Holmfirth High School in West Yorkshire is just one of the schools who through last year’s Big Give donations, the support of Classics for All and the commitment of passionate staff have transformed their curriculum.

At Holmfirth High School classical literature has been placed at the heart of teaching. Caroline Davenport-Jones, the Head of the English, and her enthusiastic department, especially teacher Milly Knowles, have introduced a thorough classical education in a part of the country where having any classics on a state school’s curriculum is rare.

She believes that: “These stories are the foundations of our own narratives and are both compulsive and compelling; they are stories and ideas that we were determined to share with our students at Holmfirth High. Our school code promotes and champions the acquisition of knowledge so developing Classics has been the perfect fit.”

Mini Classics Library
Holmfirth High School's Mini Classics Classroom Library

Pupils at Holmfirth High School now study Homer’s Odyssey and Latin and Greek word roots in Year 7, Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ in Year 8 and Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ in Year 9. Off the curriculum they have a thriving Greek Society with 50 members, who with Classic for All’s support completed an International Project Qualification (IPQ), an intermediate examination, in the subject. A group of Year 7 students are preparing to complete the Ovid for All competition which focuses on students exploring and engaging with oral retellings of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Holmfirth has also created a mini Classics Classroom library that is always in high demand and have filled their newly refurbished school library with all things classics thanks to the generosity of students and parents through their annual whole school Sponsored Walk around Holmfirth.

Minotaur School Mascot
Minotaur mascot made for the Sport's Day 'Titanomachy'

In the summer Holmfirth High School themed their annual Sports Day as the Titanomachy with each House divided into Heroes, Titans, Olympians, and, the enormously popular, Monsters. They were also delighted to organise and host their first ever Classics Festival on the 19th September where over 230 students and 100 members of the local community attended a brilliant programme of classics talks, including a fantastic presentation about the inspiration for ‘Atalanta’ by Sunday Times Best Selling Author: Jennifer Saint, insight into the weird customs of the Romans by Jodie Reynolds and a wonderful talk on the enigmatic Tiresias by Dr Samuel Gartland. There is hope that repeating an annual Classics Festival at Holmfirth High School will keep inspiring students and the wider community alike.

The effects of introducing classics to the whole school have been profound. Like many of the great artists and writers who have come before them, students of Holmfirth High School have found themselves inspired by their brush with the ancient world. Ryan in Year 10 was compelled to create his fabulous comic book minotaur, the school journalists were driven to write the Titanomachy Newspaper capturing every spectacle of the sport’s day event and each House inspired to sculpt their delightful mascots for the Titanomachy day.

Ryan's Minotaur, Holmfirth High School
Minotaur comic designed by Ryan, Year 10, Holmfirth High School

Holmfirth High School has quickly become a hub of activity in West Yorkshire and combining with Greenhead College, who was recently supported by Classics for All to set up their Classical Civilisation A Level, we can see the roots from which classical education will grow in the north of England.

With your support we can keep pushing and invigorating classics in UK state schools; your donation will help to introduce and support classics in a school like Holmfirth High School.

If you'd like to support our work, please click here to donate to our Big Give Christmas Challenge Campaign during Big Give week (Tuesday 28 November - Tuesday 5 December) and DOUBLE your donation at no extra cost to you.