Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a new £4 million programme to give more students the opportunity to learn Latin.
According to a British Council survey, Latin is only taught at Key Stage 3 in 2.7% of state schools, whereas it is taught in nearly half of independent schools in the country.
The Latin Excellence Programme, announced by Mr Williamson on Saturday, aims to allow more secondary-school pupils across the country to learn the language, while the programme will also include activities such as visits to Roman heritage sites that officials say will give pupils ‘a deeper understanding of Classics, and life in the ancient world.’
An expert group is to be responsible for providing resources to roll out to schools in disadvantaged areas where the language has the lowest take-up at GCSE.
Announcing the programme, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said;
“We know Latin has a reputation as an elitist subject which is only reserved for the privileged few. But the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to put an end to that divide.
“There should be no difference in what pupils learn at state schools and independent schools, which is why we have a relentless focus on raising school standards and ensuring all pupils study a broad, ambitious curriculum.
“Latin can help pupils with learning modern foreign languages, and bring broader benefits to other subjects, including maths and English.”
The new programme is expected to follow a similar model to the Mandarin Excellence Programme which was launched in 2016. The Latin Excellence Programme is set to work with up to 40 schools over four years from 2022 to 2026.
Discussing the programme, Professor Mary Beard, a Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge said there are benefits to studying Classics in the modern day;
“Studying Classics opens up history to us – from early dramas, that 2000 years on are still part of the theatrical repertoire, to some foundational philosophy, from democracy to empire, from powerful rulers to the enslaved.
“But it’s not just about the past. Studying the ancient world helps us look at ourselves, and our own problems, afresh and with clearer eyes.”
The new programme has received a mixed reaction following its announcement, with Gavin William trending on Twitter on Saturday. Some have welcomed the idea of the subject being studied in state schools, though some have argued more emphasis should be put on teaching modern foreign languages themselves and skills for the future, rather than an ancient language.