Latin should be taught in every state primary school, says leading academic

Professor Dennis Hayes claims teachers in his training sessions would 'hate' the idea because 'they think the only thing you need is Google'

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The Independent Online

Latin and Classics should be taught in every primary school and not limited to the middle and upper classes, a leading academic has said.

Professor Dennis Hayes, an expert from the University of Derby and Chair of the College of Education Research Committee, has warned that Latin and ancient Greek along with modern languages are in danger of becoming “the preserve of public schools”.

The revival of classic subjects within state schools would “transform education”, he has claimed, and urges state schools to do more in offering children a classical education.

His comments follow government proposals to force independent fee-paying schools to support the state sector in a bid help such subjects to become more accessible to more disadvantaged children.

The drive comes as part of green paper reforms from the Department of Education to ensure independent schools do more to justify their charitable status.

Speaking to SchoolsWeek, Mr Hayes said state schools should be able to offer a classical education themselves, not necessarily with the help of privately funded institutions.

“As a minimum, Latin and classics should be taught in every primary school and continued into secondary school with the addition of ancient Greek,” he said, adding that the subjects could be offered by state schools through the Classics for All programme or the use of retired Latin teachers.

According to the news source, Mr Hayes said he would also like to encourage a debate about his proposals. 

Using his home county of Derbyshire as an example, he said: “the kids are basically not learning anything”.

“There’s these lovely kids in Shirebrook for instance. They’re great kids, but they’re not being taught anything. They would love Latin.”

However, the problem lies in teachers’ attitudes, he said, adding that the teachers in his own training sessions would “hate” the idea of teaching classics in all schools, because “they think the only thing you need is Google”.

“They confuse information with knowledge,” he said.

Marian Stockdale, a Labour politician representing Shirebrook on Derbyshire County Council, said the professor was “out of touch” with schools in the area. 

“Latin would more than likely be the last thing many will want to take up,” she said.

“I can’t see schools falling over themselves to take up the offer in the working-class areas. We have high-flyers like other areas, but Latin doesn’t make futures.”

Latin is said to have made a surprising comeback within state secondary schools over the past few years, with the number of non-selective state maintained secondary schools offering the subject rising by more than six times in the past decade.

As part of the government’s green paper document, smaller independent schools will be required to share facilities and teaching staff with neighbouring state schools – a move which is believed could be particularly beneficial for minority subjects such as Latin and Greek.