Classics in Schools

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Student teacher with pupils. Photo courtesy of The Iris Project.
Student teacher with pupils. Photo courtesy of The Iris Project.

by Jennifer Hilder (Phd Intern and Co-ordinator of the Iris Project pilot in Glasgow)

On Monday, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that he wanted more state secondary schools to teach Greek and Latin. As The Independent reports, he said “Classics is one of those subjects where most university places are taken up by independent school students and I think that’s wrong.  We should be giving state school pupils the chance to compete on a level playing field.”

We agree, and Classics in the College of Arts is already helping some schools to go one better with help from a charity called The Iris Project, run by Dr Lorna Robinson. Rather than target secondary school students, five of our undergraduates and postgraduates spend one lesson a week in three primary schools in Bridgeton. By focussing our attention on younger pupils in Glasgow’s deprived East End, we hope to give these children a real opportunity to get enthusiastic about Classics and the Roman world through language.

The aim of the project is ‘Literacy through Latin’: by teaching children Latin, we are also reinforcing their understanding of nouns, verbs and adjectives. We are introducing them to new vocabulary that helps them think more systematically about the language they use, words such as subject (the doer of the verb) and object (who or what the verb is done to). At the same time, learning Latin vocabulary helps to make connections between words and their meanings. For example, how many words can you think of that come from the Latin word aqua (water)?

Classics is a subject with a broad appeal but sometimes Latin has a bad reputation. With this project, the College of Arts is helping to shift the focus from that tired chant of “amo amas amat” to a new generation who really do love to learn.

If you have an idea that will inspire children (or teachers) in schools then contact us at for more information about how to get your project off the ground.

Post Author: Nicole Cassie

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