The Classical Association is offering five bursaries for state sector teachers to study A level Classical Civilisation flexibly with NEC. Bursary recipients will be able to begin studying in September 2023 and to complete their Classical Civilisation A level either in June 2024 or June 2025.

Gráinne Cassidy, Education Co-ordinator at The Classical Association and Claire Woozley, Regional Lead Practitioner for English at Ormiston Academies and a current student on NEC’s A level Classical Civilisation course, joined us to present a webinar on The Case for Classics in Schools. 

In Part 2 of this ‘long-read’ blog series adapted from the webinar, Claire shares her reflections on how she has built Classics within her school’s network.

You can watch the full webinar here

The closing date for applications for the bursaries is 8th September 2023. You can read more about the bursaries and how to apply on our website

Why study Classics as a teacher?

Last year Claire was awarded one of the Classical Association’s bursaries to study A level Classical Civilisation with NEC. As a full-time teacher and parent, Claire explains how she has managed her study alongside her other commitments, and why other teachers should consider studying Classics. 

An English teacher, English graduate and a medievalist, Claire grasped the opportunity to study A level Classical Civilisation. On her opening slide she shows an image of the Greek God Kairos, the representation of opportunity, and urges teachers to take opportunities both for themselves as practitioners and for their students. 

During her time as a teacher, Claire has seen a cultural shift and a better recognition of the importance of texts taught in schools and the opportunity to go right back to the beginnings of many subjects that are taught – not just humanities subjects but science as well. So why is it worth taking the opportunity to study Classics?

“So many of our words in science come from Greek and Latin and it’s an important part of how our scientific knowledge and culture has developed. There is a beautiful and interesting combination in classical subjects and Ancient History of both the familiar and the unfamiliar. One of the first texts you’ll study if you take the opportunity to take the A level in Classical Civilisation is The Odyssey. An example of the familiar and the unfamiliar is when Odysseus shows off to the Cyclops and reveals who he is. That is very familiar – the notion of arrogance is something that we really identify with on a human level. That and the sense of his deep grief and longing for his family from whom he has been separated for so long. 

“At the same time it is deeply unfamiliar. The Gods, the monsters, even the cultural references that are embedded in The Odyssey and The Aeneid and other cultural texts that form part of A level Classical Civilisation including Oedipus and religious texts.

“It’s a completely different way of understanding God. It’s fascinating, enriching and frustrating. There are amazing stories in classical literature. It contains all of the content that makes multi-billion selling series of books – magic, monsters, heroes. Odysseus is brave and incredibly witty, but he’s not straightforward. He spends a lot of time with goddesses who are not his wife. He’s a complicated character and we have to think about how much we admire him.”

Learning about the classical world is stripping back the basic facts of the human condition to stories about people and their relatable human reactions. It’s the origin of so much of our society and the words that we use everyday. Claire believes that it is important that the Classics are opened up to all students regardless of the school they attend or their place in society. 

Ormiston Academies (OAT), the Trust that she works for, are passionate about social justice and ending disadvantage. The study of Classics and Ancient History plays an important part in that.

Gráinne’s analogy, in Part 1 of this blog series, of the Classics providing a long lens through which we look deep into the past to help us better understand cause and action and consequence, is a useful one for teachers of all subjects. “Classics gives you more in your toolbox,” says Claire. “It gives you another filter and another lens to look through; another way of seeing things. That’s really exciting and lets you make all of these new connections.”

As a teacher of English, studying the Classics has, says Claire, provided her with new perspectives on old familiars, texts that she has taught for a long time and knows well, “The more you peel them back the more there is to know about them.” 

Understanding Chaucer and Shakespeare through the lens of Pyramus and Thisbe, or understanding Lady Macbeth through the lens of Medea and Clytemnestra has changed how she sees things. “She (Lady Macbeth) goes from being really normbreaking, terrifying, nothing like a woman in the 16th Century would be …. except she’s just like women in Greek tragedy,” says Claire, “in fact, she’s not even as bad as they are. It’s really helped me to understand all of these different kinds of references.”

Integrating Classics in to your teaching

At OAT they have included more ancient text into their Year 7 English curriculum, including the Epic of Gilgamesh which comes from what is modern day Iran and Iraq and is the oldest form of existing literature. “It’s a great story and Year 7 loves it. It’s a really interesting story. It broadens their horizons and gets them to think about the world in contradictory and complex ways.”

Heavyweight writers and thinkers like Natalie Haynes, Pat Barker and Margaret Atwood, are reclaiming classical stories and turning them into something very different. They are finding the women’s voices and giving them real strength and power, “Medusa is becoming the face of our unspoken rage, what a great thing to talk about with our students,” says Claire. 

As a regional lead, Claire advises, supports and guides seven schools in the eastern region. Ancient texts have been added to modern units to create broad and ambitious curricula. For example Oedipus Tyrannus has been added to their tragedy units so that students study Oedipus and then they study Othello. Then they study A View from a Bridge and then they study Things Fall Apart. So they are seeing through that long lens the history of an art form. 

“Adding more modern text to some old familiars – Duffy’s poem about Medusa, extracts from Natalie Haynes, and the opening chapter from Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, we are really adding enrichment to things that are familiar, and this has been very well received by teachers and students,” says Claire. 

The Trust has added ideas about rhetoric into public speaking and debating competitions and are looking at opportunities to enrich their students’ learning. “One school is trying to get together a trip to Rome to broaden students’ experiences. But it could be as simple as putting on a Greek tragedy or talking about Roman history or reading some speeches or philosophy from the time.

“This all expands the offer in Key Stage 4 and beyond. So many doors are shut off for students, there are so many forums in which they are not allowed and they find it hard to break into conversations. The purpose of teachers is to help them to do that. To push the doors open and to give them the words and vocabulary, the cultural knowledge and the confidence, to have a seat at the table and have something to say.”

In the nine months since Claire began her study of A level Classical Civilisation the schools she has worked with have added: 

  • The Odyssey by Simon Armitage (a text she recommends) to Year 7
  • Aristophanes (a brief excerpt) to Year 8
  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus to Year 9 – this is really about Clytemnestra and very popular with students 
  • Oedipus Tyrannus to Year 9.

OAT plans to extend the offer of Classics at GCSE to more schools in the Trust. 

Encouraging teachers in a range of subjects to enhance their curricula through the study of the Classics is something that Claire feels is important. An example is the importance of root words in STEM such as ‘photo’ coming from the Greek word for light and ‘chrono’ from the Greek word for time, and difficult words in maths becoming much easier to understand. 

Finding time for study 

For any teachers considering applying for a Classical Association bursary to study A level Classical Civilisation with NEC Claire recommends:

  • Planning – this is important as otherwise it’s too easy for your study not to happen.
  • Habit stack – find activities that can be done on top of other things that you have to do. For example if you are a passenger in a car is there information you can scroll through and read. If you are ironing can you listen to a podcast?
  • Identify other sources of information as well as your course – podcasts (Claire recommends Natalie Haynes Stands up for the Classics), reading – whether fiction or non-fiction.
  • Do your reading and shorter tasks during term time and plan your longer pieces of work during school holidays. 

She ends by saying, “It’s really interesting and it’s great to be a student again. I really enjoy the self-directed and self-paced study but also like the idea of that sense of there’s a bit more to it and I’m immersing myself in that world. What’s really helpful about distance learning is the flexibility, it removes stress over deadlines.”


If you are interested in applying for a bursary from the Classical Association to study A level Classical Civilisation with NEC but want to see if the Classics is for you first we recommend that you take the opportunity to listen to some podcasts on the subject or do some initial reading. There are many books available that you could read by authors including Natalie Haynes, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Fry and Professor Dame Mary Beard to name just a few. 

There are many current reiterations of the classical world and as well as reading and listening to podcasts there are opportunities to watch plays about the classical world through National Theatre at Home and other platforms. 

There are many translations of the classical texts and you will be able to find a translation that works for you. Gráinne recommends The Odyssey as a great starting point – the questionable decisions of a questionable man.  

To find out more about the Classics visit the Classical Association website or contact Gráinne at

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