Classics is the study of the Latin and/or Classical Greek languages, as well as the context, history and civilisations in which the languages developed.
The Christ’s Hospital Classics Department is made up of four specialists, who teach across all age groups. All pupils study Latin in Year 7 and Year 8. This not only provides them with solid grounding for their English and modern foreign language learning (Latin has been proven to further progress in these subjects), but also builds their understanding of two of the most important cultures in the development of western civilisation. Between 30 to 40 pupils go on to study Latin at GCSE, and between 5 to 15 at A level. Greek GCSE sets average between five to ten pupils, and A level sets usually contain three.
Whilst some traditional techniques are employed in lessons, we make use of modern research and technology to bring language learning alive. The foundation of a successful career in classical languages is precision when learning grammar and syntax, and this is highly encouraged.
In Year 7, we follow the De Romanis course which simultaneously builds grammatical knowledge and engages pupils in Roman mythology. In Year 8, pupils use Taylor’s Latin to GCSE 1, supplemented with our own in-house materials. This allows them to develop their linguistic skills further, whilst also learning about the Trojan War and the story of Dido and Aeneas in both Latin and English. Year 8 pupils also have taster sessions in Ancient Greek to enable them to decide on options for study in Year 9. Those who choose to study Latin or Gratin (Greek and Latin) will continue to follow Taylor’s Latin to GCSE course to build upon their understanding of the Latin language. Gratin pupils will begin to learn Ancient Greek using Taylor’s Greek to GCSE course (see below for more detail).
In Year 10 and 11, pupils who have chosen to study Latin for GCSE will follow the OCR course. They not only continue with their linguistic study, but they also read verse and prose prescribed set texts. These change every two years; current selections include Virgil’s Aeneid 6 and ‘Conflict and Conquest’ (a collection of passages from Cicero, Caesar and Tacitus). GCSE pupils can enrich their learning through trips outside of the classroom (in both the UK and abroad).
Latin is also offered at A level, again following the OCR course. The course is split into four sections: Unseen Translation, Prose Composition or Comprehension, Verse Literature, and Prose Literature. Pupils build upon their understanding of GCSE grammar with emphasis put on independent learning. The A level course allows for a broader understanding of Latin and its context, and current prescribed set texts vary from Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Heroides to Tacitus’ Annals and Cicero’s Pro Milone.
Greek is introduced to pupils through taster sessions in Year 8, and they can opt to study Gratin (Greek and Latin) in Year 9. This involves studying Ancient Greek from scratch (using Taylor’s Greek to GCSE course) as well as continuing with Latin. Lessons are split, with two lessons per week focusing on Latin and one lesson focusing on Greek. This enables pupils to develop their understanding of the Greek alphabet and basic grammar and syntax, whilst also maintaining pace with the Year 9 Latin course.
In Year 10, pupils can opt to study the OCR Classical Greek GCSE. Alongside their study of the language, they read Greek literature (recent prescribed set texts have included Homer’s Iliad and Herodotus’ Histories) and study aspects of Greek culture, such as the Olympic Games, Athenian democracy and the status of women.
Greek is also offered at A level. The OCR course builds on and extends pupils’ linguistic knowledge, whilst also introducing them to a wide range of literature written by authors ranging from Homer to Sophocles to Plutarch.
Learning about Classical Civilisation provides important context for language learning and is naturally built into our Latin and Greek courses. From 2023 onwards, we will also be offering Year 12 pupils the opportunity to study AS Classical Civilisation alongside their A Levels. Following the OCR syllabus, pupils will study Homer’s Iliad alongside a module on Greek Theatre or Imperial Image.
Outside of the classroom
Classics at Christ’s Hospital holds a strong place in the co-curriculum. We run several school trips including a biennial trip to either Italy or Greece, as well as trips to see Classical plays and to visit the British Museum and Sir John Soane’s Museum.
We also offer a variety of actives to enrich and develop pupils’ understanding of the ancient world. The Junior Mythology Active is a popular choice for pupils in Years 7–9. Pupils are encouraged to foster their passion for the Graeco-Roman world through learning about mythology. Different cultures’ myths and legends are also discussed and compared with those from Greece and Rome to widen pupils’ worldviews. We also run a Senior Classics Society for Years 10–13, which offers pupils the opportunity to explore interests outside of the classroom; current projects include a journal, organising talks by visiting speakers and undertaking book reviews.
Pupils studying Latin for GCSE and A level may also have the opportunity to teach Latin at a local primary school through the Community Action programme.
Employers and university admissions tutors maintain a very favourable view of Latin and Greek qualifications. Over the past six years, several Christ’s Hospital pupils have gained places to study Classics at Oxford or Cambridge, as well as at many other reputable universities. Classics is a traditionally versatile subject and can not only lead to careers in academia, but also in law, medicine, technology and media.