One way of spending your training budget – is it a good way?

When looking up our good friend Julian Morgan on Google I found that he is speaking at one of a number of training days for Classics teachers run by Keynote.

Keynote seem to have got hold of some good lecturers. Julian is involved in the day called Going 'Hands On', which is about (who would have guessed it?) using computers in teaching. Have a look at the Keynote site GCSE Classics page and you will see the list for this term:








I'd love to have comments from you if you've been on one of the Keynote days, whether you would recommend them as useful and value for money. Some cost £165 + vat, and Julian's costs £195 + vat. You could almost come to a whole ARLT Summer School for that money! I know that as training conferences go, these are quite reasonable, but it does underline what fantastic value ARLT gives.

A blow to Classics – or a following wind?

The item below, from today's Times, looks at first sight like another blow to the Classics, since most Classics teaching is in independent schools at present, and admission to universities from these schools will become progressively harder.

It could have a silver lining, though.

First, as things are at present, independent school students offering Latin must continue to have a good chance of university admission, because the state sector, alas, produces so few candidates in the Classics. Indeed, as overall intake from independent schools decreases, for an independent school pupil to take Classics A level may be an even better option than at present. Those offering other subjects will find the competition fiercer each year (see the Warwick University spokesman's satirical forecast).

Secondly, and more positively for the future, this ruling provides extra ammunition for those (including you, I hope) who are pressing state schools to take up the government-backed e-learning project and re-introduce Latin. If state schools are almost guaranteed a high percentage of university places, and Latin is already a good bet for winning a place in what the Times calls 'top universities', then the logic is clear: the Head and Governors of a state school can better their position in the university entry league table by teaching some of their best pupils Latin. Surely schools want to raise their status? Gently point out how Latin helps.

September 30, 2004

Top universities 'blackmailed' to take state pupils

By Tony Halpin

Vice-chancellors say they are being told to put quantity before quality over new admissions targets

PRIVATE schools accused the Government of “blackmail” yesterday after top universities were set tough new targets for the admission of students from the state sector.

Vice-chancellors told Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, that the goals were unattainable unless elite universities were forced to change their admissions policies by diluting academic standards.

The 19 leading universities in the Russell Group complained that they had not been consulted before the admissions “benchmarks” were introduced.

Some fear that the Government’s new Office for Fair Access (Offa), dubbed “OffToff” by critics, will use them in negotiations on agreements to expand access before allowing universities to increase tuition fees to £3,000-a-year in 2006.

Fee-paying schools believe that this could lead to the rejection of thousands of their students by universities taking state candidates to boost their performance against their benchmarks.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) said: “If universities bow to this scarcely concealed blackmail, there is little doubt that many individual injustices will occur in future admissions to universities.” It said that the “alarming” changes flew in the face of this month’s government report on admissions by Steven Schwartz, which had urged universities to treat applicants as individuals and not representatives of groups or classes.

The biggest increases were at Oxford and Cambridge, now expected to take 77 per cent of entrants from state schools compared with their former targets of 69 and 68 per cent respectively. Last year the proportion of entrants from state schools at Cambridge rose by nearly three percentage points to 57.6 per cent. Oxford’s state school intake rose by 0.4 of a percentage point to 55.4 per cent.

Geoff Parks, director of admissions at Cambridge, said: “This benchmark now as far as we are concerned is totally ludicrous. It is something we won't achieve unless we totally change our selection procedures. The new system is going to mean that leading universities are never going to hit their benchmarks, so what is the value of it?”

Dr Parks said: “We are looking for A grades in certain A-levels as the requirement for those courses. We can’t substitute quantity for quality in these courses and that is what the Ucas tariff allows you to do.” Jane Minto, director of admissions at Oxford, said: “The switch to using the Ucas tariff system means that students are being analysed for our benchmark who in reality do not have the necessary academic attainment to make a successful application to Oxford.”

Warwick exceeded its former benchmark of a 76 per cent target this year only to discover that the bar had now been raised to 82 per cent.

A spokesman said: “This is not so much moving the goalposts as cutting them down, sticking them on another field and playing rugby. How can this be defensible? It completely undermines the credibility of the whole process.

“If we continue to be asked to improve our intake by six percentage points a year, we will need to recruit 106 per cent of our students from state schools by 2008. We look forward to being asked to meet that benchmark.”

Professor Michael Sterling, chairman of the Russell Group, said that members were “very worried” by the changes.

The Russell Group comprises: Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Imperial College London, University College London, Warwick, Leeds, the London School of Economics, Liverpool, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Southampton, King's College London and Manchester.

A spokeswoman at the DfES insisted yesterday that Offa’s remit did not allow it to punish universities for missing “milestones” in their access agreements. But it could take account of their progress when agreements came up for renewal.

I think this must be in Latin …. only joking.

This came into my in-box this evening. Brian Bishop is a member of a London group that meets to chat in Latin, and told me about it recently. He must have sent a copy of his e-mail to the convenor of the group, who replied in Latin, and sent a copy to me. So here is the e-mail, with quotation from Brian's:

Avitus Brenno optimo suo S·P·D

And I have noticed the reference in the September Newsletter to Latin
gatherings. You could at some time mention of the London Latin
Circle. It gets together informally aiming (but not quite
succeeding) at once a month. Dates are fixed by e-mails. Anyone
interested in chatting in Latin over a pint or a coffee could drop a
line to:


Gratias quam plurimas tibi ago, optime amice, quod de Circulo Latino
Londiniensi Davidem Parsons certiorem feceris. Potes etiam ei offerre
inscriptionem paginarum nostrarum electronicarum

Ceterum spero fore ut proxima nostra 7 Octobris sessione adesse possis.

Cura ut valeas optime!

An exciting place to be learning Latin – pinch their ideas!

Calling all Latin teachers! Here's a website that I think you really ought to investigate.

St Louis University seems to have very go-ahead Classics staff, and their website has not only some excellent teaching theory but also some fun 'flash' movies that might come in handy for classroom use.

Let me list some of the riches on offer, because although the home page is pretty, the links to other pages are not all self-explanatory.

  • First, and least exciting, there are grammar and vocabulary helps. Dull maybe, but well thought out for maximum understanding and learning. That's my impression anyhow. Do use the comment form to disagree. Check out the vocabulary pages on colours (sorry, colors) and family relations.
  • Secondly, there are those 'flash' movies. The link is: Rudimenta in Motu (Flash movies). There are only a few of these – I expect they take an age to programme – but they are fun. Scroll down the page a bit to SWAV movies too.
  • Thirdly, there are essays (Paedagogica) on how it used to take such a long time to learn to read and understand real Latin that people gave up in despair, and how we can avoid this. As my friends know, I am keen on scrutinising our teaching methods and using those that have been shown to work in other subjects – see for example my lecture to the ARLT in 2000. The St Louis methods overlap mine, but have some fine ideas that are new to me.
  • And there's lots more. I found a collection of fascinating anecdotes (in Latin) about philosophers and other important ancient people, Latin texts laid out on the page (screen) for maximum intelligibility, and much more.

So do go and have a look at the site, and maybe bookmark it for a deeper investigation when you have time.

Web chat with Will Griffiths and Chris West

If you are interested in the new Cambridge e-learning project and couldn't join the web chat this afternoon, you may be interested in the complete transcript. I have put up 4 photos out of those that were on screen during the chat.

Giles: “I am fascinated by languages and am already studying French, Spanish and German. I would love to learn Latin. Any advice?”

I'd say it sounds like you've got a good understanding of languages already. I'd contact your local library and find out any evening classes in your area. Otherwise log on to our website and sign up as an independent learner

Nigel: “I have heard that spoken and written Latin are very different is that true?”

Yes, it's true we don't a lot about spoken Latin but it was definitely different to written Latin.

Becky: “Why is Latin not used in Italy any more?”

It's still taught in Italy, but modern Italian has changed a great deal over the last 2000 years just as English has changed since Shakespeare's time.

Jemima P: “Why is Latin still used for things like mottos and crests?”

A lot of organisations use Latin in their mottos and crests because it sends out an image of durability, strength and tradition.

Harriet: “Do you ever worry that Latin will soon die out as a language due to people no longer taking up the subject?”

Will and Chris: We are constantly looking at new ways to make Latin interesting and relevant to new generations. That's why we've created the E-Learning Resource to make Latin available to everybody of any age in the country. There's already evidence that the resource is helping to increase the number of students studying Latin.

Irene: “How difficult is Latin to learn for an adult? Is it easier or more difficult to learn than other languages? ”

Will and Chris: It's no more easy or difficult than any other language, and many people like the fact that you don't need to learn to speak it. If you want to learn it then I'd say go ahead!

Jane: “When I was in school, the International Baccalaureate program didn't count Latin as an option for a language course because it was considered “dead”. What is your response to this?”

Will and Chris: That's unfortunate! Latin is an incredibly useful language for today's students. It's great to learn French if you end up working in France but I believe that it's more useful for most students if they learn Latin, because then they can more easily learn the language of whichever modern European country that they happen to end up working in.

Grant: “Books like Eats, Shoots and Leaves have become very popular recently as many of us have very poor grammar. Do you think the teaching of Latin could improve this failing?”

Will:I've not read Eats, Shoots and Leaves but many of my students do say that Latin really does help then with their English Grammar and with their understanding of languages more generally…

…Chris: I have read Eats, Shoots and Leaves, enjoyed it and it is seriously contributing to my use of grammar, as is my involvement with the Cambridge E-Learning Resource.

Moderator said: Will says that there's a mistake on the cover of Eats, Shoots and Leaves – tell us more . . .

Will: It says it takes a zero tolerance approach to punctuation, what it probably means is a zero tolerance approach to incorrect punctuation!!

David: “The Latin which you heard in Passion of the Christ, was it all correct?”

Will: I've not seen the film yet but I understand that the Latin is all correct. It uses forms from spoken Latin rather than written Latin.

David: “What plans are there to get the DVD into schools that do not at present teach Latin, and how can Latin teachers help get Latin introduced into these schools?”

Moderator said: The answer to David's question is on its way . . .!

Chris: The DfES has funded the development of the DVD which makes it tremendous value for money to schools already…

… Will: The Cambridge School Classics Project is working with many organisations and schools across the UK to help introduce Latin. Last week I visited teachers introducing Latin in schools in Lambeth, Devon and Derbyshire.

Marianne: “How does one goes about enrolling, the cost, etc?”

Will and Chris said: The cost depends whether you are enrolling the entire class or just an individual. All information is available on our website

Joan: “What sort of qualifications will I achieve by doing this course?”

Will and Chris said: You can gain certificated qualifications from the University of Cambridge and can progress on to GCSE or even A-level.

David: “Would you care to comment on the remark by Howard Davis head of LSE on Any Questions (Radio 4 17 Sept): “People do a lot of demeaning things like boxing and learning Latin.” ?”

Will: I'd question whether Howard Davis has ever tried boxing or learning Latin! We can help him with the latter.

Joan: “What sort of qualifications will I achieve by doing this course?”

Will and Chris said: … The DVD itself covers Key Stage 3 and we have further online resources and support for the later stages of your learning.

Zed: “When I was in school I had to choose between doing either Latin or German. I'd have liked to have leant a bit of both but in the end decided on German. Do you think schools have a responsibility to make subjects like Latin more readily available? It seemed crazy that a language student couldn't study Latin and German”

Will: Yes, it's important that schools do all they can to meet the learning desires of their students. However this has traditionally been quite difficult because specialist Latin teachers are hard to find. The aim of our project is to help students in exactly your situation study the subject you want to study…

Chris: Our project helps headteachers to allocate their finite resources to meet the personal needs of learners.

Marianne: “What vocational opportunities and university courses would be open to someone doing Latin A Level?”

Will: Classics graduates are the most employable graduates according to recent research. With an A-level in Latin, you could go on to study Classics at university and then take your pick of hundreds of great careers eg banking, law, theatre, journalism, computing, research etc etc…

David: “Is there a list of people in the UK who are willing to help individual learners with the DVD course?”

Will: Yes, the Cambridge School Classics Project is co-ordinating this support. Feel free to contact us at any time.

Andrew: “Why is Latin still used in Religious ceremonies?”

Will: This is just tradition, particularly associated with the Catholic church. The Vatican still treats Latin as a living language and has just released a modern Latin dictionary.

gus : “When did Latin first start being used and by who?”

Will and Chris said: Latin developed as the language of the Romans around the fifth century BC. Because the Romans went on to conquer large parts of Europe Latin started to become part of many modern European languages.

Sue: “What can be done to help to 'modernise' Latin, to make it seem more relevant to students today?”

Will and Chris said: One way, of course, is simply to use our resource which is similar to a soap opera set in the first century AD. This will bring Latin alive to you in a very modern way. You will live and breathe it through the filmed dramas, documentaries and interactive activities…

..Will: It's also important to show how the study of the ancient world informs our understanding of the modern world. Compare Romans watching gladiators fight to their death with students watching films where characters are shot and murdered. Why does death count as entertainment?

on the subject of films using Latin, gavin wants to know: “Do you approve of the way Hollywood uses Latin?”

Will: I think that any method of raising the profile of Latin is good for our subject. Hollywood doesn't always get the facts right but it does reach many millions of people.

Again, keeping the flow of Will and Chris's answers, David wants to know: “Is it true that there is a radio station somewhere in Finland which broadcasts only in Latin?”

Will: Yes, that's true! Maybe do a search on a search engine for news in Latin.

A few people have asked if Chris and Will learnt Latin at school? If not, how much have they learned by working on this project?

Chris: I learned Latin at school for two years. My experience in using the E-Learning Resource to progress my Latin has been far and above more enjoyable and hence more productive. I will continue!
Will: I started learning Latin when I was eleven and have been studying it ever since. I guess I am addicted!

adam : “When is Latin used in modern day speech? Why is it so important to re-introduce it to schools?”

Will and Chris said: Over 50% of English words are derived from Latin, so to understand English properly it's helpful to understand Latin. Over 60% of words in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian are derived from Latin so by learning just one language you can unlock the key to many. But it's also important to remember that learning Latin is also incredibly interesting and enjoyable in it's own right.

Rachael: “Is it true that Latin is being dropped by some examination boards?”

Yes, one examination board is dropping Latin in 2006 but it will still be available at GCSE and A-level beyond that date from another examination board.

gus : “What is your most favourite thing about Latin?”

Will: I love the variety. One minute I'm reading great poetry, the next I'm looking at classical architechture, the next I'm investigating issues of philosophy or history. It's like every subject rolled into one.

Chris: Similarly for me, it enlightens most of life.

Thanks for all your interest, it has been great chatting with you. We look forward to working with you through the E-Learning Resource. Feel free to contact us for help and advice in learning Latin whenever you like.

Moderator: Thanks for joining us today – sorry to those whose questions we didn't get the time to answer but we hope you've all enjoyed today's webchat.





The London Festival of Greek Drama

London Festival of Greek Drama

Monday 7 February 1.15 (Stevenson Lecture Theatre, BM)


Dr Susan Woodford
[Myths and images of the Trojan War]

Wednesday 9-Friday 11February KCL Department of Classics
(Greenwood Theatre, 55 Weston Street, London Bridge, SE1 3RA)

[Euripides] RHESUS

In the original Greek (with English surtitles) – the performance of the
Rhesus will be preceded by a presentation in English that rehearses the
events of Homer, Iliad X

Performances: Wednesday and Friday 3pm and 7.30pm, Thursday 7.30pm

Ticket prices to be confirmed. Contact the Business Manager, Department of
Classics, KCL, tel. 020 7848 2399,

Thursday 10th February 6.30 Greenwood Theatre


Dr Nick Lowe
Rhesus and myths of Troy

Wednesday 16 February 1.15 (with Hellenic Society)

Institute of Classical Studies


Professor Marco Fantuzzi

Epic into Tragedy: The Doloneia of The ‘Rhesus’ and of Iliad 10

Thursday 17 February 1.15 (with Hellenic Society)

Institute of Classical Studies (Senate House)


Dr Angie Voela

Talk on and screening of “Prometheus Enantiodromon
(Prometheus Retrogressing)”, dir. Costas Sfiks, 1998

A 20 minute talk will introduce the film, which is subttitled
and lasts 76 minutes; there will be a brief conclusion by Dr Vouela.

Monday 21 February 6.00 Council Room, KCL
(with Hellenic Society / Centre for Hellenic Studies)


Mrs Charlotte Rouech
Actors and Audience: some archaeological evidence

Wednesday 23 February 1.15 (with Hellenic Society), Senate House

Institute of Classical Studies


Professor Massimo Bernabò
Classical Theatre and Byzantine Art

Thursday 24 February
6.00 Garwood Theatre, UCL

London Branch of the Classical Association

Professor Jasper Griffin

Hippolytus, Phaedra and others

Monday 28 February 1.15 (with Hellenic Society) Senate House

Institute of Classical Studies


Dr James Robson

Politics and humour in Aristophanes Knights

Tuesday 1-Saturday 5 March UCL Department of Greek and Latin (Bloomsbury Theatre)

Aristophanes’ Knights in English translation

Times of performances and ticket prices to be confirmed.

Please contact the Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon St, WC1H 0AH

(tel. 020 7388 8822), website: