East Oxford Community Classics Centre: from festivals to summer schools

The East Oxford Community Classics Centre has now been open to the public since October 14, 2013. It was set up and is run by The Iris Project and hosted at Cheney School, a large and very diverse comprehensive school serving the east of the city. It is run in association with the University of Oxford Faculty of Classics.

The purpose of the centre has been to provide a permanent presence within the school for all pupils to engage with the Classics in a range of different ways, and also to provide an exciting and accessible place for visitors of all ages from the local community to experience Classics and attend lessons, workshops, storytelling sessions and many other events.

Hundreds of local school children, families and visitors attended to take part in classics-themed activities and stalls.

After a year of preparation involving extensively redecorating the space with murals, new furniture and the creation of a classics library and miniature museum of original artefacts, the centre was officially opened with a large community festival. Hundreds of local school children, families and visitors attended to take part in classics-themed activities and stalls. Professor Mary Beard and Dr Armand D’Angour gave opening talks.

Throughout its first three years, the centre has offered hundreds of workshops, talks, and many events, ranging from ancient astronomy and Roman medicine themed days, to large community festivals and re-enactment shows. It has also offered courses for Cheney and other local people of all ages to learn Latin and Greek, classical civilisation and other subjects too.

The centre is working closely to expand classics provision within the school time table, with the generous support of Classics for All.

We have also been working towards getting the classics centre at Cheney museum-accredited and are now part of the Arts Council Accreditation scheme, developing ways to display and use our large collection of original Roman artefacts throughout the school curriculum and for our local community and beyond.

The centre is working closely to expand classics provision within the school time table, with the generous support of Classics for All. We offer A level Latin and classical civilisation to both Cheney students and local students from across the county, and we also offer GCSE Latin and Greek, as well as archaeology enrichment both for Cheney and in many local primary schools. The Iris Project has run the Literacy through Latin scheme in local primaries for over ten years, but through our Classics for All grant, we are now building the OCR Entry Level Latin exam into this offering.

We also offered our first ever summer school in August, which is a great success, with participants from across Oxford and well beyond, and we provide support and guidance for local teachers looking to begin classics courses at their schools.

The hub has attracted much support from local private school teachers – Tudor Hall School, Headington School, MCS, St Helen and St Katherine and Oxford High School are all formal hub members and have been brilliant at supporting our work in a range of ways. We are working with a very wide number of local comprehensives to offer our courses to their students.

Here are some of the comments left by parents and students who attended the summer school:

Ella and Sophia had a totally brilliant time. They have been talking about it all the time. Sophia came home and immediately spent the afternoon writing out various things in ancient Greek, while Ella has been telling us all the new words she learned. They loved the teachers and both look forward to having an opportunity to learn more in their schools. So thank you so much and everyone who put so much fun and passion into the camp.’

‘As usual, I was completely ‘wowed’ by the amount of work that went into this event. All of your events are so wonderfully organised and there is so much for the children to do and think about even outside the lessons themselves. My daughter is home educated and so in a way this was her first ‘taste’ of a proper classroom setting and teaching environment. I think she really enjoyed it and although she was the youngest in the class, two of the older girls in the class were very good to work with her when she needed help and/or to explain things. I thought this was wonderful as it really helped her to feel part of the group. The hands-on activities at the break were fantastic and the spread of food was amazing. We will definitely participate again next year if the school runs again and will certainly look out for additional activities at the centre.’

‘Thank you so much for organising the Summer School. I was surprised by quite how much Bobby enjoyed the Summer School and how enthusiastic and inspired he was by it!  He has been telling everyone he meets about it, speaking in his (limited) Greek at every opportunity, writing Greek messages in the sand on the beach, etc.’

‘It was fun and I was very pleased that there were teachers from different schools. I particularly liked the food at the break. My favourite thing about Latin was translating book, movie and TV show titles into English. Mr Lonsdale was very funny.’

‘It was amazing, we had a great time learning Ancient Greek and are looking forward to our Latin classes starting up again soon. If you have any Greek classes we would love to come to those too. Thanks for everything!’

‘I really liked all of the Roman snacks. The lucky dip was a good idea.’

East Oxford Community Classics Centre is the South East (Oxford) regional classics hub.