The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice

ARLT Newsletter 35; November 2006

Dear Classical Friend,

First, a welcome to new readers, both those who have just joined the website and those who signed up to the Mailing List, and whom I have up till now neglected to include. My humble apologies to them.You will be included from now on.

On the down side, you may have entered your name on both forms, and so are getting two copies. Just delete one.


Signs of Spring?


In the world of physical geography winter is beginning. The clocks have only just gone back. But in the world of UK Classics I detect a new feeling of hope, an expectation of Springtime.

Yes I know that numbers taking Latin and Greek GCSE have been steadily dropping and the graph, if extended, will reach zero in about 15 years. Yes I know that this year's reported increase in Classical Subjects entries for the first time can be a mere blip, and is perhaps caused by an increase in non-linguistic subjects. The recovery starts from a very low point.

Let me just mention one or two growth points.

1. Minimus

To start at Primary age. If you haven't seen Helen Forte's splendid website for Minimus, set aside half an hour or more to be entertained with cartoons and animations and encouraged by reports.

Minimus has had a Blog since May, with the slogan "If Latin isn't fun, it won't be my fault." Look at

The Minimus team keep coming up with new ideas. We've seen the advent of Minidorms (sleepovers), the 2007 one being in Bilton Grange near Rugby, and Mouseholes (local representatives) who are going to have a conference in London soon. Earlier this year Minimus mini-books were published privately by Barbara and Helen (Trust them, CUP!), because CUP didn't see a market for them. 500 sets were produced, and over 300 have already sold. A second mythology competition is to take place next year. There is not only a cassette for each book, but now a CD.

By the way, sales of Minimus book 1 are approaching 80,000, and of Book 2 approaching 12,000. The statistic that really pleases Barbara Bell is the sales of the Teachers' Book 1: 4,300, with 2,500 of them bought by Primary Schools in the UK; that, as Barbara pointed out to me with great satisfaction, is 10% of the total number of Primary Schools.

An Italian edition is coming out in February, combining Books 1 and 2 and containing more grammar. It is aiming at an older age, 12 to 14 year olds, but keeping almost all of the stories. The Minimus folk look outside the circuit of schools that already offer Latin, and do it with flair.

You can ring Barbara on 0117 953 1819 or email her:

2. Cambridge Latin Course

This course might well be putting its feet up with a glass of wine to hand, celebrating its 40 years of changing the way the nation learns Latin. But it's not. Like Minimus, CSCP looks beyond the existing Latin-teaching schools, and not only develops materials to enable schools to offer Latin without a specialist teacher, but goes out to apparently the least promising areas, like Tower Hamlets, and succeeds in getting comprehensive schools there to take Latin on.

We heard only today that the Cambridge Schools Classics Project has been shortlisted for its Book I interactive DVD, in a competition for the BETT 2007 Award to be decided at the Technology in Education show in January in Olympia.

When I write CSCP, in honesty I have to admit that I chiefly mean its Director, Will Griffiths. As a Classics teacher before landing the Cambridge job, he is using his key position to extend the provision of Latin in schools. He is ably supported, but the buck stops with the top person. Whether you are yourself using Cambridge or another Latin course, we all need to be supportive of those, like Will and Barbara, who go out and take the message to outsiders.

I concentrate on CSCP because that is the course that goes out of its way to target schools who don't teach Latin and individuals who haven't had the chance yet to learn it. If other courses are doing the same, then I'd love to hear about it, and to pass the news around.

3. Oxford Classics Outreach and Cambridge Schools Liaison

I mention these two together, because in different ways they are aiming in the same direction. Their 'sharp end' workers, Elizabeth Belcher and Caroline Vout, each have the task, not just of selling their own university Classics Department to schools, but of interesting Schools in the Classics in all sorts of ways. Elizabeth and Carrie were able to compare notes at The Language Show, and agreed to pass on to each other any requests from schools for visits, if one of them was not able to meet the request. Hurrah! We must all work together.

4. Iris magazine

I really know very little about this, except that it was founded with the laudable aim of being sent free to every secondary school in England. Perhaps you have seen the first edition and can fill me in. It could be another sign of Spring coming.

You will have caught my drift. It's not enough today to help your existing pupils get A * in GCSE Greek or Latin. We all need to spread as widely as possible the message of Latin and Greek for All.

Which brings me on to ....


The Language Show


Last weekend the Latin and Greek for All stand at the Language Show, culmination of seven month's thinking, planning and co-operation, received a stream of interested visitors which was almost uninterrupted for most of the three days of the show. There were few visitors in Olympia on the Friday evening, but otherwise the welcomers and advisors manning the stand were kept busy. In fact, as you will hear on the video, Anna Bayraktar of JACT went round the hall and found that ours was one of the busiest stands.

You will see some of the visitors at the stall, and people walking around the show carrying the message on their real cotton shopping bags. We had the best bags in the show.

You will hear reactions from Will Griffiths (CSCP), Caroline Vout (Cambridge Schools Liaison), Anna Bayraktar (JACT Office), David Taylor (JACT) and Jeannie Cohen (Friends of Classics). ARLT President Linda Soames was there on Saturday and wrote afterwards: "I thought the stall looked fantastic and we seemed to be doing a roaring trade most of the time." Runako Taylor, whom we got to know at ARLT Summer School, is on the video listening to visitors to the stand.

To watch the video, which lasts just 6 minutes, visit

The most exciting thing to me was the number of school teachers and people representing schools who were really interested in offering Latin. 30 to 40 on the first day alone; I haven't got figures for the other days.

It seems to me that, as with the railways after Dr Beeching, people realise how valuable something is when they've lost it. As a small boy I loved to go to Foxrock station and get the train to Dublin. After I moved to England the line was closed, and a cousin of mine bought one of the stations as a home. Fruit trees grew where the tracks used to run, and the grand piano stood in the waiting room. After his death, his widow was faced with a compulsary purchase order - because the authorities were going to build a light railway line through the garden.

The Beeching-style axe is still at work on Latin. Two youngsters at the show told me that they could not do Latin, because their school had changed to Spanish the year they were due to begin. And yet there are all those other schools who are waking up to the value of Latin. We are at a critical moment.


News from the chalk face


From Terry Sussmilch in Tasmania:

I've been ferreting away here at Hobart College for about 7 years teaching Latin from the Cambridge Latin Project textbooks and finding a willing population of students presenting themselves every year. There are two others of us Latin teachers in Hobart, one in a private girls' school and another taking Level 1 at another state secondary college such as ours. (In Tasmania, secondary colleges teach grades 11, 12 and sometimes 13.) Our system seems to have worked up to now because I'm teaching by distance and therefore every student in the state is eligible to enrol. It means that, whereas I mightn't attract enough students just within my own school, students from all other state schools can enrol and I facilitate their learning by correspondence, phone and internet. It widens the pool of students available and makes the numbers viable.

It's a lot of fun and I love it dearly. Never thought I'd end up back teaching Latin after being away from schools for nigh on 25 years. What amazed me most was that when I went back to it and started interrogating my memory it was all there intact, down to the supines of verbs, clear, unconfused and strangely comforting. My old Latin teacher was very interested to hear about that when I told her what I was doing. Memorising isn't fashionable any more in our schools, but I'm the living proof that it works magnificently.

From Anthony Hodson

I was pleased to find yesterday that Latin and the Classics are alive at Horsham 6th-Form College (with which I'm associated as a Mercer). Their chemistry department is also increasing (a subject sometimes, alas, linked with Latin in poor take-up).

(Anthony has written Latin plays for children, which you can find at

From Deborah Gummery,

I have Latin in Years 8 to my first Lower 6th AS student this year, and Classical Civilisation at AS and A2. I am allowed one hour per week teaching Latin in Year 8 and 9 before school or after school, and in Years 10 and 11 I am given one 50 minute lesson a week on the timetable, plus one hour after school. I start the course in Year 8 with about 20 volunteers. I am down to about 12 by Christmas and then about 4 or 5 stay with me to go for the GCSE. It is not ideal, and we have to go very fast indeed, but it is better than having no Classics at all. There was none when I arrived 5 years ago.

I'll be putting back the links to the Christmas stuff on the ARLT website very soon.

Best wishes,