We are busy creating a classics network for London – Capital Classics

Thanks to the generosity of London Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF) in 2013, Classics for All was granted £250,000 to establish and extend the teaching of classical subjects in London schools. A key objective was to reach schools in some of London’s more socio-economically challenged boroughs.

Working in partnership with Oxford and London universities and other Classics providers such as the Iris project, over the last two years Classics for All has introduced Classical Civilisation, Latin and Greek to over 50 London schools in boroughs including Hackney, Haringey and Lewisham.

A prime focus has been on training non-specialist teachers, often modern foreign language or history specialists, to teach Classical subjects themselves, building sustainable Classics teaching within the mainstream curriculum. We have been fortunate to be able to draw upon the expertise of the country’s leading trainers to oversee this work, including Aisha Khan-Evans and Steve Hunt, who lead Classics PGCE courses at King’s College London and Cambridge University.

For many primary teachers, Latin is a great alternative to a modern foreign language; it teaches young people the foundations of grammar, accelerating their progress in reading and writing.

The scheme has been an undoubted success, revealing an untapped demand for Classics in London schools. More than twenty primary schools, largely in North and East London, have either established Latin after school clubs or introduced Latin at KS2 as part of the curriculum. For many primary teachers, Latin is a great alternative to a modern foreign language: you don’t need to speak it, it opens to door to the origins of western thought, and teaches young people the foundations of grammar, accelerating their progress in reading and writing.

In secondary schools there are particular challenges to introducing Classics: the crowded curriculum, limited budgets and occasional perceptions that Latin is difficult and ‘elitist’. Despite these barriers, more than 40 secondary schools bought into the project with enthusiasm. At Greig Academy in North London, an inner London school with a very diverse intake and high levels of pupil premium, progress has been so swift that the school is now introducing GCSE Latin after brief experimentation with an after school club. Momentum is so great that it is now proposing to support a cluster of local primaries to introduce Latin at KS2!

We are keen to offer start-up funding for training and teacher cover costs to schools that are interested in enriching their curriculum with classics.

In East London, teachers at Kelmscott School in Walthamstow have disproved any notion that Latin is too daunting for non-specialist teachers: Maths and French teachers have learnt Latin from scratch with support from Birkbeck College, and are now teaching the subject confidently up to GCSE.

In the wake of the project’s initial success, LSEF has agreed to extend CfA’s grant. With this money, we are busy creating a Classics network for London, built around centres of excellence including St Marylebone School, Camden School for Girls and Greig City Academy. These will offer peer-to-peer training for other schools interested in Classics and offer opportunities to exchange practice and share resources. In the next couple of years, we also hope to extend this hub approach to South and West London.

We have funding and the expertise to convert more schools to the cause and are keen to offer start-up funding for training and teacher cover costs to schools that are interested in raising aspirations, and enriching the curriculum. If you know of any schools or work in one, we would encourage you to contact peterolive@classicsforall.org.uk and hilary@classicsforall.org.uk for further information.

Capital Classics is the London regional classics hub.

Photography by James Hooker.