Put Latin on national curriculum, Michael Gove told

Subject risks neglect if education policy doesn't change, says Politeia think-tank

Latin should be included in the national curriculum to avoid it becoming a “Cinderella language”, Education Secretary Michael Gove is being told.

At present, the Department for Education has a list of languages that can be studied as part of the languages curriculum for Key Stage Three (11 to 14-year-olds). However, it only covers modern foreign languages and omits Latin.

Politeia, the right-wing think-tank, argues in a pamphlet this could discourage schools from offering the subject - thus creating a situation where it “is in danger of being the Cinderella of foreign languages”.

“This position should be changed,” said Sheila Lawlor, director of Politeia. “Because of the classroom time schools need to meet legal obligations, subjects which are not included in the national curriculum tend to be neglected by schools and it becomes difficult for pupils to study them in addition to the subjects legally required.

“If Latin is not an option within the national curriculum, fewer students are likely to study it. It is wrong to penalise pupils who prefer to keep up Latin as their main language in secondary school (or who would like to start it there). The evidence is that such study benefits their whole education and equips them to learn a whole range of other languages.”

According to David Butterfield, one of the authors of the pamphlet, and a lecturer in Ancient Literature and fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge, a far smaller percentage of state schools offer Latin that in the independent sector. Many offer the subject outside of school hours - in lunchtime or after school clubs. Overall, about 10,000 students take Latin GCSE, a figure that has remained steady over the past decade.

“In the 21st century, however, Latin finds itself the subject of frequent attacks - as an outmoded dead language with nothing to tell the modern world, as a dispiritingly difficult subject to master and as a bastion of anachronistic privilege and elitism,” he said.

“All of these criticisms are entirely devoid of truth and are typically levelled by those without direct contact with the present-day status of the subject and its teaching.”

John Macintosh, former headteacher of the London Oratory, which does include Latin and Greek in its offer to pupils, said the UK “had to get away” from the idea that only modern languages should be taught.

“I suspect that’s why Latin has suffered more than other subjects,” he said. “The argument is if they (the pupils) go to Spain and want to buy a bag of chips. they should ask for them in Spanish.”

Mr Gove is known to be a keen supporter of the classics and has insisted that Latin and Greek are among the options that can be taught for the English Baccalaureate league table ranking, which insists pupils must have at least five A* to C grade passes in English, maths, science a foreign language and a humanities subject, history or geography.

In addition, the pamphlet argues that pupils can still study ancient languages at GCSE level and that it is a permissible language for study in primary schools for seven to 11-year-olds as part of the national curriculum. However, it adds that - unless it is included in the secondary school national curriculum - it will not reach its true potential.

A Department for Education official told the seminar held to launch the pamphlet that Latin had been excluded from the Key Stage Three list of permissible languages under the curriculum because its inclusion could have meant that some pupils did not study a single modern foreign language between the ages of 11 and 14 and that was not what ministers had intended.

A spokeswoman for the DfE said: “There is nothing to stop schools from teaching Latin,  In fact, students can study any ancient or modern language , including Latin, as part of the EBacc.

“We are addressing the chronic lack of attention paid to foreign languages in schools.  For the first time ever, we have made it compulsory for primary schools to teach a language – which may be Latin – so that children can learn this crucial skill from a young age.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Nursery Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: "This is a good school. Pupils' behaviour i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3/4 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: *** Urgent: Year 3/4 Teacher required - Abb...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: The Geography department of this outstandin...

Tradewind Recruitment: Teaching Assistant (SEN)

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A Special Needs school (SEN) in the London ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen