Students learn GCSE Latin at the university's Classics Faculty.
Students learn GCSE Latin at the university's Classics Faculty.

Classics outreach brings Latin teaching back to local students

A popular outreach programme allowing Oxfordshire state school students to learn Latin has been revived at Oxford University.

 The Oxford Classics Faculty's Latin Teaching Scheme (OXLAT) will support 30 students learning Latin for GCSE level. Currently only three state schools in Oxfordshire offer Latin to GCSE level.

The new Latin teaching programme will start in 2015 with 17 schools from Oxfordshire and surrounding counties and 30 pupils taking part. The students will be taught GCSE Latin by local teachers for two hours every weekend over two and a half years, supported by the Classics Faculty at Oxford. The programme officially re-launched on 13 December with an induction for students and their families at the University’s Ioannou Centre. The programme itself started its teaching sessions in January.

Chris Pelling is the Regius Professor of Greek in the faculty of Classics and was appointed by Michael Gove earlier in the year to lead a drive to support Latin teaching in state schools that is now well underway, managed and administered by the Cambridge Schools Classics Project. He says: 'We are delighted to launch another round of our Saturday morning teaching scheme, and are very grateful to the Stonehouse Educational Foundation for making it possible.'

‘There is a surge of interest in Latin in schools nationally, with nearly twice as many state schools offering Latin now as five years ago; but there are still many schools who are unable to timetable the subject or have no-one to teach it, and we can do something to help. Like so many others, I was very lucky myself to go to a terrific state school who gave me my own opportunities, including that of learning classical languages. I am so pleased that we can offer something at least of the same to a new generation.'

The Latin Teaching Scheme is part of a larger new project to support teachers in schools who want to teach Latin and Greek. Classics in Communities aims to promote and encourage the teaching of Latin and Ancient Greek at primary and early secondary level (and beyond) in UK state schools. It sits within the Faculty's Outreach Programme and forms part of a larger new collaboration between the University of Oxford, the Iris Project, and University of Cambridge.

The Oxford Classics faculty Latin Teaching Scheme outreach programme ran from 2008 to 2012, when its departmental funding ended. Now thanks to a donation from the Stonehouse Educational Foundation and the University's Van Houten Fund the programme is up and running again and due to continue through at least 2018.

Despite being an intensive weekend commitment alongside other schoolwork, the programme had an extremely low dropout rate, and many of the students enjoyed learning Latin so much that they went on to study it at A-level - and several have gone on to pursue classics at university: of the original cohort of students, several are studying classics at university, including two at Oxbridge.

Gabriel Naughton took part in the Latin Teaching Scheme, earning an A* in GCSE Latin in 2010. He is now studying Classics at St John's College, Oxford. He says: 'One of the main strengths of the scheme was the close group that it created. For one thing it brought together a selection of bright state-educated pupils who were giving up a Saturday morning to learn a difficult ancient language rather lie in bed at home. That alone was an achievement. Yet, what was also important and, I think, a reason why others and I applied for Oxbridge was that we acquired a wider sense of Classics as a discipline and the different aspects of the subject within Oxford University.'

'Most importantly the teaching on the course itself was exceptional. My tutor managed simultaneously to create enthusiasm for the most difficult areas of grammar and idiom, while inspiring an appreciation of the sound of reading Latin and the value of language in understanding the Ancient World.'

'More than any open day or Oxbridge talk the course was responsible for my application to Oxford as a pupil from a state school. It gave me the confidence to know that I would be able to embark upon a degree at Oxford, a degree heavily weighted towards language learning, and be able to hold my own amongst some students who had enjoyed teaching in ancient languages consistently since primary school. I'm really excited to hear about the revival of the scheme and so glad to see that the Oxford Classics Department continues to keep up these vital links with the state sector.'