Sunday, July 25, 2010

Latin is back in London primary schools

Tim Ross and Jamie Welham

Children in primary schools will begin Latin classes after Boris Johnson launched a campaign to put the language on the state school curriculum.

Five primary schools in Westminster will be offering Latin lessons at lunch-time or after hours under a pilot scheme which could be extended to another 10 schools across the borough.

The move is intended to give children from all backgrounds access to a subject that has become largely the preserve of pupils in private schools. Only four per cent of state primary schools teach Latin, compared with 40 per cent of independent preparatory schools.

The Mayor praised Westminster for promoting classics. “We cannot possibly understand our modern world unless we understand the ancient world that made us all,” he said.

“There is simply no better way than to make young minds think in a logical and analytical way.” Mr Johnson, who studied classics at Oxford, wants Latin recognised on the national curriculum. Pupils will study the subject through Minimus the Mouse textbooks, using activities, games and storytelling. The course introduces pupils to the language and the culture of Roman Britain.

Barbara Bell, author of the Minimus books, said learning Latin helped pupils understand the grammar of English and other modern languages: “I didn't want a generation to miss out on the opportunity of doing Latin.”

The lessons will be held this term at St Matthew's Church of England Primary, Gateway Primary School, St Barnabas Church of England Primary School, St Vincent de Paul and Burdett Coutts Church of England Primary School.

Classics graduate Emily Norman, deputy head of St Matthew's Church of England primary, said she was “thrilled” to be teaching Latin to nine-year-olds. “It is wonderful that our children, who come from such diverse backgrounds, are being given the opportunity to access Latin,” she said.

Councillor Nickie Aiken, Westminster's cabinet member for children, said: “Latin shouldn't only be reserved for pupils at independent schools."

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