Classics is the study of two ancient languages – Latin and Greek – and their rich and varied literature. These writings give access to two great civilisations that have done so much to shape the thought and culture of our modern world.

All students study Latin in MIV-LV (Years 7-9), and it is a popular choice at GCSE and beyond. Classical Greek is added as an optional GCSE subject in the V (Year 10) and runs through to A Level. From the beginning we value the precision of each language and, through their study, learn much also about English and the structure of language in general. At the same time, our teaching of the classical languages is underpinned by study and appreciation of the rich and varied cultures that gave rise to them.

Clay bust in the Classics department.

The sound and beauty of the two languages are important to us: our students regularly participate with success in classical reading competitions and direct and produce a piece of drama in Greek, most recently Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers. We also set our study of Latin and Greek firmly in their historical and geographical contexts, both in the classroom and through visits to Greece and Italy, as well as places of classical interest closer to home.

We follow the OCR syllabus in both languages at GCSE and A Level, encouraging reading and reflection beyond the requirements of these examinations. We study Greek source material in translation and read, in their original language, authors such as the senator Cicero reflecting on the near anarchy of the last years of the Roman Republic or Homer evoking in his epic poems the warrior society of Bronze Age Greece. All these authors lead us to respond readily to the beauty of their language and the profundity of their writings, but also to feel a sense of dissonance as we encounter assumptions and values very different from our own. It is this mingled sense of recognition and alienation that makes the study of Classics endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking, and that enriches the way in which we view our own world.

Our interest in the classical world easily moves outside the classroom. Students contribute to the teaching of the Minimus Latin scheme at two local primary schools, and we offer a variety of other activities throughout the year, including trips, Junior Classics Club and a thriving Classical Society, open to all students, that attracts large numbers to its meetings, at which eminent visiting speakers address a range of topics and give a glimpse of the richness of the subject at university level. Senior students also produce their own Classics magazine, with contributions from throughout the school. Each year a good number of students choose to continue their study of Latin, Greek and the classical world at leading universities.

Latin lesson

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