A-level ancient history appears to have been saved after a storm of protest from classics fans and scholars and a blunt message from ministers that the subject should not disappear.
The OCR board, the last to offer an examination, had been considering withdrawing it as an individual subject from next year but said it was now in talks with the government's exam watchdog over continuing it.
Campaigns against the death of the A-level course had seen Boris Johnson, Conservative education spokesman and president of the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, wearing a toga to receive a petition against the move outside the House of Commons on Monday.
Andrew Adonis, the schools minister, speaking in the Lords yesterday, said: "All periods of history, from the ancient to the modern, can inspire our young people to study the subject, opening them up to skills that are essential in today's world as well as a vital understanding of our past. The government is not content to see the end of ancient history as a single A-level and has invited the exam boards to come forward with proposals for it to continue."
Jennifer Gibbon, head of classics at Godolphin and Latymer School, London, who organised Monday's demonstration, said: "The syllabus is an inspirational route to the ancient world for those who might or might not choose to do Latin or Greek and gives students the opportunity to explore fascinating and highly relevant issues - ideas of citizenship, political spin, the development of democracy - through evaluating original source material."
Tom Harrison, professor of ancient history at Liverpool University and chairman of the JACT, said support for the campaign "has taken our breath away" and he looked forward to working with OCR "to develop new specifications and to rebuild the cooperative relationship we enjoyed in the past." Robert Parker, professor of ancient history at Oxford University, said it was "a triumph for democracy" that future generations of sixth-formers would have an opportunity to study the subject.
The OCR said it was pleased the government was taking such a close interest. It was already in discussions with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, teachers and others about ensuring the continuation of ancient history "which was always our intention". A spokesperson added: "There remain technical challenges in incorporating all the content in the new A-level structures but we remain optimistic."