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, as we seek to produce accurate yet idiomatic translations. At the same time, we never lose sight of the fact that both languages were living, evolving means of communication which can tell us so much about the rich and varied cultures that gave rise to them.

Clay bust in the Classics department.

The sound and beauty of the languages are important to us: each year our students participate with success in the London schools Classics reading competitions, and direct and produce a piece of drama in Greek, most recently Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. We also firmly set our study of Latin and Greek in their historical and geographical contexts, both in the way in which we teach them in the classroom and through visits to Greece and Italy, as well to 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 and read, in their original tongue, 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 earliest Bronze Age society. All these writers lead us to respond readily to the beauty of their language or to the expression of an idea or concern, and also to feel a sense of dissonance as we encounter assumptions and values so very different from our own. It is this mingling sense of recognition and alienation which makes the study of Classics so endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking, and which enriches so much of the way in which we view our 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 Junior Classics Club meet each week for hands-on activities such as making mosaics and draping togas. Senior students produce a Classics magazine, and a thriving senior Classics Society attracts large numbers to its meetings, at which visiting speakers address a range of topics and give a glimpse of the richness of the subject at university level. Indeed, each year a good number of students choose to continue their study of the Classical world at leading universities.

Students studying in a classroom.

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