Classical Capital.

Greek templeStudying early civilizations helps us understand how people built sustainable ways of living together and made sense of the world many centuries before us. These civilizations have contributed so much to our own that studying them must form part of any broad curriculum. This instalment of the analysis of A-level provision in London takes a look at Classical Civilization, Ancient History, Archaeology, Latin and Greek.

Classical Civilization

A-level Classical Civilization is more popular than one might expect and is strong in publicly-funded sixth forms. A total of 608 students were entered for the subject in London putting it above Music, Dance, Philosophy (in publicly-funded providers), German and all other languages other than French and Spanish. 77% of all entries come from publicly funded sixth forms and average cohort sizes are relatively high at 8.5; larger than for any of the language subjects and with the 11 colleges offering the subject showing average cohort size of 11.5. By comparison, the average cohort size in the private sector is 3.7.

However, as with so many of the smaller entry subjects, provision is patchy across London. 7 boroughs have no provision at all,  a further 5 have no publicly funded provision at all and in 6 boroughs the publicly funded provision is in single figures.

A-level Classical Civilization entries and number of centres: Entries/no. of centres

London borough Schools* Colleges* Private
Barking 0 0 0
Barnet 17/3 28/1 9/4
Bexley 38/4 0 0
Brent 0 0 0
Bromley 36/2 0 0
Camden 38/6 1/1 2/1
City of London 0 0 3/1
Croydon 4/1 0 9/3
Ealing 0 0 0
Enfield 5/1 0 0
Greenwich 0 0 6/1
Hackney 7/3 7/2 0
Hamm. & Fulham 0 0 8/2
Haringey 12/1 0 19/2
Harrow 9/3 21/1 5/2
Havering 36/3 17/2 0
Hillingdon 9/1 0 5/2
Hounslow 19/3 0 0
Islington 0 0 0
Ken. & Chelsea 12/1 0 14/5
Kingston 3/1 0 5/2
Lambeth 0 0 11/2
Lewisham 0 0 0
Merton 0 0 0
Newham 7/1 14/1 0
Redbridge 33/3 0 6/1
Richmond 0 25/1 8/4
Southwark 0 0 14/2
Sutton 41/5 0 2/1
Tower Hamlets 0 0 0
Waltham Forest 0 3/1 7/1
Wandsworth 5/1 11/1 11/2
Westminster 9/1 0 7/3
London total: 340/44 127/11 151/41
Average cohort size: 7.7 11.5 3.7

*Publicly funded

Ancient History

A-level Ancient History is very much a minority subject with only 41 entries spread across 10 centres in the whole of London. All but one of these sixth forms are private fee-charging schools although the publicly funded centre does have a healthy entry of 13 candidates.


A-level Archaeology is even more ‘endangered’ with a grand total of 5 entries from 2 sixth forms – 4 of these were from Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc).

What about Latin and Greek?

The value of studying Latin and Classical Greek at A-level may be debatable but they are attracting entries across London and clearly have currency and recognition. These ‘dead’ languages are obviously a minority choice and provision is more heavily skewed towards private providers.

A-level Latin

330 sixth formers were entered for A-level Latin in London last year, making it the 4th most popular A-level language subject in the city after French, Spanish and German and ahead of Turkish, Italian and Chinese.

Latin entries are far more skewed towards private schools with 69% of all candidates coming from private fee-charging schools – this is quite different from French where the private sector accounts for 36% of candidates. A-level Latin was offered in 72 sixth forms, of which 47 were private fee-charging schools. Average group sizes are reasonably healthy compared to those for some other languages: 4.9 students per group in the private sector and 4.0 in the publicly-funded sector.

7 London boroughs had no Latin entries from any type of sixth form: Barking, Hackney, Havering, Hounslow, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets. Overall, 13 boroughs have no publicly-funded providers with Latin entries, a list which also includes the following 6 boroughs: Haringey, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond and Waltham Forest.

A-level Classical Greek

Across the capital, 72 sixth formers entered the A-level placing it in 13th place out of the total of 21 languages offered (including Latin and Classical Greek) – just above Urdu (64 entries) and just below Persian (83 entries).

If private providers dominate in the provision of A-level Latin, this is even more the case with Classical Greek. 86% of entries come from 19 private fee-charging sixth forms with nearly a quarter of the London total coming from just 2 schools (St. Paul’s and St. Paul’s Girls). Only 5 publicly-funded sixth forms offer the subject at all.


As with other ‘minority’ subjects examined in this series, the availability and viability of these subjects could certainly benefit from a more collaborative approach between London sixth form providers.

See also:

A level languages in London (February 2016)

Accessing the IB Diploma (February 2016)

A level minority report: Dance, Music, Philosophy (February 2016)

More sixth formers doing research projects (February 2016)

A sixth form profile for the ‘Local London’ area (February 2016)


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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