through various channels during 2016-2018. A book (Forward with Classics! Classical Languages in Schools and Communities) will be published by Bloomsbury, and will bring together international examples of good practice in Classics education.

Teaching resource videos will be recorded and uploaded online, helping less experienced teachers of Classical languages to see the content and pedagogical elements of a ‘model lesson’.

We will provide additional teacher training workshops in 2016. These will be held in Liverpool, Leeds and Nottingham. The workshops are free of charge for teachers and include initial training in Latin and Greek, alongside pedagogical advice and resource sharing. Follow-up funding is available from Classics for All and financial assistance for purchasing classroom resources is also available. More details can be found on the Classics in Communities website (http://classicsincommunities.org/financial-support/).

Please contact Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson  to register your interest, suggest a location for a workshop, or for more details (arlene.holmes-henderson@classics.ox.ac.uk).

The Classics in Communities project has recently been awarded a Major Research Grant of £30,000 over the next three years by the Classical Association.  

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is a language education specialist and advisor on language policy and assessment to a number of exam boards and organisations around the world. She is currently an academic in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford where she leads research for the Classics in Communities project.

 

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Spring Books 2016

by Philip Hooker

The Bookseller’s Buyer’s Guide is now published – and these are some of the books on classical themes which publishers think will be of interest to the general reader.  (Plus some others recently reviewed).

The highlighted book is Paul Cartledge’s Democracy: A Life, due in April.   This describes how it was born, developed, eclipsed in the ancient world, how it was revived in the 18th century and has developed to the present century. The best recently reviewed is Daisy Dunn with Catullus’ Bedspread, a literary biography, but a highly imaginative one, given that the poems constitute most of the source material (and are freshly translated in a separate volume).   Most have hailed this as a tour de force.  The top paperback must be Mary Beard’s SPQR, due in April; it was the runaway history bestseller in hardback (with £1m in sales).   Emily Wilson’s Seneca is out in paperback in March.

Tim Whitmarsh had Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World published in November, now reviewed; Paul Rahe had The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta : The Persian Challenge out in January; Richard Tarrant has Texts, Editors, and Readers : Methods and Problems in Latin Textual Criticism due in March.     In more popular vein, we note David Stuttard with Greek Mythology: A Traveller’s Guide from Mount Olympus to Troy (due March), Caroline Moorehead with Priam’s Gold: Schliemann and the Lost Treasures of Troy (due February) and Laurel Fulkerson with Ovid : A Poet on the Margins (due June).    David J Breeze and Patricia Southern both have books on the Roman Army out in February.   The next big British Museum exhibition is ‘Sunken Cities’, featuring works from Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, recently discovered off Egypt, commencing 17 May ; the accompanying book is entitled Egypt meets Greece.   Plutarch’s Hellenistic Lives (including Alexander) is now an OUP World Classic, translated by Robin Waterfield.     Henry Cullen and John Taylor have a new two-volume textbook Latin to GCSE, due April.

Among works of fiction we note Emily Hauser with For The Most Beautiful, a new version of the Iliad, from the women’s point of view, out in January, Simon Cartlidge with The Pomegranate Ring, set in Bronze Age Greece, featuring Peleus and the search for the Golden Fleece and Sarah Walton with Rufius, set in 4th century Alexandria (“passions are hot and books are burning”) – all debut novels.  We have the latest Lindsey Davis The Graveyard of the Hesperides, Simon Scarrow – Invader (with T J Andrews), Harry Sidebottom – Fire and Sword and Robert FabbriThe Furies of Rome.   We also note Nick Brown with The Emperor’s Silver, John Henry Clay with At the Ruin of the World and Rosemary Rowe with The Ides of June.   Seamus Heaney’s last work was a translation of Aeneid Book 6, which influenced much of his writing, due March.   And the most intriguing revival is a translation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar, a novel written in 1937-9 (but unfinished), filmed in 1972, for the first time in English.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!

 

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Screen and Stage 2016

by Philip Hooker

Information on most major films to be released in 2016 and most UK stage productions in the first half of 2016 is now available.  These are the items of classical interest:

On the big screen, there will be a brief opportunity to catch Dragon Blade, the Chinese answer to Gladiator, with Jackie Chan and two warring Roman generals on the Great Silk Road; it apparently looks good, the battles are impressive, though the script may be ropey and the sense of history poor.  It is released in the UK on 15 January; most people will have to look for it on Sky Store.

Next up is Chi-Raq, Spike Lee’s version of Lysistrata set in modern gangster-ridden Chicago, written in verse, with Nick Cannon and Teyonah Parris in the lead roles.  (The women campaign for gun control).  It had a brief release in US cinemas in December, but is funded and distributed by Amazon, so it will probably not be seen in UK cinemas, just on Amazon Prime.

There are several films with classical-sounding titles, but no real classical content.   Hail Caesar has George Clooney dressed as an Emperor, but this is really all about Hollywood. Imperium is all about how the FBI foiled a terrorist bomb plot.  Interruption, a Greek film by Yorgos Zios, starts in a theatre presenting Greek tragedy, then some young people dressed in black, with guns, take over and call for some audience participation.  It impressed at the Venice film festival and may come to art-houses.

The new version of Ben Hur is now scheduled for release on 26 August.

On the UK stage, 2015 was the year of the three major Oresteias; we can report a fourth one in Glasgow, commencing 11 April.  It is called The Restless House and is an adaptation by Zinnie Harris, in two parts, a National Theatre of Scotland production at the Citizens Theatre, directed by Dominic Hill.  The Gate theatre in London has an Iphigenia Quartet from 23 April over two evenings – four young playwrights (Caroline Bird, Suhayla El Bushra, Lulu Raczka and Chris Thorpe) reimagine events at Aulis from the viewpoints of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Iphigenia and the Chorus.

Elsewhere, there is a tour of Iphigenia in Splott by Gary Owen (modern life in Cardiff), an Iliad in Edinburgh, an Odyssey in Southampton, a Trojan Women in Bristol and dance versions of Medea and the Odyssey which will both visit Oxford.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!

 

 

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CA Teaching Board Chair’s Roundup of 2015

by Genevieve Lively

It’s now been a year since JACT reformed as the JACT Summer Schools Trust (JSST) and moved its other core activities to continue under the auspices of the Classical Association. Here’s an overview of some of the things we’ve been doing in the last twelve months.

The Classical Association Teaching Board

To oversee the safe transition of activities and resources from JACT to the CA, the Classical Association Teaching Board (CATB) was convened in October 2014. Alongside members of the CA Executive, the ordinary membership of the Board comprises an exams officer and four subject leads representing the former JACT sub-committees (Latin, Greek, Ancient History, and Classical Civilization) – which have now become informal subject advisory groups. Representatives from the exam boards (OCR, AQA and WJEC), the Council for University Classics Departments (CUCD), the Association for Latin Teaching (ArLT), and the editors of Omnibus and The Journal of Classics Teaching also attend meetings.  The Board is now formally constituted as a committee of the Classical Association charged with responsibility for:

  • monitoring, responding to, and leading on developments which might affect the teaching of Classics and Ancient History at all levels
  • assessing initiatives which might promote the teaching of Classics and Ancient History at all levels
  • advising CA officers on the above and making appropriate recommendations to CA Council.

Curriculum reform

Together with our fellow subject groups, the CATB has been lobbying hard to secure revisions to the proposed Latin and Greek GSCE reforms and to ensure that both Classical Civilization and Ancient History were approved as distinct GCSE and A/AS Level qualifications.  Activities included letters to and meetings with OFQUAL and DfE, liaison with awarding bodies, coordinated responses to public consultations, and meetings with relevant government ministers.  The Times carried a letter and an article on this subject on 23 February 2015 and lobbying of OFQAL and DfE on the proposed changes to the top tier grading system for GCSE continues, amidst fears that this will have a negative impact particularly upon Latin and Greek.  As part of this lobbying we have also reiterated (loudly) teachers’ concerns that the Government’s planned decoupling of AS from A level will threaten the viability of Classical subjects in many schools (notwithstanding the efforts of the awarding bodies to ensure that the AS and A levels are co-teachable to the greatest extent possible).  On a more positive note we were able to welcome the final A Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB) recommendations on reforms to A and AS Latin and Greek, particularly the fact that prose composition remains an option only.

CA INSET events in 2015

Continuing JACT’s support for INSET, the CATB focused its first INSET activities on Classical Civilization and Ancient History teaching. Two successful events took place in 2015: Cambridge hosted a Classical Civilization event in June and Leeds hosted an Ancient History event in November. The CA offered funding towards bursaries for teachers to cover the costs of attending these events and hopes to further develop its INSET activities in the future.

Transfer of JACT Resources

The ArLT have generously agreed to host the back catalogue of JACT resources on their website – with a link from the CA website taking browsers there.  Now that we have a clear sense of existing resources we can start to identify gaps and work towards producing new materials (suggestions so far include notes to advise teachers on topics such as: school trips, starting Greek, primary Latin, employability, and teacher training) and we welcome suggestions for other resources that we might commission in the future.

Looking Ahead to 2016                                 

Our priorities for 2016 are to continue building upon the successful transfer of activities from JACT to the CA; to further develop online and print resources for teachers (in accord with the new qualifications and curricula); to continue to act as teachers’ advocates in the final round of government consultation on qualification reform (particularly the GCSE grading boundaries, and the new specifications for Classical Civilization and Ancient History); and to work closely with our fellow subject groups in championing the teaching of Greek in schools. We hope you will let us know what else we should be doing…

Dr Genevieve Lively (g.liveley@bristol.ac.uk) is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Classics & Ancient History at the University of Bristol, and is Chair of the Classical Association Teaching Board.

You can read more about the first two CA-sponsored INSET days at Cambridge and Leeds in the reports published on the Blog on 23 October and 21 December.

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Perspectives on Greek History: a Classical Association INSET day

by Penny Goodman and Peter Liddel

On 21st November 2015, the Classical Association Teaching Board held its first INSET day for teachers of ancient history.  The event was funded jointly by the University of Leeds and the Classical Association, and spanned two locations: the University’s magnificent Parkinson Building and the galleries of Leeds City Museum.

The Parkinson Building, University of Leeds © Tim Green

The focus for the day was Ancient Greek History, and the aim to show how a wide range of classroom approaches might be applied to encourage students to engage with the sources and important historical issues.  The morning began with Emma Stafford’s plenary lecture, ‘The Curse of 300? Popular Culture and the Teaching of the Spartans’, which surveyed the appearance of the ancient Spartans in modern literature, cinema, and video games.  Dr Stafford underlined the wide range of literary and political themes which emerge out of the modern ‘Spartan mirage’, and demonstrated ways in which modern cinematic representations of ancient Sparta might be used in the classroom for getting to grips with the uses of the past.  As she noted, Zack Snyder’s 300: Rise of an Empire has even been deployed as a resource for pre-battle combat training!

After coffee, there were four workshop sessions.  David Hodgkinson (St Helen and St Katharine, Abingdon) offered a seminar on the teaching of Socrates, underlining the importance of placing him within the context of democratic Athens in the late fifth century BC.  Alex Orgee from OCR gave an update on the revisions to Ancient History at A-level and GCSE, and sought comments and feedback from teachers on the new draft criteria and specifications.  Roger Brock (University of Leeds), in ‘Looking Afresh at Herodotus’ Persian Wars’, surveyed recent Herodotean scholarship, placing emphasis on both the rehabilitation of Herodotus as a military historian and also the Histories as a source for perspectives on Greek and Persian ideologies.  Nina Wallace (Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke) showed how it is possible to make Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War accessible to a wide range of students: with great clarity she outlined a range of tasks and tools for tackling this complex work.

After lunch, delegates moved to Leeds City Museum.  Here, Peter Liddel (University of Manchester) talked about the teaching of Greek epigraphy.  He noted that the current A-level specifications neglect the potential of Greek inscriptions, but that online resources such as Stephen Lambert’s Attic Inscriptions Online are increasingly making them accessible to a wider audience in English translations.  Meanwhile, the museum’s Learning & Access Officer, Natalie Burns, gave a tour of the Ancient Worlds Gallery.  Natalie showed the group how to get pupils thinking about the legibility of ancient inscriptions and revealed that small museum collections are often particularly useful for helping students to compare artefacts from different periods, as they are often displayed close together or even side by side.

An inscribed arbitration relating to a dispute between Paros and Naxos, on display in Leeds City Museum © www.bridgemanimages.com

The format used for this INSET day was clearly extremely successful.  The generous sponsorship of the Classical Association and the University of Leeds meant that attendance could be offered free of charge, and travel bursaries awarded to a small number of delegates who lacked access to institutional funding.  As a result, around 50 teachers and students of ancient history from schools and universities across England attended, and, to judge from their feedback, got a great deal of value and enrichment out of the day. It was also an excellent opportunity for Classics at Leeds to showcase its expertise and facilities to an audience of teachers – who are of course crucial advocates for student recruitment – and to build on its existing relationship with the local city museum.  So there is a great deal to be gained from INSET days on this model for all concerned.  We ourselves are currently developing plans for another one next year, this time focused on the Romans and located somewhere in the south of England; and can only recommend that other schools and universities get involved.

Dr Penny Goodman is a Lecturer in Classics at the University of Leeds and Dr Peter Liddel is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Manchester.

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Classics in South West Wales – an update

by Evelien Bracke

On the 26th November, WalesOnline featured the headline ‘Could Latin be set for a comeback in Welsh classrooms?’  In spite of the question mark, that the media picked up on all the Classics-related events that are going on is great news.

Since the re-launch of the South West Wales branch of the Classical Association in October 2011, we have worked ceaselessly – together with Swansea University and local schools – to broaden access to Classics in an area where it has been in steep decline since the 1980s.  Nationally, only 11% of Welsh secondaries and 0.8% of primaries offer Latin – compare that with 25% and 2% respectively in England.  Of Welsh secondaries, 64% of those offering Latin are independent schools, compared with 48% in England.  The majority of secondaries only offer Latin as an extra-curricular subject, usually for More Able and Talented pupils, and few schools encourage students to work towards an exam.  Engagement with and access to Latin in Wales is thus restricted to say the least.  I have no official figures for the provision of Classical cultures in Wales, but they are similar to those for Latin.

In South Wales, we are starting to reach people, though figures are still limited: since 2011, we have reached approximately 2,500 people directly through all our outreach activities (but as comments below demonstrate, more indirectly).  Feedback is always great and people keep coming back, which suggests we’re successful in what we offer.  We do have a traditional events programme like other CA branches, but since access to Classics is so limited, our focus lies mainly on more practical community engagement.

Reaching Schools

Together with Swansea University, we run annual projects in schools whereby university students teach Latin, Greek, or the Romans in Year 3/4. Through pupils’ attainment, entire families are engaging with the ancient world and languages, and barriers to Classics are thus broken at a wider level than merely for pupils.

 I talk about Latin to my friends/family.  I speak it and love it!  I will never ever forget you and your Latin sessions.  They mean everything to me.

I found it exciting to learn about how life used to be back then.  I also liked making stuff out of clay like the Romans.

I tell my mum, brother, cousins and dad what I’ve learnt.  I tell them that we make lovely things and do songs, go to past Roman times and play games.  (Thank you for the best time ever)!  Now my mum wants to learn Latin!

Last year, we organised the first ever Classics schools’ competition on the theme of ‘Crafting the Ancient World’, as well as a Latin and Greek translation competition.  Response was quite surprising, and we had more than 150 entries.  You can read about the winners on our website.  Thanks to CA support, we are now hosting the second competition on the theme of ‘Heroes in the Ancient World’.  The deadline is 1 July, but we have already had our first entries.

At school level, local engagement is thus clearly increasing.  In order to widen access for adults as well, we organised the first Swansea Summer School in Ancient Languages in 2015, which offered Latin, Greek, and Hieroglyphs.  It was lovely to meet new people and catch up with familiar faces (you can read a report here) and online registration for the second Summer School is already open.

Coming up ….

Our outreach programme is still developing.  We were delighted to receive a British Academy Schools’ Language Award, which has enabled us to offer free Latin classes at three South West Wales secondary schools from January 2016, for two school years (registration is still open).

We are also starting a large Year 3/4 programme with local libraries and museums in September 2016, linking ancient Greek and Welsh heritage, for all Swansea pupils.  The Romans are easier to promote because of their physical links with Wales – Greek heritage is less visible, which is why we want to target that more, particularly since young children love Greek myth and invariably become enchanted with the Greek alphabet when introduced to it.

Classics in Wales

Now that our outreach programme has become more established at a local level, we have also started collaborating with others on a national level.  In order to promote and support engagement with Classics in all of Wales, we set up the Cymru Wales Classics Hub (CWCH).  Cwch is Welsh for ‘boat’ and it refers to the transfer of knowledge, the start of a journey, and of course hints at the Argo as mythological prototype of a ship.   CWCH brings teachers together, and just from talking to each other, schools have already set up joint school trips and secondaries are now starting to offer Latin to local primaries, taught by their sixth-form students.  Our work is mainly confined to South and Mid Wales, however, and we have a long journey ahead to reach all of Wales.  Our first annual conference takes place on the 6th February 2016, and everyone is welcome to attend (registration is open online).

In Short….

Classics outreach in Wales is not straightforward, since – alongside the typical prejudices concerning elitism and uselessness – the political emphasis on Welsh further complicates matters.  Persuading schools that Welsh and Classics are not mutually exclusive is a tough task, and engagement with schools and museums often depends on passion for the subject by one individual.  The educational climate in Wales is changing, however, and with a new languages policy for Wales (Global Futures), access to ancient languages might improve along with that to modern foreign languages.  More news on that, hopefully, in the new year!

So … a ‘comeback’ for Classics in Wales?  I doubt we will ever again reach the point where, as in the past, Latin was compulsory at secondary school level, but that’s not the point – nor do we even have to reach tipping point.  What matters is that Classics becomes accessible to Welsh communities, so that people can experience how it adds value and meaning to their lives in a relevant way, namely by connecting with their own specific social, cultural, and political contexts.

Dr Evelien Bracke is a Lecturer in Classics and also Employability and School Liaison Officer in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Swansea.  She is also Chair of the South West Wales branch of the Classical Association and Co-ordinator for Wales of the Iris Project’s Literacy through Latin project. 

 

 

 

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Forty Years of the Guildford Classical Association

by Jeremy Antrich

My wife Ann and I, both Classics teachers, arrived in Surrey from Bristol in 1974. We had previously enjoyed meetings of BACT and the Bristol CA, but there was no local Classical organisation.  So we teamed up with some local teachers and in February 1975 the Guildford Branch of the Classical Association and the Guildford Region Association of Classical Teachers (GRACT) were created.  At our inaugural meeting Mark Hassall was our speaker.

Our first official event was a Wine Party – following the custom of the London Branch. Our second meeting was a film show about David Raeburn’s recent production of Euripides’ Bacchae at Bradfield College.  A committee was formally elected and our first President was John Henry, Chief Education Officer for Surrey County Council, and himself a Classicist.  He was followed by David Raeburn, then Norma Miller, and our current President is Edith Hall.

For forty years the Guildford Classical Association (as we became known) has presented lectures for the general public, talks, conferences and quizzes for schools, and in-service events for teachers, with the financial and practical support of Surrey County Council and the Classical Association.  Our speakers have been generally excellent, with some very high profile, such as Mary Beard, Natalie Haynes, Caroline Lawrence and Michael Scott. Throughout this period we have experienced considerable pressure upon minority subjects like Classics, especially in state schools.  Nevertheless, endlessly shifting educational requirements have effectively been met, and changing trends in the interests of the general public admirably catered for.

Occasional special events have included outings to Roman sites, and a drama event held in 1986, when students and teachers performed in scenes from Plautus and Molière under the direction of Theo Zinn, then teaching part-time at Charterhouse.

Theo Zinn in rehearsal for the Guildford CA drama event in 1986 (photo by J. Antrich)

Perhaps our most ambitious event took place in September 1984 – a Roman Day, held at the Guildford Royal Grammar School. There was a whole day of activities including cookery demonstrations, poster and model competitions, drama, gladiator fights, and presentations by the Ermine Street Guard. The event was publicised in the press and on TV, and attracted over 1,700 visitors.

It has become our custom to end each decade with a celebratory dinner. Our guest speakers have been Peter Jones, Brian Sparkes and Chris Carey – and, this September, myself, as a Vice-President and founder member. I took the opportunity to pay tribute to all those – not least the Committee members – who have enabled us to flourish over the last forty years.  I was pleased to report that membership had held up and that attendance at events was good.  The Guildford Classical Association is now looking forward to its next 40 years.

 GCA 40th Anniversary Dinner, September 2015 (photo by J. Antrich)

Jeremy Antrich is Honorary Vice-President of the Guildford Classical Association

Sheila Conway, Honorary Secretary of the Guildford branch, adds:  The Guildford Classical Association is fortunate in having a number of young, enthusiastic and imaginative committee members, who are keeping us up-to-date with current trends and examination requirements. We are replacing our annual Staff Development Days with termly twilight sessions, which we hope staff will find easier to attend.  Another innovation is our Certamen, an inter-school team quiz on the lines of University Challenge, which is light-hearted and fun and has proved extremely popular.

We are determined to live up to the high standards set by our founding members, with top quality and innovative events appealing to classicists of all ages.

The Classical Association has a number of affiliated organisations or ‘branches’ to whom it awards grants to support Classics in local areas. These are often (but not always) run out of university Classics departments and events include lectures, play readings and excursions.  Many branches are also active in organising outreach events involving local schools, including reading competitions and quizzes.  See the CA website for contact details for individual branches and our online calendar for information about forthcoming events.

 

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Another First for Cambridge: A CA Study Day for Teachers

by Max Kramer

On a Saturday in late June we were delighted to welcome around 20 teachers and trainees to Cambridge for our first ever GCSE Classical Civilisation Teachers’ Study Day. The programme was designed to provide academic enrichment from scholars working at Cambridge, an opportunity to develop innovative teaching methods, and included a forum for discussion on teaching Clas Civ. We ended the day with a feedback session, which allowed participants to suggest the shape for future teachers’ days and to give us guidance on how we develop our outreach and schools’ work as a whole.

The day began with two keynote lectures. The first, from Tim Whitmarsh, our new Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, focussed on the performance practices that lie behind the Homeric poems and the way in which they relate to the pre-existing poetic tradition. Dr Ingo Gildenhard, our Schools Liaison Officer, then spoke on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, beginning with the set text and showing how it could be related to the historical and cultural issues that are so central to the Clas Civ course, and its broader influence on the development of Western Culture.

After the lectures, the participants had the choice of two workshops: one, led by Stephen Harrison, the video maker behind much of our new website, looked at how film-making could effectively convey the excitement of the Classical world. Meanwhile, Jennie Thornber, our Museum Education & Outreach Co-ordinator, led a session in our famous cast gallery on how material culture could be used in the teaching of Clas Civ.

After the workshops we gathered together again for a general discussion chaired by Dr John Taylor, former head of Classics at Tonbridge School. Three of our participants took the lead and gave mini-presentations on using Kahoot quizzes, introducing “Clas Civ for literacy” into a school, and using Ben Hur as a way of revising the GCSE topic “A day at the races”. Then we had a broader discussion about techniques for teaching and issues in examining and promoting the subject. The final feedback session showed not only the teachers’ appreciation for the day but also the range of people present. Much to our surprise and delight a good number of those attending were not yet teaching Clas Civ but wanted to introduce it to their schools in the near future. So we promised that next year’s teachers’ day would include a special workshop on introducing Clas Civ for the first time, led by someone who had gone through the process themselves. The teachers present also provided vital guidance for us in shaping our first GCSE Clas Civ & Ancient History students’ study day, which took place in September. Many thanks to the CA’s generosity in funding what we hope will become a regular feature in our Cambridge calendar!  See here to find out what one of the participants thought.

Max Kramer is the Undergraduate Administrator in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge

The second CA INSET day on ‘The History of Ancient Greece and its Teaching’ will take place at Leeds on 21 November – see here for details.

 

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Creating ‘Early Myths’ for Children

by Simon Spence

In 2013 I started to tell some of the Greek myths to my daughter, who was 3 and a half years old.  At the time I looked for versions of the tales for a young audience and felt that many of the books were either aimed at an older age group or didn’t quite bring the myths to life in a colourful and inspiring manner. Having published my PhD a few years ago, I had some experience in self-publishing and so I decided to embark on creating my own series of books for children.

My first decision had to be format; print versus electronic. I quickly realised that electronic eBooks offered far more flexibility, especially given the subject matter. I wanted to keep the Greek names in the story but in printed form this would present a challenge to the kids and moreover, their parents at bedtime! So I decided to embrace the world of the iPad and look at producing an electronic book which would take advantage of images, audio and video, including sound buttons for the names.

The second aspect was which myth, or more particularly, which version of a myth to focus on. For my doctorate I wrote about the early versions of the myth of Jason and was always interested in sources up to the fifth-century B.C. I also specialised in visual art, scenes in vase painting and sculpture, and so decided to take this into the world of children’s books. The “Early Myths” collection was born, aiming to take the earliest versions of a myth and bring it to a young audience through colourful images and sounds.

I found a talented artist who shared my interest in looking at pots and we began to create a fun and colourful version of the tale of Perseus, attempting to remain faithful to the early sources along the way. The book was launched in late 2013 and won a bronze prize at the Moonbeam Children’s Awards 2014. Since then I have published Jason and the Golden Fleece and our latest book, Odysseus. The next in the collection will be Atalanta, due to be released at this November.

The books are picture books, aimed at 4 to 8 year olds with about fifteen images in each. When possible, I have tried to take vase-painting scenes or sculptures as inspiration for our images and each book has a “Notes for Grown Ups” section which explains how I selected parts of the tale and some details about the sources used.

The reaction to the books has been wonderful. Hearing tales back of kids reading about Perseus, Odysseus and Jason (instead of Disney’s Frozen!) has been both rewarding and completes a circle back to my own early childhood. I also plan to continue on to book number five in 2016.

From a publishing point of view it has also been very rewarding. Creating a series of books is open to everyone these days as tools like the Apple iBooks Store and Amazon Kindle means that authors can reach their audience no matter how niche that may seem and you do not have to go through the traditional publishing-house route. I would argue that many PhD students should look at publishing their findings for free on the iBooks Store, to present their work so that it is accessible to a wide research audience.

If you are interested in learning more about Early Myths, the books are available in the iBooks Store for the iPad, Mac or iPhone and versions are also available from the Kindle Store. Further information can be found on the website: www.earlymyths.com.

Classicist turned children’s book writer and IT specialist Dr Simon Spence studied at the University of Nottingham, taking the early visual evidence of some of the best known Greek myths as the subject of his own PhD studies.  

 

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