Hansard: the question of Latin

I used the words ‘if this report is accurate’ in relaying what the Telegraph wrote. I have just looked up Hansard for confirmation:

25 Nov 2008 : Column 1346

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, Latin is an important subject. It is valuable in supporting pupils’ learning of modern languages and can provide a useful basis for students’ study across a range of disciplines. It is for schools to decide whether it should be included in their curriculum. The number of non-selective state schools offering Latin has more than doubled since the launch in 2000 of the Cambridge Latin resource, for which the Government provided £5 million of funding.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. I am pleased that she shares my view on the importance of Latin as a way of understanding virtually all Romance languages, particularly English. That being so, is she not disappointed that 85 per cent of state schools still offer no Latin at all? Is she not concerned that each year 35 new Latin teachers are trained but more than 60 leave the profession? Is it not time that Latin was reclassified as an official curriculum language and given the same encouragement as other languages?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his question. He is correct that the number of Latin teachers in training is around that number. Indeed, it has been approximately 35 to 40 for the past 10 years and it is obviously worrying if a number of teachers retire or move out of the field. However, the Languages Diploma Development Partnership is considering the place of Latin within the languages diploma. Beginning in January, there will be a consultation about that, in which my noble friend may be interested in being involved.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, will the Minister ensure that the new careers services advise students that Latin has a wide application to future careers, not just in the classics and the modern languages based on Latin but also in the sciences, in particular biology? A biologist cannot manage without a good knowledge of Latin. Will she ensure that, even if an individual school cannot offer Latin to a student, Latin can at least be part of a local authority-wide curriculum offer and thus be made available to that young person?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am not sure that I can ensure it in the way that the noble Baroness suggests but I will certainly think about her comments and take them back to the department. We recently introduced a new form of qualification for modern languages called the language ladder, which I am advised is used for a range of languages from Welsh and Gaelic through to other modern languages and which emphasises the value of teaching, listening, speaking and writing. So we are thinking carefully how languages are promoted in our schools.

The BBC has good coverage:

A decline in the number of Latin teachers poses a serious threat to the teaching of the language in schools, peers have been told.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester said he was concerned the number of Latin teachers leaving the profession each year was far outnumbering those being trained.

He urged the government to give Latin the same priority in the curriculum as modern languages to reverse this trend.

Ministers said modern languages were their priority at primary school level.

Important subject

For every 35-40 new Latin teachers entering the profession every year, more than 60 were either retiring or opting to do something else, Labour peer Lord Faulkner said in the House of Lords.

He also expressed dismay about the 85% of state schools he said did not currently teach Latin at all.

“Isn’t it time that Latin was reclassified as an official curriculum language and given the same encouragement as other languages?” he told peers.

Where individual schools could not offer Latin, ministers should urge local education authorities to include the subject somewhere on their curriculum.

For the government, Baroness Morgan of Drefelin said Latin was an “important subject” and a valuable tool in helping people learn a broad range of other languages.

She said it was “worrying” if a growing number of teachers were exiting the profession, for whatever reason, every year.

The number of non-selective state schools offering Latin had doubled since 2000, she said, while there would be a consultation on Latin’s inclusion in the languages diploma next year

But she stressed: “It is for schools to decide whether it should be included in the curriculum.”

Figures published earlier this year showed the number of non-selective state secondary schools in England teaching Latin rose from 200 in 2000 to 471 last year.

But education specialists have expressed concerns that the rise in pupils learning the language is limited to Key Stage 3 pupils aged 12-14 and is not mirrored at GCSE and A-level.

There are also concerns about a continuing shortage in the number of postgraduate teaching colleges offering Latin courses.

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