Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Classics in Communities resources for ‘non-specialist’ teachers of Latin and/or Ancient Greek

by Arlene Holmes-Henderson

Background to the Classics in Communities project

The Classics in Communities project is a partnership between the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Iris Project. It was set up in response to the primary curriculum reforms which were implemented in England from September 2014. In the Key Stage 2 (KS2) Languages curriculum, for the first time, Latin and Classical Greek can be chosen for study by pupils aged 6-11. The project particularly targets schools which might not otherwise consider the option. It has twin aims: to equip teachers in primary schools with the skills and knowledge necessary to teach these languages; and to conduct parallel research to determine the impact of Classical language learning on children’s cognitive development.

In collaboration with project funders and supporters, we are pleased to launch two new ranges of digital resources.

How to get started with Latin guides

In response to requests from ‘non-specialist’ teachers of Latin, we produced simple guides to inform teachers how they might begin to introduce Latin into their school curriculum. The primary guide explains ways in which Latin fulfils language policy requirements in England and Scotland for pupils aged 7-11. It also combines, in one document, various suggestions regarding funding, resources and training.

The guide for secondary teachers details possible approaches to the introduction of Latin either on-, or off-timetable. Step-by-step instructions for discussion with school leaders and governors are provided. Furthermore, the document contains an overview of the funding available to state schools, as well as some suggestions regarding resources and training.

Pedagogy videos

Non-specialist teachers often ask how to introduce key topics or language concepts in Latin/Ancient Greek to pupils. With the support of the Oxford Classics Faculty Media team, we recorded six videos featuring experienced practitioners discussing effective teaching strategies and offering suggestions for classroom activities:

(a)   Teaching the Greek alphabet
(b)   Teaching the definite article in Greek
(c)   Teaching the Latin cases
(d)   Teaching Latin verb tenses
(e)   Teaching the Ablative Absolute in Latin
(f)   Teaching the Indirect Statement construction in Latin

The Latin films can be accessed here and the Greek films here.  The skills progression grids for primary Latin created in 2014 are still available here.

To learn more about the Classics in Communities project please contact our administrator at emma.searle@classics.ox.ac.uk.

The Classics in Communities project would like to thank the Classical Association and the A.G. Leventis Foundation for their generous support in helping the project generate these resources.

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is a language education specialist who conducts research and provides training for schools and universities, in the UK and worldwide.  She is an academic at both King's College London, where she is working with Professor Edith Hall on the AHRC-funded 'Advocating Classics Education' project, and at the University of Oxford, where she leads research into the impact of Latin and Greek on children's cognitive development for the Classics in Communities project.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Ancient World Immersive Classroom Project

The Durham Sixth Form Centre was awarded a grant of £415 by the CA earlier this year towards the resources required to create an immersive classroom, with the aim of inviting primary schools to take part in lessons about the Ancient World.  Now that the project has been firmly established, it is hoped to hold the sessions more frequently and to run them at local primary schools.

by James Miller

We have twice approached our local primary schools to offer to take their studies on Greece and Rome very much further with an immersive and interactive experience. Costs and time meant that we have to cap this oversubscribed option at 4 classes (c.120 students).

Students came in and did a quick session connecting labels to parts of a temple. They also listed the things they needed in a modern classroom to be a point of comparison with the ancient.

The students were then divided into two groups:

The first – suitably dressed in costumes - went into our classroom and did a series of activities: chanting the Greek alphabet, chanting the Latin numbers, writing on ostraka, writing on cerae with styli, watching (and counting in Latin) our volunteers being beaten, in line with evidence from pictures such as the one above and reading texts in scriptio continua on papyrus.

I would like to acknowledge a massive debt to Professor Dickey who shared ideas and a chapter of an unpublished book to help with this aspect.

The other half of the group made use of their new facts about temples to build these from confectionery.  Although we did encounter sacrificial octopuses and unicorns (!), it was clear that ideas about what a temple was for and how it was used were involved in their decisions, and some groups had a go at a Pantheon-style domed roof using some impressive round-biscuit corbelling:

Students then swapped their roles (Temple ↔ Classroom). At the close students identified the differences between what they had listed about classrooms and what they had found, and also filled in coloured stars describing one thing they had learned about Temples, one about Education, and the thing they had most enjoyed. No students struggled to identify things learned and all had enjoyed themselves (quite stickily).

Sadly, after the final group left, the gazebo caught the wind and took off in a suicidal bid for freedom, but this has been replaced.

We would like to thank the CA for the funding and (again) Professor Dickey for some of the ideas.

James Miller is Head of Department in Classical Civilisation, Philosophy and EPQ/Lead Practioner at Durham Sixth Form Centre

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lytham St Annes Classical Association: looking ahead after the first three years

by Jayne Kelly

The Lytham St Annes branch of the Classical Association was founded three years ago by seventeen-year old Katrina Kelly, the youngest person to ever form a CA branch. The branch needed 85 members to break even - quite a tall order in an area without a university or state school teaching Latin, Greek or Ancient History in the area. It soon transpired, however, that there were hundreds of ‘closet classicists’ as the branch soon became the largest in the UK, with a current membership of 378 members, including 127 students.

Dr Michael Scott is the branch’s inspiring President, fully supporting the branch’s many outreach activities and delivering his annual Presidential Lecture to enthusiastic audiences each January.  The branch has seven lectures a year; a Junior and Senior Schools Classics Competition, where student finalists deliver presentations on that year’s theme; a Classics Ambassadors initiative where students promote classics and the CA in their local schools and communities; and the Classics Summer School Bursary Awards which enable local students to attend the CAHH Summer School at Repton every year. This year the branch has launched its Summer Treasure Hunt with members going on a ‘Book Dig’ to find classics books for the branch’s bookstall.  This aims to raise money for books for local schools who are studying Latin and/or Classical Civilisation for the first time, due to the excellent work of the Blackpool Hub of Classics for All.

Chair Katrina Kelly reflects upon the LSA branch’s third year:

"We have once again enjoyed a great programme of lectures that has led us on a geographical odyssey around the ancient world, and we have certainly followed our President Dr Michael Scott’s advice to take a globalised view of history. In March, we reached an exciting milestone by welcoming our largest audience to date with over three hundred people hearing celebrated broadcaster Dr Michael Wood retrace the steps of Alexander’s journey to the East. 

At our annual Celebration Evening in June, Dr Scott commended the ‘incredible audiences, intriguing questions, endless enthusiasm and stunning tea and cakes!’ at the branch’s meetings.  None of this would be possible without our dedicated band of volunteers aged from 9 to 90, and our student Classics Ambassadors.

Natalie Haynes with LSA Classics Ambassadors and student members from Runshaw College

To celebrate this work, over eighty of us took over a local restaurant on a cold January night and enjoyed excellent food, company and a themed quiz in our growing classics community.

This year, our popular raffle has helped us raise £1000 for our Summer School Bursary Fund which enabled six students to attend the CAAH Summer School at Repton in July.

As we continue to forge relationships with schools and organisations across Lancashire, we have extended our outreach work and increased our profile amongst young people. In March, seventeen-year old Harvey Phythian of Runshaw College won our second annual Classics Competition (where the finalists impressed a large audience with their winning presentations about figures from the ancient world) with his excellent presentation on Diogenes the Cynic, whilst nine-year old Jonah Crouch of AKS Lytham won the competition for younger pupils. Plans to extend our junior classics competition to other local schools are underway and we are also preparing a festival to mark our fifth year in 2019.

Above: Katharine Backler, (left) University of Oxford, judge of LSA Classics Competition for Senior Schools 2017 with finalists and winner, and Katrina Kelly, (right) Chair, LSA CA

Below: Judge Katrina Kelly, Chair of LSA CA, with finalists and winner of the Junior Classics Competition 2017

We welcome guest bloggers to write short articles for our website (www.lsaclassics.com), which are linked to the theme of the month’s lecture or explore the writer’s enthusiasm for the ancient world. Recent examples include theatre reviews, updates on university open days and a report on a trip to Vindolanda by a group of interested members.

We hope that more trips further afield can be arranged in the near future and we now look forward to 2017-18 when we welcome more excellent speakers, including Professor Joann Fletcher, Lindsey Davis and Dr Margaret Mountford, to Lytham St Annes.
We would like to extend our thanks to the Classical Association, and in particular to Barbara Finney, for their ongoing support and for a grant to help fund our Classics Competition. We are very excited about our plans for the next three years and if you would like to get involved in any way at all, then please contact us as we’d love to hear from you!”

Jayne Kelly is the Secretary of the Lytham St Annes branch of the Classical Association, and can be contacted at lsaclassics@gmail.com

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Bristol Classics Hub (South West): reflecting on our first year

by Hannah Walsh

The Bristol Classics Hub was set up in September 2016 to support the development of classical subjects in state schools in the South West. Funded by Classics for All and the Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition and delivered in partnership with the University of Bristol, the hub aims to widen access to Classics by offering a powerful and stable focus for regional development.

Prior to establishing the hub, we carried out preliminary research in June 2016 to gauge the level of interest among headteachers and teachers in local primary and secondary schools regarding the introduction of classical subjects. The results were very positive, with several schools expressing interest in accessing training and mentoring support for their own staff.

Spurred on by this enthusiasm, we decided to move away from the model of student-led Classics classes and clubs (which is used with great success and impact in other hubs) and to focus instead on training non-specialist teachers in schools to lead the introduction of Classics. This shift was driven by our vision that the Bristol hub would play a role in empowering the teachers as well as the young people within each school.
Building strong relationships with individual teachers and departments has therefore been central to the work of the hub this year. By visiting partner schools at regular intervals and responding promptly to teachers’ questions, we have tried to support schools in a more personalised manner. In doing so, it’s become clear that there is no blueprint for the way in which Classics can be introduced into schools; different approaches will work best in different contexts. Therefore, we aim to remain flexible and responsive to the curricular needs or restraints of individual schools at all times.
In practical terms, the hub consists of a 0.3 FTE project co-ordinator who is responsible for liaising with schools, managing day-to-day hub activity and facilitating training. The co-ordinator is supported by Dr Genevieve Liveley and Dr William Guast in the Department of Classics and Ancient History. 

In the space of 10 months, the Bristol Classics Hub has quickly established itself as an important part of the Classics educational community in the South West.  We have:
    • Built up strong relationships with local schools and worked closely with 11 secondary schools and eight primary schools, many in areas of high deprivation;
    • Trained over 60 non-specialist primary and secondary teachers to teach Latin, Greek and Classical  Civilisation on a sustainable basis;
    •  Organised a GCSE and A Level Classical Civilisation conference which attracted over 80 students  from schools across the region;
    • Provided a range of enrichment events and school workshops for pupils aged 5-18.
In the new 2017-18 academic year, over 1,500 students in 14 schools will either have the opportunity to study a classical subject for the first time or to study a greater range of classical subjects.
We have been delighted (and at times overwhelmed!) by the level of demand for Classics within the local state sector. Yet there is no question that the success of the hub over the past year is a testament to the ambition and enthusiasm of committed teachers across the region who have had the courage to embrace Classics and make it work in their own individual contexts in innovative, exciting and powerful new ways.
As the Bristol Classics Hub enters into its second year, we hope to build on this enthusiasm and provide regular opportunities for teachers (in both state and independent sectors) and academics to learn from each other and share good practice through the introduction of Classics ‘Teach Meet’ events and the development of a peer-to-peer mentoring network. We also hope to widen the geographical scope of the hub this year to ensure that as many teachers as possible from across the South West can participate in the network.
In 2017-18, our expanded programme of events will include opportunities for students to demonstrate their Classics learning in fun and creative ways. For example, KS2 & KS3 students will be able to participate in the Latin play competition, run in collaboration with the local branch of the CA in Bristol, and Year 7 students from seven local schools will be involved in our new Ovid in the West Country competition.

Following on from the success of our first Classical Civilisation conference for GCSE and A Level students in March 2017, this event will be held again in March 2018 with increased capacity so that more students can attend. In preparation, we will be formalising our training programme for the University of Bristol student volunteers who will be running plenary and break-out sessions for school students during the course of the conference. University academics will deliver lectures at this event and will also provide a series of six talks over the course of the Autumn term to Year 12 and 13 students who are participating in new Classics and Ancient History stream within the University’s Access to Bristol scheme.

The hub is delighted to have received a further three years’ funding and support from Classics for All, IGRCT and the University of Bristol. In the coming years, we hope to develop our existing relationships with schools in Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire and North Somerset and to build up the infrastructure for Classics in more rural parts of the South West. By creating an environment where schools can draw on local expertise and help one another to embed Classics in the curriculum, we aim to foster the growth of Classics teaching and ensure that classical subjects can put down permanent roots in the curriculum plans of the region’s schools.

For more details about the Bristol Classics Hub, our aims, and how to get involved, as well as blog posts with more detailed reports from many of our events, please visit our website.  A more extensive article about the work of the hub will be published in the Journal of Classics Teaching, Issue 36 (Autumn 2017).

Hannah Walsh co-ordinates the Bristol Classics Hub and Classics for All’s Electra Programme which supports schools to introduce or develop the teaching of Ancient Greek language and culture. She has taught English and Classics in both state and private schools in the South West and is currently studying part-time for a Master’s degree in Education Policy and International Development. You can contact her at: h.walsh@bristol.ac.uk

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Autumn Books 2017

by Philip Hooker

Once again, we have picked out the classical books featured in the latest Bookseller Buyer’s Guide (and some others noted elsewhere): these are the books which publishers think will interest the general reader.

The highlighted work is Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic; the cultural critic teaches classics at Bard College and this is the story of how his father, age 81, came to his Odyssey course and later joined him in the Mediterranean to follow Odysseus’ footsteps.  It is in the same genre as Ann Patty’s Living with a Dead Language and Peter Stothard’s The Senecans (both now in paperback): how study of the classics can enrich contemporary lives.  We also note Bijam Omrani’s Caesar’s Footprints: Journeys to Roman Gaul, and the latest Frederic Raphael: Antiquity Matters.  An earlier generation is explored by Yopie Prins in Ladies’ Greek, which describes how young college women in the UK and US translated and produced versions of Greek Tragedy from the 1880s; a remarkable feat of reception.  And Edith Hamilton, author of by far the most influential introductions to the ancient world: The Greek Way (1930) and The Roman Way (1932), is re-printed again, though these must by now be seen as period pieces.

In the category of erudite light entertainment, we have the latest works from Philip Matyszak: 24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A day in the Life of the People Who Lived There, featuring 24 characters, and Paul Chrystal: How to be a Roman: A day in the Life of a Roman Family, as well as Eleanor Dickey’s Stories of Daily Life from the Roman World: Extracts from the Ancient Colloquia, a more serious textbook.   The latest Peter Jones is Quid pro Quo, all about the Latin roots of the English language.  In fiction, there are new historical novels from Douglas Jackson, Ben Kane and Anthony Riches, and new historical crime writer Annelise Friesenbruch with Rivals of the Republic, in which Hortensia, daughter of Rome’s leading orator, investigates the murder of a Vestal Virgin in 70BC. More literary is Khamla Shamsie with Home Fire, long-listed for the Booker prize, a contemporary re-imagining of Antigone.

Scholarly works include Kathryn Tempest’s Brutus the Noble Conspirator, Jennifer Roberts with The Plague of War: Athens, Sparta and the Struggle for Ancient Greece, Vincent Azoulay with The Tyrant Slayers of Ancient Athens: A Tale of Two Statues, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion, edited by Esther Eidinow and Julia Kindt, and two new Cambridge Companions on the writings of Julius Caesar and on the Age of Nero.  There are two new accounts of the Fall of the Roman Empire: The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey, who cites the destructive effects of a radical new religion – Christianity - and The Fall of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of Empire by Kyle Harper.  And there are three accounts of other groups:  In Search of the Phoenicians by Josephine Crawley Quinn, who questions whether they were really a coherent nation; Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia by St. John Simpson, which ties in with the British Museum exhibition commencing in September; and Amazons: The Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World, by John Man, which ties in with Wonder Woman.

There are several new texts in translation.  Penguin has an anthology of ancient historiography – Dionysius, Plutarch, Lucian and more - translated by John Marincola, and another of ancient rhetoric from Aristotle to Philostratus, translated by Thomas Habinek, as well as Alicia Stallings’ version of Hesiod’s Works and Days.  OUP World Classics recently added Josephus’ The Jewish War in a version by Martin Hammond.  The latest Loebs are ApuleiusApologia and other works and Aelius Aristides Orations.   Peter Rhodes has updated his version of The Athenian Constitution: Written in the School of Aristotle.  The latest Cambridge Green and Yellow is Stephen Harrison’s edition of Horace: Odes Book 2.  More literary works include David Perry’s version of the Aeneid, C P Vlieland’s Juvenal Revisited, and Bad Kid Catullus, a set of modern crowd-sourced versions edited by Jon Stone.  Meanwhile there is Emily Wilson’s version of The Odyssey, which follows Caroline Alexander’s version of The Iliad, both said to be the first done by women.

Among works for children, the runaway best seller is the latest Rick Riordan: The Dark Prophecy, the second volume of The Trials of Apollo.   We also have the latest Caroline Lawrence: Death in the Arena, and the latest Saviour Pirotta: Secret of the Oracle, as well as Courtney Carbone’s OMG Classics: Greek Gods, a tale told in texts.  For younger readers, there are Hugh Lupton’s Greek Myths: Three Heroic Tales and The Adventures of Odysseus, Terry Deary’s four sets of Roman Tales and Marcia WilliamsGreek Myths.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association, and writes regularly for the CA Blog on Classics in the Media.       

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Women's Classical Committee UK: looking forward after our first year

by Carol Atack

Since its launch in April last year, the Women’s Classical Committee UK has held several events and fostered many continuing discussions in pursuit of its aims of supporting women in Classics, promoting feminist and gender-informed perspectives in classics, raising the profile of the study of women in antiquity and classical reception, and advancing equality and diversity in Classics.

That was apparent from the moment that I arrived at April’s AGM clutching the last set of handouts, to find the Ioannou Centre buzzing with lively conversation as delegates arrived, conversations that continued all day and are still informing our plans for the coming year. Opening the AGM, our co-chair, Dr Elena Theodorakopoulos (Birmingham), summarised our activities since our launch. Highlights included:

·     Early-career day: Feminist pedagogy. This workshop examined ways to incorporate feminist thought on educational practice into the classical seminar room; we've seen delegates follow up with workshops in their own institutions, and forged links with other disciplines where similar discussions are taking place, leading to our IMC round-table sessions.
·       Mid-career day: A day focused on issues related to career progression (publishing, promotion, work-life balance) for established academics.
·     Women classicists on Wikipedia: following a training session in January, members have held regular editing sessions creating detailed, reliable biographical entries for women classicists. Pages created have been featured by Wikipedia, and anyone can join in – check the Twitter hashtag #WCCwiki for details.
·      Our presence at the Classical Association conference included a social event, a drop-in Wiki editing session, and two panels, ‘Women and Classics: The Female in Classical Scholarship’ and ‘Women and Classics: Foremothers on the Frontline’.

Focusing our AGM on the topic of diversity raised our awareness of the work still to be done, although our presenters showed important work that is already taking place in different contexts. All our AGM speakers rose to the occasion with thoughtful contributions that meshed together well. Dr Rachel Mairs (Reading) introduced the international collaborative project on papyrology to which she contributes, and discussed how it opens and approaches questions of diversity and the legacy of colonialism within that sub-discipline. Prof Helen Lovatt (Nottingham) showed how myth retold in classical text and reception can introduce diversity, through a case study of Jason and the Argonauts and its reception in Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. Dr Ellie Mackin (Leicester) posed the significant problem of lack of diversity of authorship in reading lists alienating students. Shorter spotlight talks from Polly Stoker (Birmingham) and Dr Holly Ranger (ICS), on classical reception as a gateway to classical study, and from Prof Helen King (Open University), Ms Hannah Walsh (Bristol), and Ms Emma Searle (Oxford) on outreach and continuing education, presented case studies of activities and experiences that introduced some interesting questions and problems, such as the response to the gender balance of the presentation team in online courses.

Dr Anna Bull (Portsmouth) introduced the work of the 1752 Group, which campaigns on the issue of staff/student sexual harassment. Harassment was a concern raised by respondents to our 2016 survey, and it was helpful to learn from Anna of initiatives in other subject areas, and to hear her report on the cases that led to the establishment of the group, and its work in publicising the issue.

Our two keynote speakers, Professor Dame Averil Cameron (Oxford) and Dr Jo Quinn (Oxford), offered distinctive perspectives on their experiences in Classics and the state of the discipline. We are fortunate that the overt discrimination that Dame Averil experienced is less in evidence now, but can all profit from the policy she adopted to raise the profile of women, to speak up in every seminar: her paper is now available on the WCCblog. Jo Quinn explored the intellectual history of the narrowing of the idea of what cultures and texts constitute ‘Classics’ with some stirring examples of early women classical scholars and their contributions.

We are aware that there is a great deal of work still to do, and issues where we and our members need to work with other organisations to pursue our aims. Two topics emerged from our AGM, both within the room and through the online conversation, as particular areas of concern for our members and for others. The first is concern about the employment precarity of early-career researchers, felt particularly sharply in the field of classical reception, where students working on reception topics and on texts in translation are reporting particular difficulties on the job market in Classics (on a positive side, it is good to see classicists well represented in the new Liberal Arts programmes being established in some universities). The second is the question of ethnic diversity within the discipline; as Jo Quinn’s keynote lecture affirmed, the history of exclusion of cultures from the narrowing of the scope of Classics has left a legacy to address, and as Ellie Mackin showed, the disjuncture between our students and the people we ask them to read can be a problem.

We are grateful to those who have supported us, both individuals through their memberships subscriptions, the steering committee and volunteers who have organised events, and organisations who have generously provided financial support and support in kind for our events: especially the Classical Association, the Council of University Classics Departments, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Institute for Classical Studies, and the faculties of Classics at Oxford, RHUL and Birmingham.

Our forthcoming events programme for the rest of 2017:

·       Next (July 3-6) is a pair of panels at the Leeds International Mediaeval Congress. This came out of discussions with mediaevalists at last year’s ECR day, and are organised with the University of Huddersfield; sessions are Crossing Chronological Boundaries: A Round Table Discussion and Feminist Pedagogy from Antiquity to the Middle Ages: A Round Table Discussion.
·       In September we will have our ECR day (Birmingham, 8th September) and Wikipedia editing workshop (Manchester, 15th); both of these are set to be annual, recurring events (as is the mid-career day); it’s also possible to attend Wiki events via Skype.

Further events for 2018 should be announced soon as we confirm dates and venues; these will include a day of research and activism on LGBTQIA+ topics. As always, we welcome anyone in sympathy with our aims and purpose to attend our events. We are able, thanks to generous support, to offer travel bursaries to early-career attendees. (And I should note that we continue to work on ensuring accessibility to our events, as well as supporting the attendance of ECR/low-paid members).

For more details about the WCC UK, our aims, and how to get involved, as well as blog posts with more detailed reports from many of our events, please visit our website.

Dr Carol Atack is a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford, and is a Junior Research Fellow at St Hugh’s College.  She is the Treasurer of the Women’s Classical Committee UK.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Iris Project Literacy through Latin Scheme at St Andrews

by Crystal Addey

This article was first posted on the St Andrews Classics Blog in November 2016, and is reproduced with kind permission of the School of Classics

The School of Classics at the University of St Andrews is delighted to begin the Iris Project Literary through Latin Scheme for 2016-17. This year, we have 8 student volunteers who will visit local primary schools in Fife, Scotland, to teach P6 and P7 pupils Latin, Classical culture and ancient mythology.

This year, we are excited to be working with Torbain Primary School, Thornton Primary School (both in the Kirkcaldy area) and Rimbleton Primary School (Glenrothes). A wide range of P6 and P7 pupils (aged 9-12 years old) will participate in the Iris Project Latin classes, which our student volunteers will teach in pairs on a weekly basis for four weeks each semester.

The School of Classics would like to thank all of our student volunteers for participating in the Iris Project Literacy through Latin scheme this year.

The Iris Project at St Andrews

The School of Classics at St Andrews has been running the Iris Project Literacy through Latin teaching scheme since 2012. During this time, we have worked with more than ten local primary state-schools in the Fife area to introduce their pupils to Latin and Classical culture, enabling them to experience the the wonders of studying the ancient world.

More than 15 third-year and fourth-year undergraduate Honours students have participated in Iris Project, giving them valuable work experience in teaching, outreach and access work, and working with children and young people. This year, we have expanded the student volunteer base by opening up the opportunity to our postgraduate students and we have two PhD students among our cohort of volunteers. Our student volunteers from the School of Classics make the Iris Project work organised by the University of St Andrews possible. Many students volunteer for Iris Project work because they are considering a career in teaching in HE, FE colleges or the primary and/or secondary school sector; others volunteer because they are passionate about Latin and Classics and want to make sure that state-school pupils get to experience and enjoy these subjects as much as they do.

IRIS project volunteers 2012-2013

The History of the Iris Project

The Iris Project is an educational charity which promotes access to classics in state schools across the UK. It is based at the Iris Project Classics Centre at Cheney School, Oxford. The project was founded by Dr Lorna Robinson, who has also produced an excellent text-book Telling Tales in Latin designed to introduce children to Latin through the study of mythology.

The Iris Project was the first organisation to run a scheme delivering Latin as part of the national literacy curriculum. This award-winning project introduces the nuts and bolts of Latin grammar, and demonstrates the connections between Latin and English; in this way, it instils a fascination for learning languages.

The project started life as a pilot in east London and east Oxford a decade ago. The first school to participate in the Iris Project was Benthal Primary School in Hackney, London, where two classes of Year 5 pupils (9-10 years old) participated in the scheme. By 2007, 20 state-schools in London were participating in the scheme. Since then, it has expanded to include many schools across London and Oxford, as well as schools in Swansea, Reading, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews. Internationally, we have provided guidance for schools in South Africa and New York to set up this scheme.

How it works

This project enables students from universities to deliver a year long introductory Latin course to pupils in primary schools. The project enables children in state-schools to learn Latin, Classics and ancient mythology, subjects which they would almost certainly not have access to without participation in the project.

Pupils are introduced to Latin using a series of lesson plans which incorporate hands-on activities and storytelling to give them a basic grounding in English and Latin grammar, and a taste of Latin myths and culture.

The Benefits of the Iris Project

The benefits of access to Latin and ancient culture in an educational environment include:
  • Improving literacy skills
  • Greater language awareness and enhanced language abilities
  • Stimulation of creative thinking
  • Introduction to ancient history, culture and mythology
  • Increased confidence
Learning Latin also benefits pupils’ capacity and study of a wide range of other subjects taught by primary and secondary schools (including English, History and Science) through the improvement of literacy skills, the stimulation of creative and critical thinking and enhanced language abilities.

As one of our previous student volunteers at St Andrews has commented, “The Iris Project is a fantastic initiative, invaluable to its learners, its student teachers and to Latin.”

Dr Crystal Addey is Teaching Fellow and Schools Contact in the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Manchester CA Schools' Scheme

by Sam Fernes

In May 2014, the then Chair of the Manchester and District branch of the Classical Association, David Langslow, called an extraordinary meeting, asking members and interested parties to address a single, fundamental question: “What kind of organisation do we want to be?”   A desire to support Classics in an outward-facing and meaningful way was immediately obvious, and this energetic response would prove to have a galvanising effect …

With kind support from the national charity Classics for All, the branch went into partnership with the University of Manchester, together with a number of brave schools which were willing to listen to the exciting opportunities held out by this small band of classicists.  The premise of the project was that branch members, academics, students, and other volunteers would take Latin classes into state schools which had no previous experience of the language, thereby offering pupils the linguistic skills that result from learning Latin.  Tutors would receive training before their placements and full support from an experienced mentor throughout.  From the first, the watchword of the project was to be Sustainability: the aim was to introduce Latin in such a way that, by the start of year three, participating schools would have assumed responsibility for its provision, with ongoing support from the project. Teachers would be taught enough Latin over the course of two years to ensure that they could take Latin classes themselves the following year.  And everybody involved would have fun!

Taking the project from concept to sustainable reality remains the most challenging aspect.  Enrolling schools which were prepared to take the step of offering Latin to their students, a subject that most had never considered an option, was a relatively easy first step. The project attracted immediate interest from nine local schools, including Mauldeth Road Primary School, Burnage Academy for Boys and Levenshulme High School, all of which embraced the opportunity whole-heartedly. The range and breadth of interested and engaged tutors was also a real boon. Many of the tutors were students from the University of Manchester, some of whom have since gone on to pursue careers in teaching Classics, but the project has also been fortunate enough to attract capable enthusiasts from outside the university.

In September 2016 the project reached the crucial halfway point of its initial two-year grant. At that stage, ten schools were involved, five primary and five secondary. With one partner school now entering its pupils for Latin GCSE, and with new schools still seeking to become involved, this is an exciting time for Classics in the North West.  The groundwork is also being laid to meet a long-term ambition, that of introducing the North’s first ever PGCE in Classics, even if much work remains before that goal can be accomplished.

If you would like to contribute to these efforts as a tutor, or if you are a teacher who would like to know more about the MCfA project, please see our video ‘Classics for All at the University of Manchester', or contact the project co-ordinator, Jessica Coatesworth, by email at jessica.coatesworth@manchester.ac.uk.   You can also visit the project’s website here.

The branch would like to thank all tutors for their generosity of time and spirit, all teachers and pupils involved for their willing engagement, and of course the project’s benefactors, Classics for All.

Sam Fernes is a PhD student in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, and is Secretary of the CA’s Manchester and District branch.