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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
I think, therefore I do Latin
Roman Forum
Latin is not needed to study classics at school
Bright pupils in a group of Leeds secondary schools are taking after-school classes in Latin to help boost their analytical skills.

The idea came from teachers in half a dozen schools who collaborate on devising programmes to help their most gifted pupils.

Those taking part are aged 11 to 14, but it has been so successful that there is now a move to formalise the teaching so that at least some of them can carry on the subject to GCSE level.

The sticking point could be a shortage of Latin teachers - but classics students from the University of Leeds are helping out.

Problem solving

The scheme is being co-ordinated by the deputy head of Ralph Thoresby High School, Stuart Hemingway.

"It's not just a linguistic issue, we were looking for the sort of things that help with problem solving and thinking, and we felt Latin was an avenue to achieve that," he said.

"It's about breaking down the language and rebuilding it."

Five schools are taking part, with about 15 students in each. Since the turn of the year they have been doing an hour a week after school on a "taster" course.

Modern languages

One of those taking part, Josephine Ozols-Riding, said she had been learning such things basic verbs, animals, Roman writing and gods and the structure of words.

She also studies French and German and has found the Latin a big help with vocabulary in those modern languages as well as her English.

"It's good fun," she said. "Three other people in my class also do it and they enjoy it as well."

She would be interesting in pursuing the subject within the school's normal timetable.

Mr Hemingway said there were two teachers in the schools involved who would be able to teach a GCSE group but that would mean moving the youngsters around "which is easy to say but not so easy to do".

Ancients

"There are very, very few Latin teachers around and those who are seem to be getting on a little bit, being polite.

"Youngsters these days want to see a bit of pzazz, a bit of liveliness - not saying age and liveliness don't go together, but you get my drift."

So the involvement of the university students had been a bonus - and mutually beneficial, he said, as some of them wanted to become teachers.

But in schools, classics is not what it used to be.

Students can study for a GCSE in classical civilisation without learning the ancient languages - the literature is dealt with in translation.

Latin has been in decline in state schools in particular in recent years.

Last year a total of 10,451 students sat GCSE exams in the language in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Only 958 took Greek.

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