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Ambitious project bids to bring Latin back into the classroom

ACADEMICS have launched an ambitious project to spark renewed interest in the study of Latin in primary schools.

CATCHING ON: Jennifer Hilder from Glasgow University with pupils from Sacred Heart Primary School in Bridgeton, Glasgow. Picture: Martin Shields
CATCHING ON: Jennifer Hilder from Glasgow University with pupils from Sacred Heart Primary School in Bridgeton, Glasgow. Picture: Martin Shields

Postgraduate students from Glasgow University are holding Latin classes at schools in deprived areas of the city.

The lessons seek to bring the history of the language to life, but also teach basic grammar and vocabulary.

After proving successful in the three primary schools, the project is being expanded to include two more primaries and a secondary.

Funded with a small grant from the university, the scheme is an attempt to reverse decades of decline in the study of Latin in Scottish schools.

Once a fundamental pillar of education, the language has declined dramatically since the 1970s and now very few state schools offer it.

In 2013 just 218 candidates sat Latin at Higher compared to 243 the previous year, a decline of more than 10 per cent.

Only 48 pupils took Latin as an Advanced Higher.

The lack of candidates gaining qualifications in the subject, combined with the lack of demand for teachers, has made the situation worse.

Matthew Fox, professor of ­Classics at Glasgow University, who started the project, said: "Latin is very patchy across the UK, but there are particular blackspots in the state education sector in Scotland.

"Hanging over the subject since the introduction of comprehensive schools is the fact that Latin was seen as elitist and therefore somehow discriminating, but that is a complete myth.

"In fact, a classical education is wonderfully enriching and there are a lot of people who think pupils should have more access to it."

Mr Fox said one of the things that had been lost since the 1970s in UK schools was the teaching of grammar.

He added: "You cannot learn Latin without grammar and it is also a very good way of introducing language awareness.

"It is a very enjoyable subject because it allows pupils to tap into the Roman world, but also the literature and mythology of the Classical world, which is very exciting to young people."

Jennifer Hilder, a postgraduate Classics student from the university, who is co-ordinating the project, said it took a while for the primary seven pupils to fully engage with the subject, but when they had done so they loved studying Latin.

She said: "The main issue for the student teachers was the range of ability levels within a single class, which means trying to engage as wide a group as ­possible by using simple story boards to tell Roman myths and stories from Classical civilization.

"Those stories can also be used to teach pupils simple ­vocabulary, the gender of different nouns, sentence structure and grammar.

"It has taken them time to get used to the idea of learning Latin, but now they are used to it, it has become a lot easier to teach."

The project will be expanded to five schools in Glasgow next year and organisers also hope to open a Latin club in St Mungo's Academy in Bridgeton, so that pupils can develop their studies in secondary school.

Last year, the study of Latin was re-introduced in six primary schools in Fife after a similar ­initiative by staff at St Andrews University.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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