Blog

The history and future of Access Classics

THE EARLY DAYS

In early 2019, the UCD School of Classics decided to create a dedicated outreach programme for Classics to formalise our extensive work with second-level schools in Ireland. This programme, named Access Classics, with its core team of Ms Tasneem Filaih, Dr Christopher Farrell and Dr Bridget Martin, set out to determine how best the UCD School of Classics could facilitate the teaching and uptake of Classics at second level (thereby encouraging its uptake at third level) and open up the subject to students who do not have the opportunity to study it formally at school. We had a particular interest in reaching schools which traditionally do not offer Classics, for example DEIS schools, as inclusion and diversity have always been driving forces in the School’s outreach initiatives.

Jumping right in, we ran a pilot programme in three second-level schools to gauge the needs of both students and teachers and how we could best add to the fantastic work being done by the teachers. Our first visit was to St Aidan’s Community School in Tallaght, where Ms Suzanne McVicker very kindly gave us permission to introduce her engaged students to Classics. We had a great time chatting to the students about Alexander the Great, drawing connections between Greek tragedy and the modern world and introducing the Greek alphabet! We continued our fact-finding mission in Blackrock College, where Dr Louise Maguire organised sessions with four separate sets of lovely students! We spoke about Classics at third level with the 5th-year students, lured in the 3rd-year Latin students with Ancient Greek, and had a handling session with some of the objects from the UCD Classics museum with the TY students and the 1st-year students from Willow Park – it was quite a day! Our final stop for the pilot programme was Holy Faith Secondary School, Clontarf, where Mr Ian Maguire handed over the reigns of his enthusiastic 6th-year class, and we built on the students’ knowledge of Greek tragedy by discussing aspects of theatre production in the 5th century BC. Access Classics is incredibly grateful to Suzanne, Louise and Ian, their students and their schools for facilitating our pilot programme!

Some of the artefacts from our handling session in Blackrock College

UP AND RUNNING

With a successful pilot to draw on, in September 2019 Access Classics began its formal outreach activities! The Department of Education and Skills had kindly distributed our brochure to all second-level schools in Ireland, and we began to organise sessions with the schools that responded to this. Across the semester, we visited numerous schools in the Dublin area and branched out into Wicklow and Kildare, and we also hosted schools in UCD. Working closely with the individual teachers, we tailored our sessions to the needs of the students, either drawing on what they were currently studying in Classics or introducing them to the discipline through a series of short activities. Across the semester, we were delighted to reach schools which currently offer Classics, schools which do not currently offer Classics, DEIS schools, adult education institutes and the general public.

Drawing a crowd at Naas Community College!

We spent many great hours travelling, getting lost and chatting to students, teachers and parents! A particular highlight of this semester was the evening talk given by our then Head of School, Dr Alexander Thein, in Naas Community College (thanks to Ms Michelle Carty for the invitation!) on Augustus. It was brilliant to see so many interested students and parents turn out for this talk, and it was a great way to bring to an end our activities for the semester.

INTO 2020

2020 has posed unexpected challenges for Access Classics, but has also opened up exciting new ways of communicating with second-level schools and adult education institutes. Before the lockdown, we were delighted to be part of the Young Classicist Awards, which were run by the Classical Association of Ireland Teachers and were hosted by the UCD School of Classics in March 2020. We ran an object handling session for the students and had the joy of looking at all the students’ inspired exhibitions, presentations and performances. Congratulations to all students and teachers involved, and to Classical Association of Ireland Teachers for organising a fantastic event!

Explaining how a strigil works during the Young Classicist Awards!

With the advent of the lockdown in March 2020, our visits to schools were brought to a halt, but we took the lockdown as an opportunity to work on a project very close to our hearts – a Transition Year (TY) Unit for Classical Studies. One of the major aims of Access Classics is to promote diversity and inclusion in the subject, which calls for introducing the subject to students in schools which do not or cannot currently offer it at Junior and/or Senior Cycle. As such, we created a TY Unit with extensive resources, meaning it could be taught by non-experts (see the Transition Year Unit tab for these resources). Inspired by a wonderful discussion with  H.E. Mrs. Charis Christodoulidou, the ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Ireland, we dedicated the first section of our TY Unit to Ancient Cyprus, and the remaining three sections cover knowledge and advancements in the ancient world (including STEM, medicine and art), the world around us (including travel and the natural world) and the past in the present (including the ethics of museum artefacts and the origins of our democratic systems). In September 2020, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment signed off on the Unit and we made it available to all second-level institutes, to a great response!

In early December 2020, we were delighted to be awarded a UCD Values in Action award! These awards recognise the individuals and teams who promote UCD’s values of collegiality, creativity, diversity, engagement, excellence and integrity. It was a great honour to be counted alongside colleagues doing great work throughout the University.

LOOKING AHEAD

Access Classics is excited and optimistic about the future despite challenges posed by the current pandemic. In September 2020, we turned virtual, offering schools sessions in an online format, and we have been delighted by the response to this. Our virtual outreach is facilitated by this website, which draws on the expertise of members of the UCD School of Classics to create resources that are freely available to all second-level schools and institutes. We are excited about creating more and more of these resources in the future!

Under the leadership of the Head of the School of Classics, Dr Martin Brady, Access Classics was delighted to receive funding from the UCD Learning Enhancement Projects Funding Scheme to run a level-three module entitled Access Classics. This module aims to train and facilitate students in designing and delivering a portfolio of teaching materials in a variety of media to second-level students, which will support Access Classics’ overall aims. We look forward to running this module for our student cohort in early 2021!

A NOTE OF THANKS

The success of Access Classics rests on those who have supported us over the past two years. We have been very fortunate to work in partnership with the UCD College of Arts and Humanities (special thanks to Roisin Guyett-Nicholson for all of her help) and to be the first international partner of Advocating Classics Education (ACE), a UK-based initiative for the promotion of Classics. We would like to thank the Department of Education and Skills, particularly Daniel Kearns, for great advice and help; the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, particularly Louise O’Reilly and Ger O’Sullivan, for reviewing our TY Unit; and Hilary Hodgson from Classics for All for guidance in the initial stages of Access Classics. Finally, and most importantly, we are very grateful to all the teachers and students who have embraced Access Classics and to the Classical Association of Ireland Teachers. Owing to our great support network, the future is looking Classical!