The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice

Newsletter 16: June 2004

Dear Classical Friend,

The news that AQA intends to drop Latin and Greek prompts me to send the June newsletter immediately, so that I may urge you to make your views known. I begin with the press release from Peter Jones and my own comments, that I have displayed prominently on the ARLT web site, The heading 'The Shame of AQA' is my own, and not to be blamed on Peter Jones. This item is followed by a very different one, an article from the Independent which my brother sent me, full of hope for the future of Latin - in the UK for a change! - with quotations from Philip Pullman and Lynne Truss, which you might like to share with pupils, and a couple of controversial editorials, which we could discuss at Summer School. I've found a good reference site for things Roman and Greek (among many other things). I'd like your help with my own site I share one or two web sites with you; and finally pass on one Latin teacher's experience.

After my good intentions of last month, this letter sprawls over 7 sides of A4. Apologies! You don't have to read it all!


The Shame of AQA




Only OCR left to examine classical languages at GCSE and A level

The AQA examination board intends to drop its examinations in Latin and Greek at both GCSE and Advanced level in June 2006. It has made this decision without inviting discussion on the matter with, or even informing, its external subject advisers, let alone the Joint Association of Classical Teachers (JACT), the subjects' main sponsoring body.

Dr Peter Jones said: 'There is a strong sense of outrage in the classical community at a policy that leaves only one board (OCR) to examine all classical languages. The AQA Board clearly has no confidence in itself or in the propriety of the decisions it takes, if it has to conduct its business on a matter of public importance behind closed doors without reference to, or any discussion with, those the Board is supposed to serve.'

The above statement was issued by


The Association for Latin Teaching; The British Academy; The Classical Association; The Council of University Classics Departments; Friends of Classics; The Joint Association of Classical Teachers; The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies; The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

Dr PETER JONES, Spokesman

28 Akenside Terrace Jesmond Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1TN tel: 0191 281 1451 fax: 0191 281 3948 Dfax: 0870 052 3407

June 10 2004

This is Michael Cresswell, Chief Executive of AQA. (photo is on the web site) Feel free to make your views plain to him. We in ARLT wholeheartedly endorse Dr Peter Jones' sense of outrage at the shabby and shameful way AQA has behaved.


AQA: 0161-953-1180

Chief Executive: Michael Cresswell

Curriculum and Strategy Adviser: Malcolm Fain

Chair of Classical Subjects: Deborah Garnett

Academic Adviser: Marilyn Ashworth


Salvete! Latin set for return as sine qua non of a fine education


By Richard Garner and Jonathan Brown

01 June 2004

In the summer of 1959, 60,000 pupils sat their Latin O level. Many had been declining the language of Virgil and Horace since the age of seven. It was the subject's golden age, even if a high percentage of the candidates loathed it. But after that peak, Latin began to disappear from Britain's state schools.

This September, however, it could be back on the timetable of every state school in the country. The reason is a £2m digital-learning initiative that aims to teach youngsters the history of ancient Rome in the style of a modern soap opera. Schools among the 25 that have tried the project say that the approach has doubled the take-up of Latin as a subject option by their pupils, with many planning to pursue it to GCSE.

The programme, the Cambridge Latin Course E-learning Resource, is jointly produced by the Cambridge School Classics Project (CSCP), Granada Learning and the Cambridge University Press. Will Griffiths, director of CSCP, said: "This software is designed to be used not only by Latin specialists but also by teachers who don't have Latin. Every secondary school in the country can have access to the programme and it is going to change the way Latin is delivered in this country."

Peter Jones, a spokesman for the Co-ordinating Committee for Classics, blames the decline of Latin on two factors. In 1960, Oxford and Cambridge dropped their requirement for all candidates to have passed O-level Latin, and in 1988 the Secretary of State for Education, Kenneth Baker, introduced the national curriculum, which squeezed out "minority" subjects.

There were attempts to keep the teaching of the language going. In the 1960s the Cambridge Latin Project began with its first story-based teaching technique. It was an attempt to improve the subject's "sex appeal" but to little avail, Dr Jones said. "Until the Sixties, people studied Latin because they were forced to do it. This had a spin-off in educators' attitudes towards it in the Seventies and Eighties. They remembered how they loathed it and did what they could to kill it off."

The number of state school pupils taking GCSE Latin declined by 40 per cent in the 1990s. By 2000, only 11,624 were sitting the subject, two-thirds of them from independent schools. The old-style teaching method had few friends, although the author Lynne Truss recalls being disconcerted by the Cambridge system. "I wanted the old-fashioned approach. I wanted the grammar and the rules," she said.

Barbara Finney of the Classical Association does not agree. She remembers the standard text of her days was Approach to Latin, a title altered by generations of distracted pupils to Approach to Eatin. "It was extremely boring. It was about farmers and sailors and queens going off into the woods: it was never clear why."

The author Philip Pullman, who was examined in Latin while studying English at Oxford, said: "It was felt to be alien, dead; it did not address technological change. You could get the literature without fully knowing the language, or at least you can get a long way towards it."

But slowly the tide began to turn. Dr Jones said Latin hit its "year zero" in the Nineties, when the collective memory of enforced Latin was finally expunged and the Cambridge teaching technique began to pay dividends. Lunchtime clubs sprang up, Open University courses were over-subscribed tenfold, and other universities began offering starter courses.

And then there was Minimus. The story of the mouse living with a Roman family in Vindolanda, near Hadrian's Wall, became an instant hit in primary schools More than 1,000 schools ordered the book's resource pack; 31,000 copies of it were sold.

The subject has also ridden the back of the growing interest in archaeology and the boom in television history.

Even Harry Potter has stirred interest in the language, according to Ms Finney, who says the Classical Association now boasts upwards of 3,000 members, who gather to stage public readings in Latin. The Government is keen to bring the language back into schools. The Department for Education and Skills is backing the project as part of its "key stage three" initiative, aimed at improving teaching standards for 11 to 14-year-olds.

"The stories are the key to the success of the programme," Mr Griffiths said. "The ability to bring Latin alive is very important and the feedback we've had from students shows they understand Latin is a real language and it was spoken by people."


Philip Pullman

The children's author and former English teacher studied Latin from the age of seven while at prep school, and sat an English paper in Latin during his first year at Oxford.

"I am all in favour of giving children access to Greek myths and Latin, but it would be difficult to teach everyone Latin because it is demanding. You cannot get children to learn something by telling them it's good for them; you have to make it interesting."

Lynne Truss

The author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, gained an E in her O-level Latin in 1971.

"I'm very glad I took Latin as, along with French, it was the only grammar I did study. It was after the time they had stopped the compulsory teaching of English grammar.

"So I applied what I learnt there to English. It gives you an understanding of where language has come from, which is very important."

Leading Article:


01 June 2004

LET THEM learn Latin. Nothing is better than Latin, well-taught, for inculcating the basics of learning another language. But let them learn proper Latin, with grammar and syntax and the great classical writers. Let them start with amo, amas, amat and graduate to the soaring rhetoric of Cicero and the biting satire of Juvenal. It makes no sense at all to teach Latin as though it were a living language, with meanings to be guessed at and fluency preferred to grammatical correctness. Teach it as the dead language and the discipline it is. With no oral tests and no conversation, Latin is perfect for the tongue-tied linguists of these isles.

Independent Leading article: Classics soap

03 June 2004

It's Latin, Jim, but not as we knew it. The new e-learning initiative for Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) devised by the Cambridge School Classics Project may be teaching pupils about Roman history through the medium of a Coronation Street-style soap opera, according to its author, but it is causing a revival of the language in state secondary schools. Mr Chips will be turning in his grave, but when he calms down he will find the new programme is not only prolonging the life of a language he held dear to his heart but helping pupils go on to study other languages, too.

See also the BBC site, , with other links from that page.


Who was consul in 629? What does his name mean?


Here's a reference site that lists Roman cognomina, consuls, battles - the lists go on and on:


Please help me with my poetry collection


I have been adding to my site at a section of poems about Roman Britain. As a romantic I enjoy imaginative reconstructions of Roman life, and Kipling does an excellent job for my taste. Housman's Wenlock Edge is a favourite of mine, too, and I can get something from Tennyson's Boadicea. Masefield had quite a good shot at what I want, but after that I'm struggling. Have you anything to recommend?

I might soon add details of some historical novels, being reminded by the web publication of a late 19th century (children's?) novel called The Count of the Saxon Shore by Revd Alfred Church.

While writing about historical novels, there's a dismissive review of Lindsey Davis' latest Falco novel The Accusers here, with a notice of Robert Harris' Pompeii, and a crime novel set in Roman York, Get Out or Die By Jane Finnis, planned as first of a series.


Roman Bathhouse found in Maidstone



Discuss Harry Potter in Latin in Latin


There's a delightful discussion forum hosted by Finnish Radio (yes, the ones who broadcast the news in Latin every week) about Harrius Potter. Contributions range from the ungrammatical but heartfelt:

Nuntium misit: Anonymum | 10.11.2003 - 16:27 | 20 | |


Ubi sunt isti docti latinistae (?) qui versionem "Harrius Potter" condemnare audent? Studiavi per tot annos (12) linguam latinam. Neque unus singulus istorum professorum mihi locutus est latine neque unum singulum librum contemporaneum in latinam conversit. Vel taceant vel stilum tollant et vertent quam plurimos libros contemporaneos in Latinam. Si singulis mensibus unus liber modernus in Latinam vertitur, plus discipulorum linguam latinam discent. Docti Professores (rude donati et alii activi) totius orbis terrarum, stilum tollite et vertite.

to the positively Ciceronian:

Herbertus Idarf(o) ceterisque, quorum hoc interest, s.p.d.

Facere non possum quin tibi assentiar, una dumtaxat exceptione. Nam paulatim ex me quaero num melius esset, si omnes Harrii Potter libri in Latinum converterentur. Quidni? Nonne totam fere seriem periculorum Asterigis in Latinum convertit Rubricastellanus? His iamdudum factis tamen huc usque ne unum quidem Querelum audivi gementem. Ne quis dicat illas Rubricastellani conversiones semper experientiae Petri Needham ( interpretis libri Harrii Potter ) anteponendas esse. Neque enim ille interpres scriptoris "Goscinny" in lingua Latina pura et incorrupta perseveranda sibi semper constat. Putas igitur, Idarfe optime, - et in hac sententia haerere videris - putas, inquam, librorum scriptorum praemium Nobelianum adeptorum opera in Latinam transferenda esse. De hac re, ut supra iam dixeram, tibi adsentior. Sed quid deinde? Tum pace tua interpretibus libros minoris momenti convertere licet? Spero, sicut tu, libros illi "Harrio Potter" graviores in latinum translatum iri. Tamen nescius non sum, quale negotium suscipiendum sit ei, qui non solum, sicut tu, tantummodo de his rebus loquatur, verum etiam eandem expedire velit. Nunc dicat aliquis: "nil difficile volenti". At non sufficit velle. "Quid de professoribus rude donatis?" Eugepae! Sed ubi sunt? Usque nunc omnino nihil de eis audivi. Ergo, nihil moror plura pericula Harrii nostri in medium prolatum iri. Nam meliora ad irritum cadere solent.

Vale et valete.


Vatican Latinist not a good example for ARLT

******************************************************* A handful of interviews with the ebullient Vatican Latinist Father Reginald Foster on Vatican Radio can be downloaded, but I'd suggest you enjoy them yourself rather than expose your tender babes to Father Foster's Italianate pronunciation and the interviewer Veronica Scarisbrick's strange efforts, like Amphitrite pronounced to rhyme with 'height', Tacitean as 'taseetian'.


News from the UK school front


One of the joys of being webmaster for ARLT is getting news from the chalk face that I can share, from people who register. Here's one such e-mail, from Elaine Culshaw, that both depressed me with its news of another school dropping Latin, and also inspired me with the dedication of the teacher and the enthusiasm of the pupils. Latin at 8 a.m.!!

Dear David,

Thank you very much for your response to my registration - and for your excellent website! [Yes I know I should have cut that out, but I love compliments!! - D.P.]

I'm afraid the story of Classics at Netherhall is a rather sad one. Some years ago there was a department of one, Marian Cleaver, who now runs the local Class Soc. On her retirement Latin became an "enrichment" subject (other schools refer to it as "twilight"!). There was a series of part time teachers - some excellent, one disastrous - and I took over Years 10 and 11 in November when yet another teacher became ill.

I had a very bright and eager Year 11 and an equally enthusiastic Year 10. They have worked their socks off at 8 am twice a week each - even plodding to school through the snow on two days when the school was then closed! A new Head in March held out the hope of adding Class Civ to VI form options, and possibly returning Latin to the main timetable. However the reality of budget cuts has struck again, and now Latin is to be removed even from the enrichment programme. I am going to teach at the Leys School from September and will take Year 10 at Netherhall through to their GCSE. A teacher from the Perse School is teaching the current Year 9, and the Head has agreed to let them continue on to GCSE. But they will be the last set. It is so sad.

Anyway, I shall continue to fight the good fight at the Leys (where there is a dept. of three), and I'm hoping that in retirement my husband and I might be able to volunteer in the state system - but we're not quite at that point yet!

I look forward to receiving your newsletter.

Best regards,

Elaine [Culshaw]


Christ Woodhead mentions the ARLT web site


Hilary Walters passed on to me a message from Mike Runnals on 7th June which delighted me. It refers, I think, to our Bulletin Board:

Did you see that we had a (small) free plug in Chris Woodhead's column in the Sunday Times yesterday? In answer to a woman asking how she can get Latin teaching when her son's state school cannot offer it, he directed her to the ARLT website.

I looked up the paper on-line:

My 14-year-old son's school does not offer Latin, ancient history or the classics. These are his passion. He would like to follow home study courses to run parallel to his GCSE studies. Could you suggest an appropriate avenue for his interests? Judy Ward

Anglesey, North Wales

Who knows? Brad Pitt in Troy might inspire a renaissance in the classics! In the meantime, the Association for Latin Teaching ( may be able to help.




If you teach exam classes, your timetable is probably reduced now, but the work never seems to stop. Keep going! The summer break will soon be here - and ARLT Summer School - hooray! I'm unwinding after a very successful 2½ week festival of music, dance, circus skills, worship, art, flowers and so on, designed to put our recently refurbished parish church back on the map. It's great to relax, but without the challenges life could become dull.

Best wishes,