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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Latin set for schools comeback
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News Online education staff

Julius Caesar
Did Julius Caesar prove a turn-off for schoolchildren?
Latin is being made available to thousands of pupils across the UK, even if there is no specialist teacher in their school.

And gone are the days of wading through Julius Caesar's accounts of his Gallic wars.

Pupils now get to read about the exploits of "wheeler-dealer" Caecilius who manages to offends his wife by buying the prettiest girl available at a slave market and Grumio the cook who is in and out of affairs.

The Cambridge Online Latin Project, which has been tested by 2,000 pupils aged 12 and upwards over the past four years, is being rolled out nationally in September.

It is hoped the e-learning course will go some way to reverse the downturn in the number of pupils learning about the ancient world.

We're looking to make Latin available to everyone who wants to study it
Will Griffiths, Cambridge School Classics Project
"We're looking to make Latin available to everyone who wants to study it," said Will Griffiths, director of the Cambridge School Classics Project which produces the courses in partnership with Cambridge University Press and Granada Learning.

"It shouldn't be for certain types of pupils in certain types of schools. We would like other children to have access to this education that private schools have long recognised is very important."

Interactive lessons

The programme is designed so that schools which have no Latin specialist can still offer the subject to willing pupils.

Distance e-teachers will mark pupils' work if required and will give advice to non-specialist staff.

The software includes lesson plans and 1,000 different activities to help the children to develop their skills.

Number of UK pupils who sat Latin GCSE
2003: 10,004
2002: 10,127
2001: 10,365
2000: 10,561
1999: 10,451

Source: Joint Council for Qualifications
The course is aimed at pupils aged 12 and will take them up to GCSE if they wish.

The number of pupils taking Latin GCSE has been in decline for many years, especially among state school pupils.

Figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications show the number of pupils who sat GCSE Latin in the UK last year was down nearly 450 on 1999.

So can the Cambridge Online Latin Project change all that?

"Only time will tell, but we certainly hope to reverse the trend," said Mr Griffiths.

"If this doesn't work, we'll take advice on what will!"

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