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Angela Dix, Head of International Education and Communication at Parkside Community College reflects on approaches to engaging young people in primary schools with the study of Ancient Greek
Parkside Community College is a state non-selective comprehensive school for pupils from 11-19, situated in the heart of Cambridge. It has taught Latin for a number of years, but has only more recently offered Ancient Greek to interested students. Both Latin and Greek are taught off the curriculum with all the advantages and disadvantages that brings.
In the last few years, I have been using outreach to our local primary schools as a way to increase interest in the Classics before the students arrive in Year 7. By meeting pupils before they come to secondary school I can inspire them with my enthusiasm so when I start to visit classes in September to drum up interest for Latin and Greek they know what to expect, both from me as a teacher and the subjects, as well as understanding and the age old ‘reasons why you should study Classics’. We offer so many extra-curricular activities, and children generally are very busy after school, that I am in competition to gain their interest and commitment. Plus it is very gratifying to hear ‘Salve!’ ringing across the playground when a student recognises you from their primary school. This year I had forty-two students start Latin as a direct result of my promotional activities.
Last autumn I agreed to change the focus of my outreach as Classics for All was supporting the provision of Ancient Greek in my school in a variety of ways, one of which was to trial using Charlie Andrew’s ‘Maximum Greek’ scheme. Charlie has created a website full of lessons and resources to make teaching Greek in primary schools a possibility. She has created fun characters based on mythology to introduce each lesson which has a lovely mix of language and culture, taught through games and more traditional worksheet activities. Teaching Greek with many of the textbooks on the market at the moment is a dry and dusty activity which has little appeal for the majority of a primary school class.
I worked with four separate classes over the course of the year and the over-riding reaction was of enjoyment, engagement and thirst to learn more. As we all know, children are capable of learning a wide range of subjects and skills, we just have to find ways to make learning Ancient Greek as appealing as the more traditional subjects. The children were fascinated by the links between Greek and their own languages – and very often EAL (English as an Additional Language) students found themselves excelling through having a knowledge of a similar alphabet system or knowing cognates. Feedback questionnaires given at the end of the 10/12 weeks with each class were overwhelmingly positive with many students wanting to do more and even asking for homework! During the year I was also able to introduce two PGCE students to teaching Greek through this scheme, and hopefully they will introduce it in their new posts. I hope that the school sessions will have a positive effect on recruitment to Greek this September, we will just have to wait and see!