CLASSICS students from Glasgow University are launching a new course to teach Latin to pupils as part of wider moves to boost literacy.

From October, undergraduate students from the institution's Classics course will be working in local schools as part of an innovative programme to introduce the language, grammar and wider culture.

The development is part of a UK-wide Literacy through Latin scheme run by the Iris Project , which uses the language to boost literacy and linguistic skills in deprived urban areas.

The Glasgow University development represents a milestone for the Iris Project educational charity which runs the scheme because it is the first time Literacy through Latin has been integrated into a credit-bearing university course.

Once a fundamental pillar of education, Latin 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.

However, the same year the study of Latin was re-introduced to six primary schools in Fife after a similar ­initiative by staff at St Andrews University. Last year, The Herald revealed that postgraduate students from Glasgow University had also begun a pilot project.

A university spokesman said: "This new course shows our commitment to working with schools and communicating our knowledge to a wider audience.

"By making the voluntary programme into a credit-bearing course we are also giving students the opportunity to gain new skills and experiences with increased support and feedback from staff. We hope that more school pupils will benefit from this fantastic project as a result."

Dr Lorna Robinson, director of the Iris Project, added: "I am delighted about this exciting new development which has come about through the inspiration and hard work of the university's Classics department.

"Embedding it as a credit-bearing course will strengthen the programme enormously and help involve more students and enable more pupils to benefit."

Last month, it emerged that standards of literacy in Scottish primary and secondary schools are falling.

Official figures show performance in reading dropped in primary schools between 2012 and 2014 - as well as in the second year of secondary school.

Recorded performance in writing at some levels in primary school and in S2 also fell over the same period, according to a report from Scotland's chief statistician.

The results come as a blow to Scotland's new school curriculum - the Curriculum for Excellence - which was supposed to improve standards and put more of a focus on basic skills such as literacy.

Latin is the root of many modern European languages, such as French and Italian and English. Studies have shown that introduction to Latin can improve children's ability to learn foreign languages, as well as improve literacy levels in English.

Literacy through Latin uses storytelling, games and activities to introduce the nuts and bolts of Latin grammar, demonstrating the deep connections between Latin and English.

The scheme was recently awarded the EU Language Label 2013 for innovative language teaching projects. It is hoped that this development will provide a model for the rollout of similar partnerships across the UK.