Different children enjoy different things, so this is one of the reasons why the Classics Department has shamelessly been making connections to other subjects throughout this term – and not just because of the Year 8 exams, either.  It is easy and appealing to compartmentalise things: it often makes those things easier to deal with.  However, I do believe that the more the children can see what and how things link and then make those links for themselves, the deeper and better their learning will be.

So what does that mean? Hopefully, that a child who enjoys the logical, problem-solving aspects of maths will also appreciate the same process in unpicking a Latin sentence.  I often describe that unpicking as factorising or equations with words.  The rigorous methodology also required for science again applies here.  Doing an experiment can be similar to translating a sentence.  There is the equipment to be used, a method to be followed and a conclusion to be reached according to some principles.  All of that is akin to observing a sentence and processing it according to some other principles and then deducing a conclusion.  The historical, geographical, artistic and cultural backdrops underpin western civilisation; and the linguistic evolution of Latin into French is fascinating.  The teachers even fling our arms about in the same way when referring to pronouns or conjugating verbs!

None of this happens in an instant, though; but the child who realises, in both senses of the word, this for themselves must surely be along the right lines in making the most of their education and opportunities.  So although it might seem inherently paradoxical that few subjects are “for” anything per se, the skills and faculties which their study seeks to stimulate and develop are relevant, transferable and vital.

This process has started for Year 4 with a gentle introduction to the language from the ever-popular Minimus.  The adventures of this mouse and the family with whom he lives happen in and near the fort of Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall.  So immediately the children are introduced to Latin with a cultural and historical backdrop; the mouse (and his nemesis, Vibrissa, the cat) are the only things which are made up! This also ties in with Year 4’s Learning Journey when they investigate The Romans.

Year 5 start on the Level 1 CE syllabus proper.  This may sound harsh, but it is a natural progression and one which builds on and uses grammar and vocabulary from the previous year more rigorously.  This trend continues throughout the following years.  More emphasis is put on translating from Latin into English; some English into Latin helps a pupil see how the language fits itself together, but most children find it quite hard. 8PB has just touched on the Passive Voice and Participles!

Non-Linguistic Studies are important, too, throughout a child’s progression.  Mythology is usually the most popular, but some pupils are interested in Domestic Life, The City of Rome and Roman Britain as well.

All Year 8 pupils have just emerged relatively unscathed from their exams.  By definition, at this stage not all the syllabus has been covered, so it was very reassuring for most candidates to have had a decent go. Particularly impressive were the efforts of Mary K-B, Milo M and Zuriel N in their translations; they were utterly unflappable and used what they did know to make really intelligent guesses at what they did not.  Being willing to learn from mistakes is key, and is a crucial part of the Growth Mindset we encourage.


Ed Gilsenan