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This project provides opportunities for local children of all abilities, and from all backgrounds, to explore, experience and learn from the Classical world through a range of activities delivered within student-led after-school Classics clubs. The sessions are based on our internationally-renowned research in Classical archaeology and ancient history and introduce the study of Latin in the context of life at a local level. A key aim is to raise awareness that studying the ancient world and languages need not simply be done in order to gain a language qualification but can be embedded within many areas of the curriculum and can benefit pupils in many ways. This work builds on nationally recognised and award-winning school and community projects within the School of Archaeology and Ancient History (SAAH), which build confidence in students and embed employability within and alongside the University curriculum, while simultaneously promoting Widening Participation.
Since 2014 pupils at five local schools have been introduced to Latin and life in ancient Leicester by teams of student volunteers. The project, initially funded as an enterprise venture by the University and now with a grant from Classics for All, aims to disseminate SAAH research in the community, as well as improving academic achievement and awareness of access to university education; 96 children took part last year (70 pupils from three schools enjoyed the pilot project the previous year). The schools have had the opportunity to explore dig boxes and try on Roman armour, as well as meeting characters from Leicester’s past inspired by signed objects now in Jewry Wall Museum, including Marcus the centurion, Verecunda the dancing girl and Lucius the gladiator.
The volunteers have been led by Roman guide Cori the Rat (above, created, along with all the other characters, by PhD student Giacomo Savani) and by postgraduate supervisors in delivering sessions on curse tablets, togas, life in the army and tombstones, amongst others. A session on burial practices and the underworld, designed by one of the supervisors, proved particularly popular, with the pupils at Fullhurst Community College adding a local identity to the grave in question. The sessions are informed by recent excavations in Leicester carried out by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS). All activities include information on how pupils can become involved in and gain access to local projects, through participation in Young Archaeologists Club (https://www.yac-uk.org/) and visits to sites such as Jewry Wall (https://www.leicester.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums-and-galleries/our-venues/jewry-wall-museum/) and Market Harborough Museum (which displays the Hallaton material)(https://www.leics.gov.uk/harboroughmuseum)
to encourage life-long engagement in the local community and its history. The aims of this project are closely tied to themes of activity identified in the University’s Strategic Plan (local impact; commitment to success built on partnership innovation and enterprise; culture of equality and social mobility) and to key themes identified in the Teaching Excellence Framework (Nov 2015)(including 20% increase in BME students going into Higher Education).
Resource packs for teachers, based on SAAH research in Roman archaeology, have been designed by Jane Ainsworth (Project Manager) and Katherine Taylor (Project Coordinator) to support the clubs which will allow teachers to run sessions themselves; these have been very well received by pupils, teachers, volunteers and supervisors. We have also collaborated with Languages at Leicester (https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/modern-languages/lal) to develop a summer school in Latin, which can be taken by volunteers who wish to take on supervisory roles within the project as well as teachers from local schools and the wider public; these initiatives will help to ensure that the project is sustainable long term.
Feedback for the sessions has been very positive; when asked what they would change, primary pupils from Overdale School said, “Nothing. It’s too good” reiterated by the senior girls at Leicester High School, “Nothing but want more time!!”. Students at Lancaster School were particularly struck by expert instructions on Roman warfare, and responded in correct form to a barbarian attack while wearing their own personalised helmets.
In 2017 we will be running sessions for pupils who would like to continue learning Latin, while continuing with the starter sessions for new pupils. Two more schools will also be joining the consortium, with Leicester High School and Lutterworth College collaborating for some sessions. Longer term we are planning to establish at least one cross-school GCSE group, with the University of Leicester serving as a hub to support the teaching of Classics and archaeology in Leicester and the surrounding area.
The project, led by Sarah Scott and managed and coordinated by Jane Ainsworth and Katherine Taylor, would not be possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of supervisors, volunteers and the staff at the schools involved: Lancaster School, Overdale School, Leicester High School, Fullhurst College, Folville School, Slater Primary School and Lutterworth College. We are also grateful to the Jewry Wall Museum, University of Leicester Archaeological Services and Classics for All for their continued support and encouragement.