“All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”
The fundamental aims of the Latin and Classics department are to equip students with a thorough understanding of Latin vocabulary and grammar, a logical, methodical and analytical approach to translation, and an understanding of the beliefs of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and how those beliefs influenced their culture, literature and lives.
The order in which we approach this, especially at KS3, is wedded to the Cambridge Latin Course textbooks, which provide a well-thought out blend of language and culture and have strongly influenced the vocabulary and grammar required by the EDUQAS GCSE syllabus, which students follow at KS4. Classics at KS5 essentially being an entirely different subject to Latin, I will come onto that later.
A significant aim, particularly at KS3, is to emphasise the relevance of Latin and the Romans in four ways; the influence of Latin on the vocabulary of English, the way in which Latin has evolved into French and Spanish, the ways in which Romans (and Greeks) leant their ideas and terminology to almost all subjects on the curriculum, and the ways in which the Roman occupation of Britain continues to shape our country even today. It is crucial to engagement in the subject that students do not regard Latin as a “dead language” or a subject anchored in the past, but rather that from the outset they are able to perceive its relevance and usefulness in the present day.
There are several approaches that we take, guided by the content of the Cambridge Latin Course, in order to do this.
- Influence of Latin on English – Each stage of the Cambridge Latin Course comes with a vocabulary list of c. 25 words which students are expected to learn. Worksheets encourage students to think of English words that are derived from the Latin vocabulary e.g. “canis” (dog) = canine. Derivative questions also feature in end of unit assessments and are included in the GCSE exam.
- Evolution of Latin into French and Spanish – Nearly all Year 7 and Year 8 Latin is taught by a native French speaker, and I have also studied French to A-Level, and both of us will illustrate connections between the languages with classes that study Latin and French. The department would benefit from someone who could do the same with Spanish, but I do ask classes studying Latin and Spanish if common features such as pronouns and verb endings are similar.
- Influence of Latin and Greek on the Modern Curriculum – One topic covered in Year 7 is education in the Roman world, which enables students to see the extent to which a Greek and Roman education influences the curriculum even now. Book 1 also covers the Roman influence on politics, Book 2 looks at the Roman and Greek influence on the sciences, especially medicine, as well as technological innovations such as glass-making, and literature, the evolution of history as a discipline, agriculture and sport are also covered.
- Influence of the Roman Occupation of Britain – Book 2 of the Cambridge Latin Course is set in Roman Britain (fortuitously in the South-East!). Students learn about the influence of the Romans on their local area, from the construction of Watling Street to the naming of Rochester (from the Latin “castra” meaning a military encampment). We study the innovations that the Romans brought with them and students are encouraged, through in-class debates, to consider how the native Celts might have felt about the Roman invaders. In Year 8, students also visit Fishbourne Palace near Chichester – one of the most impressive Roman sites in Britain, with the largest collection of in-situ mosaics, it is also heavily featured in Book 2 as the home of the Romanised Celtic leader King Cogidubnus, one of the major characters in the Cambridge Latin Course. Visiting his palace helps to promote student engagement with the narrative of the course.
From the first, the department puts a strong emphasis on the precise and accurate translation of Latin into grammatically correct English. Students are reminded from the first that meaning in Latin is derived from the endings rather than the order of the words, and are encouraged from Term 1 to translate phrases in a wide variety of word orders to accustom them to this. With Latin not being a spoken language, we forgo speaking and listening exercises, meaning we teach more complex grammar at an earlier stage than French or Spanish. The Cambridge Latin Course lends itself to a spiral pattern of learning whereby nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns are revisited in turn, each time building upon the previous level of understanding. By the end of KS3, students will have encountered over 75% of the vocabulary and approximately 65% of the grammar needed for the Latin Language GCSE paper.
At KS4, we focus on the three different elements required for the EDUQAS Latin GCSE. As well as continuing with their study of vocabulary and grammar in line with the Cambridge Latin Course, students study an aspect of Roman Culture which rotates every three years; currently it is Entertainment and Leisure in the Roman World, which will be followed by Daily Life. This builds on the knowledge of the Roman world acquired at KS3, and includes an opportunity for all students to visit a relevant site in England such as Bath or St Albans. In Year 11, to allow for maximum grammar acquisition, students study Roman Literature. Latin and Greek are unique among languages in that students have the opportunity to translate and analyse original literature at GCSE rather than A-Level. This builds upon the skills students have gained in their English Literature classes, and their confidence is boosted by an initial audit of the literary terminology they have been using in this subject.
At KS5 we offer Classical Civilisation rather than Latin, a decision made for a number of reasons. It is in part a legacy decision; when I joined the school, students commenced Latin at the end of Year 7 rather than the beginning as they do now, and studied for the WJEC Level 2 certificates rather than a GCSE; the gap in content between this and the Latin A-Level was too great to bridge. In addition, as increasingly few schools offer Latin for GCSE, we would have limited the number of external students joining the sixth form who could have taken the subject. As Classical Civilisation requires no knowledge of Latin or Greek, and is open to any students who can perform well in subjects such as History or English that require analytical and essay-writing skills, it is much more inclusive. I hope that, with the addition of another full-time Latin teacher, we might be able to think about offering Latin at A-Level and Classical Civilisation at GCSE along with the current provision.
At KS5 we follow the OCR syllabus, which is the only option given that AQA declined to reform their qualifications. We study the compulsory World of the Hero module, which covers Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. The works of Homer are the very first works of literature in the Western world, and something that anyone looking to study any kind of literature should be familiar with. These texts enable students to explore and understand the Classical world and compare their values with ours; what it was to be a man and a hero, ancient views on warfare, slavery, women and religion, all of which resonate with modern-world issues which the Sixth Form cover as part of their tutorial programme. We choose to study the Odyssey rather than the Iliad as the more naturally and immediately engaging of the two epics, although passages of the Iliad that directly influence the Aeneid are also discussed. Students also study the Greek Theatre module, which combines the literary study of Greek tragedy and comedy with an exploration of the visual evidence of theatres and depictions of drama on pottery. The last module offered is Greek Religion, which covers written evidence from Homer, Hesiod and Herodotus, archaeological evidence of temples, pottery, statuary, etc. and an investigation into the origins of Philosophy. Students are constantly encouraged to explore the reasons why the Greeks believed the things that they did, and to draw parallels between Greek beliefs and some of the modern religions they have studied at KS3 and KS4. We do lean towards Greek rather than Roman modules as this plays towards the strengths and interests of the teaching staff.
The Latin and Classics curriculum has been designed to ensure that it is accessible to all students. The Head of Department is proudly Autistic, and has taken care to ascertain that lessons are taught in a way that is logical and predictable, with transitions between tasks clearly signalled. The nature of Latin itself as a logical language with its rules and patterns clearly emphasised means that it is accessible to all, and a great many SEN students, especially ASC students, choose Latin as their GCSE Language. We use the Cambridge Latin Course, which is designed in a “spiral” pattern to ensure that key grammatical areas such as nouns, verbs, pronouns and adjectives are all frequently revisited, each time adding another layer to students’ understanding. Without the need for speaking and listening activities that are fundamental to a modern foreign language, Latin classrooms are calm, quiet places where the risk of sensory overload is minimised.
Correct understanding of grammar and accurate use of grammatical terminology is fundamental to Latin. From the start, students become familiar with concepts such as noun declensions and cases, conjugations of verbs, and adjectival agreement, and are expected to use accurate and subject specific vocabulary to discuss these aspects of language. From the very first stage of the Cambridge Latin Course, students are encouraged to make connections between Latin vocabulary and English derivatives e.g. “canine” from the Latin word “canis,” meaning “dog,” or “scribe” from the Latin verb “scribere,” meaning “to write.” Connections are also made with French and Spanish vocabulary, both languages having developed from Latin. All assessments include a marking criterion for translating Latin into good English.
At GCSE, students study for a Latin Literature paper which makes up 30% of their overall grade. This paper requires students to translate original works of Latin Literature by famous writers such as Virgil, Horace and Pliny, and then to analyse these works using terminology familiar to them from their English Literature lessons such as alliteration, similes and metaphors. Many students over the years have commented that studying Literature in Latin has improved their understanding of their English Literature classes.
At all stages of Latin vocabulary acquisition is emphasised as an essential part of learning; students have regular vocabulary tests and are encouraged to explore effective techniques for learning vocabulary. Online vocabulary tests are available from the Cambridge Latin Course, and students are shown how to use these as part of their very first homework; this continues all the way through until their GCSE exams.
The largest of the three Classical Civilisation modules – The World of the Hero – is focussed on two famous works of literature; Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. Students are encouraged to compare these ancient works to modern epics to see how literature has developed, but they also learn to analyse passages from these extracts using the terminology that all will have studied as part of their English GCSE. Marking criteria for all A-Level essays include a “SPAG” aspect requiring students to produce responses that are “logically structured, with a well-developed, sustained and coherent line of reasoning.” Any issues with literacy in written responses are indicated as part of the marking process.
Our approach to teaching Latin is guided by the Cambridge Latin Course, with a few minor adjustments made when I do not find it entirely logical. We do not attempt to align our teaching of grammar points with the French or Spanish departments; as I have said previously, the lack of speaking or listening exercises means that we progress through grammar much more quickly than a modern foreign language. At all points, civilisation topics are taught alongside grammar topics as follows:
- Word Order
- Nominative and Accusative Cases
- 1st, 2nd and 3rd Declension Nouns
- Singular Verb Ending – Present
- Nominative Plural Noun Endings
- Perfect & Imperfect Tenses – 3rd Person
- Accusative Plural Noun Endings
- Comparative & Superlative Adjectives
- The Dative Case
- 1st and 2nd Person Plural Nouns
- Houses in Pompeii
- Daily Life and Food
- A Roman Town (Pompeii)
- The Roman Forum
- Roman Theatres
- Slaves and Freedmen
- Roman Beliefs about the Afterlife
- The Roman Baths
- Roman Education
- Asking Questions in Latin
- Perfect & Imperfect Tenses – All Persons
- Infinitives and Modal Verbs
- Adjectival Agreement
- Relative Pronouns and Clauses
- The Pluperfect Tense
- The Genitive Case
- Elections in Pompeii
- The Eruption of Vesuvius
- Britain before the Romans
- The Roman Invasion
- Cogidubnus – A Client King
- Fishbourne Palace
- The City of Alexandria
- Nouns, Adjectives and Gender
- Demonstrative Pronouns
- Present Participles
- Personal Pronouns
- Perfect Passive Participles
- Perfect Active Participles
- Further Uses of the Genitive Case
- Neuter Plural Nouns
- Roman Egypt
- Glassmaking in Alexandria
- Religion in Roman Egypt
- Medicine in the Ancient World
- Hieroglyphs and Papyrology
- Roman Bath
- The Curse Tablets
- Sacrifices and Divination
- Chester – Legionary Fortress
- Pluperfect & Imperfect Subjunctive
- Indirect Questions
- Purpose Clauses
- Indirect Commands
- Result Clauses
- The Ablative Case
- Expressions of Time
- Prepositions and Cases
- The Present and Imperfect Passive
- The Perfect Passive
- Deponent Verbs
- The Future Tense
- Indirect Statement
Topic rotates on three-year cycle. Currently Entertainment and Leisure (Baths, Amphitheatres, Theatres, Dinner Parties, Recitations).
Topic rotates on three-year cycle. Currently Chariot Racing, combination of prose texts (Suetonius, Pliny) and Verse Texts (Juvenal, Martial, Ovid, Virgil).
- Oral Tradition
- Nature of a Hero
- Divine Intervention
- Role of Women
- Role of Slaves
- Home and Family
- Roman Epic
- A Roman Hero
- Augustan Propaganda
- The Male Line
- Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex
- Euripides’ Bacchae
- Aristophanes’ Frogs
- Drama and the Theatre in Ancient Athenian Society
- The nature of tragedy
- The nature of (old) comedy
- Literary techniques
- Structure of the plays
- Dramatic conventions
- Social, political and religious themes in Tragedy
- Social and political themes in Comedy
- Nature and roles of the Olympian Gods
- Personal Experience of the Divine
- The Eleusinian Mysteries
- The Cult of Asclepius
- The Oracle at Dodona
- Religion and Society
- Impiety and Pollution
- Politics and Religion
- The Panathenaia
- Places of Worship
- The Athenian Acropolis
- The Oracle of Delphi
- The Olympic Games
- The Role of Priests
- Sacrifices and Offerings
- Introduction to Philosophy
The department has no specific prescribed approach to the teaching of Latin and Classics and trusts in the judgement and abilities of individual teachers. However, there are some commonalities which are applied across the department as follows:
- Staff have excellent subject knowledge and all classes above Year 8 are taught by subject specialists.
- The HOD has considerable experience of exam marking at GCSE and A-Level.
- Lessons use appropriate resources drawn from a wide range of Latin courses.
- Students are regularly given challenging in-depth tasks requiring them to work independently and/or with others as appropriate.
- Lessons engage students and encourage them to increase their own skills in translation and grammatical analysis.
- Skills are developed for wider study, including revision and retrieval of knowledge, focusing on the developing of understanding and long term memory, particularly with regard to learning the large amounts of vocabulary necessary for Latin GCSE.
- Assessment in the form of vocabulary tests and grammar selection and translation exercises is carried out regularly and marked in-depth. KS4 and KS5 classes make regular use of past papers and exam-style assessment.
- Homework is set regularly, in line with school expectations, and can include translation passages, vocabulary learning, revision of grammar, or civilisation research.
- The use of correct grammatical vocabulary is used from Year 7 and features in all assessments. Highly precise translation is expected.
- Literary skills are developed with the study of Latin grammar and explaining the necessity of translating into grammatically correct English.
- Regular use is made of IT facilities to self-evaluate vocabulary and grammar knowledge, and to conduct research into Civilisation topics.
- SEN provision effectively meets the individual needs of students, ensuring that they have equal access to learning and progress.
- Visits are arranged to relevant sites to enable students to view Roman archaeology and artefacts.
Retrieval Practice is embedded within the Cambridge Latin Course and hence within the department’s schemes of work, and students regularly revisit key grammar, both as a stepping stone to more advanced grammar and for revision. Vocabulary tests at KS4 are cumulative, increasing by c. 30 words from week to week.
Assessment at KS3 is designed to promote vocabulary retention and develop grammar skills; students have regular vocabulary tests at the end of each stage (approximately every 3 weeks) and regular assessed tasks focussed on identifying and translating a specific grammar point. There are also longer assessments every 4 stages, drawing on all vocabulary and grammar studied up to that point. This continues into Year 10, with the addition of termly past papers from the end of Term 2 onwards, once students have covered the majority of grammar on the syllabus. The Civilisation element of the GCSE is assessed by short factual questions and essay practice, and the Literature element by translations tests on each test and practice of exam-style literary analysis. Assessment at KS5 consists of a combination of short factual assessments to ensure that students know key terminology and artefacts, and longer essays drawn from past papers whenever possible.
The department provides students with trips designed to complement and enhance engagement with their studies. In Year 8 students visit Fishbourne Palace as part of their study of Roman Britain, and subsequently produce project work used to promote the department at open evening. In Year 10 students visit a site in Roman Britain relevant to the topic of the Roman Civilisation GCSE paper – sites have included Bath and St Albans. Overseas visits to Rome and the Bay of Naples have been offered in the past and will be offered again once staffing has stabilised. KS5 students have the opportunity to attend university lecture days, performances of Greek plays, and the British Museum.
The impact of the curriculum can be assessed through a number of measures as follows:
- Students clearly enjoy Latin, as is shown by their engagement in lessons, the consistently high scores in the student survey, and consistently high uptake of GCSE (65-70% of students studying Latin in Year 9 opt to continue with the subject).
- Latin has grown from a minority subject taken at the end of Year 7 to a subject with staffing levels and student numbers equivalent to MFL, which students choose to study from the beginning of Year 7.
- Where Classics departments both in Medway and across the country are closing down, ours is growing.
- Students have a sound understanding of the influence of Latin on other subjects and are able to make connections with MFL, English vocabulary, scientific terminology, etc.
- Internal assessment shows that students develop both vocabulary knowledge and grammatical understanding, and are able to recall and build on prior learning.
- KS5 students are able to fluently discuss and compare ancient and modern interpretations of Greek texts and beliefs.
- Students are able to clearly understand and communicate the influence of the Roman invasion of Britain.
- SEN and disadvantaged students achieve outcomes in line with their peers.
- Cognitive techniques and wider study skills are developed by the department, particularly in terms of students’ recall of work from previous years and ability to make links with this prior knowledge.
- Students develop a wide understanding of many aspects of fundamental British values by comparing and contrasting them to Roman and Greek values.
- Several KS5 students every year choose to undertake Classics or Ancient History at University, with recent destinations including Oxbridge, Liverpool, Warwick and UCL.