The Classics department is housed in three specialist rooms with extensive facilities. Latin is taught from Year 7 (initially as part of a language carousel) using the modern and popular Cambridge Latin Course.
Its approach is quite different from that of the old style Latin courses: it encourages pupils to see Latin as the language of Roman civilization, which is at the heart of western European culture, and great stress is placed on learning about Roman institutions, history and culture. Language skills are developed from reading material consisting of realistic stories often using historical characters and an absorbing story line set in the first and second centuries A.D. Such topics as religion, art, the army, trade, education, women, slavery, law and government are all covered. To this end, the department holds a massive library of support material which is used regularly to bring the subject to life. In Year 9, many of the new entrants from other schools join the Latin groups and settle quickly. Although it is a reading course (with no English-to-Latin translation), the essential language points are fully rehearsed to give a strong foundation for examination work.
The School firmly believes that Latin is a valuable study in its own right but always has an eye to its usefulness in reinforcing the study of the English language; for example, word derivations are constantly explored and similarities with French are also investigated.
Latin is a popular option for GCSE : the courses in Years 10 and 11 see that the transition to reading the Latin of Roman writers and an interesting selection of some of the best of Latin literature is offered for examination. One of the GCSE coursebooks was written for Cambridge University Press by Phillip Parr (the former Head of Department and retired Head of Sixth Form). Many pupils continue the study of Latin in the Sixth Form and in the past 5 years 13 boys have gone on to study Classics as their chosen undergraduate degree at university – nine of them at Oxbridge.
A Greek GCSE (short course) is now offered to approximately half of the boys who opt for Latin GCSE. In an ‘accelerated’ class in Year 10 they start a Greek introductory course (language only at this stage) alongside their Latin language and literature studies; in Year 11 they continue their Greek studies (language and history) to prepare to sit their two Greek GCSE examinations in addition to their four Latin examinations. In other words, they finish their GCSE courses with a full Latin GCSE and a short course Greek GCSE.
There is an active Classical Society which arranges talks, films, competitions and outings to museums and sites of interest. Joint initiatives with the Girls’ School have included balloon debates, lectures and shared enhancement/enrichment classes encompassing a broad range of Classical subjects. Visits to Rome, Pompeii, Hadrian’s Wall and tours of Greece and Provence in France have all been arranged as Classical expeditions.