Head of Department: Mr M J Cooke
Latin is offered as an extra GCSE to students with the aptitude and application to complete a challenging course successfully in limited teaching time. Tuition is outside the normal time-table, but timings are flexible for the various year groups to ensure that the subject can be made available to all students with the requisite ability, whatever their wider commitments.
Examination Board: OCR
Latin is offered as an extra GCSE to students with the aptitude and application to complete a challenging course successfully in limited teaching time. Tuition is outside the normal time-table, but timings are flexible for the various year groups to ensure that the subject can be made available to all students with the requisite ability, whatever their wider commitments. However, this does put a premium on a good work ethic from the students concerned: they need to be able to work independently to support the course. Groups are usually small, currently between six and eight students, so tuition is fairly intensive. When students are successful, as most are, they find the course valuable not only for its intrinsic qualities, but also as a stimulant to a positive approach to independent learning that can enhance their approach to a wide range of subjects at GCSE level and beyond.
Latin GCSE has evolved as have other exam courses, but mutatis mutandis, the basic elements remain much the same. The exam consists of two translation and comprehension papers, and two papers involving the study of set extracts of Verse and Prose.
The Year 10 course concentrates on establishing the basics of the grammar and vocabulary of the Latin language. Some students may come with previous knowledge, and most will have attended an introductory course in Year 9. By the end of Year 10 they should be competent in elementary accidence and syntax, and they should be masters of the five hundred or so words required for GCSE. Although this may sound dry as well as traditional, there is no doubt that students with an interest in English and other modern languages can enjoy and benefit from such a study of Latin which lies at the root of so much that came later – the word benefit itself deriving from bene facere, to do well!
Of comparable value is the Year 11 course with its emphasis on Latin literature and the culture which produced such great works. This year students are working on prose extracts from Pliny the Younger and Livy, and verse extracts from Horace and Virgil. There is nothing dull about the content of these: the theme of both sets of extracts is ‘Prophecies and Portents’, and topics vary from the existence of ghosts to warnings about the Ides of March. Virgil’s Aeneid VIII contains a brilliant description of the Battle of Actium crafted onto a shield by Venus’ husband Vulcan! Students thus rub shoulders with the greatest Roman historian (Livy), the greatest poet of the Augustan Age (Virgil), the greatest epistolographer of Roman times, and the greatest lyricist ever (Horace). If there was a time in the late twentieth century when it seemed that study of such writers might disappear from school syllabuses, there is little doubt that in the twenty-first Horace is being proved right again in his claim that his monument would be more durable than brass, aere perennius. Tennyson was right to hail Virgil:
I salute thee, Mantovano,
I that loved thee since my day began,
Wielder of the stateliest measure
ever moulded by the lips of man.
Boris Johnson agrees, and no doubt the London Olympics will encourage many to look back beyond Roman times to the Greeks they so admired. The Russell Group of Universities agrees, knowing a subject of value when they see one. And some students still agree and seize the moment:
dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.