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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
Latin lessons go hi-tech
By Janet Murray

Latin club
The club is funded from resources for gifted youngsters
Pupils at a secondary school in Brighton are giving up their spare time to bring Latin into the 21st Century.

The after-school Latin club at Patcham High School is open to students in the first five years of the school.

It currently attracts up to 20 of them every Monday.

A number of the students are on the school's "gifted and talented" register and some are already recognised as capable linguists, but children of all abilities can attend.

The course, which has been running since November 2003, was developed with help from the Cambridge Online Latin Project.

This aims to support the teaching of Latin in secondary schools and provide digital learning resources.

Online resources

In addition to language skills, students learn about Roman civilisation. Topics include Roman society, gladiators, local government and elections.

I suggested the idea of a Latin club to my head teacher and she thought it was a great idea
Teacher Rowlie Darby
An impressive range of online resources, such as audio and video files, interactive games and quizzes, means that students can progress at their own pace.

The Latin club is led by English teacher Rowlie Darby, who prior to starting the club had never studied Latin before.

He said: "The idea was partly inspired by my own frustration that I didn't get the chance to study Latin at school. Then I read about the Cambridge Online Latin Project in a newspaper.


"More and more, Latin is being pushed out of state and private schools.

"I was excited by the idea of bringing the subject up to date with online digital resources and making it much more accessible.

"I suggested the idea of a Latin club to my head teacher and she thought it was a great idea."

As Mr Darby is new to Latin, he tries to stay one step ahead of his students. But he is happy to admit he is a beginner.

"I'm quite honest about the fact that I'm not far ahead of them. Yes, I make mistakes sometimes, but this doesn't worry them.

"I think it reminds students that making mistakes is one of the ways we learn and progress."

Cross-curricular impact

Fortunately, he need not worry too much about marking. Students can send their work to an "e-tutor" at the Cambridge Online Latin Project, who will mark it and provide feedback at a rate of 10 per session.

So many aspects of life are being 'dumbed down', but this is the complete opposite
Nick Kreel
head of modern foreign languages
Funds for this and other club resources are allocated from the school's allowance for gifted and talented youngsters.

Students are rewarded for attendance and good grades, with specially-designed Latin certificates and awards.

Nick Kreel is head of modern foreign languages at Patcham High and often helps out at the club.

He believes knowledge of Latin can help students improve across the curriculum.

"Latin can help in so many areas of education and employment: law, medicine, botany, pharmacy - just to name a few," he said.

"So many aspects of life are being 'dumbed down', but this is the complete opposite.

"Studying Latin encourages students to be analytical, to improve their knowledge of where words and languages come from. It really makes them think."

University link

The students are equally enthusiastic. Year 7 student Daniel said: "I enjoy learning and love a challenge. I'd like to be a doctor, so knowledge of Latin will really help with medical terms."

Year 9 student Georgina said: "It's really helped with my French and German. I can make connections between the different languages and that helps me understand vocabulary and grammar.

"I think I might like to be a vet, so knowing some Latin will be useful."

Students are looking forward to a one-day visit to Cambridge University later this month when they will visit the university's museum of classical archaeology, meet classics lecturers and take part in a question and answer session with students in the classics faculty.

Mr Darby hopes that knowledge of Latin will be beneficial to students when they apply for further and higher education.

"It's something that very few schools do," he said.

"It shows initiative, that they have the motivation to stretch themselves by trying something new.

"I think that looks impressive."

  • Cambridge Online Latin Project is a joint venture between the Cambridge Schools Classics Project, Cambridge University Press and Granada Learning.

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