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Tuesday, 17 August, 1999, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Anglo-Saxon remains an option
Enthusiasts are delighted
Anglo-Saxon history is to stay on the A level syllabus, following a public outcry at the revelation that "1066 and all that" had become old hat.

A levels in Anglo-Saxon were to have been dropped because of a lack of interest from pupils.

But now the largest English exam board, OCR, has decided to re-instate the subject.

The about-turn follows the intervention of the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, who said exam boards had a responsibility to ensure that syllabuses were "educationally sound as well as commercially sensible".

Market forces

The OCR board had cited market forces in support of its decision to drop Anglo-Saxon history from its A level syllabus from next year, in line with other exam boards.

This year, out of 11,000 candidates studying for the board's history A levels, only 304 chose the syllabus covering the years 300 to 1500 - and of those, the board says only one in three answered questions on Anglo-Saxon history.

Last month, a spokesman said the board's decision was "responding to what students are interested in and what teachers can teach."

But Mr Blunkett asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to investigate "urgently".

Now OCR has said that after further consultation with universities and history teachers, it has changed its mind.

Next year it would be the only exam board to set Anglo-Saxon history at A level, a spokesman said.

john blair
Dr John Blair: "It can be made more interesting"
But he gave a warning that it might have to charge more to those sitting the subject.

Mr Blunkett said he was pleased to see that the board had reversed its earlier decision.

"It was clearly wrong to deprive A level students of the opportunity of studying and being examined in 600 years of English history simply because no exam board was prepared to offer the option," he said.

"I am glad that, following my intervention, the boards have recognised their responsibility to ensure that all their decisions are educationally sound as well as commercially sensible.

Expensive option

"A level history students can look forward to the opportunity to study Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor for the foreseeable future."

OCR's head of policy, Dr Ron McLone, said: "When we originally decided not to proceed with the Anglo-Saxon option in our new history A level, we were not aware that the two other English boards were dropping the period as well.

"It would be a great shame if studying the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history was simply not an option for A level candidates at all."

Consultation suggested there was "probably enough support for one board to continue with this option," he said.

"It will be expensive, but the commitment to the Saxon period is so strong among its supporters that we now believe we can find a way of financing it."

Teaching methods

A history expert at Oxford University, Dr John Blair, said the teaching of the subject perhaps needed to be re-thought.

"It's possibly got rather ossified and rather old-fashioned, based on the same range of written sources," he said.

"I think maybe if it was thought about again from scratch and we developed a new kind of school curriculum with new textbooks, which used all the huge advances in our understanding which have come through our research of the last 10 years, then people would suddenly see how exciting it was."

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19 Mar 99 | Education
Anglo-Saxon goes online
09 Sep 99 | Features
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