From this term, students in three comprehensive schools will be taught Latin by e-mail using distance learning techniques. The project will be extended if it is successful.
Since the introduction of the national curriculum in the late Eighties, the number of pupils taking Latin in state schools has declined rapidly. Between 1990 and 1997 Latin GCSE entries from state schools fell by a third while entries from independent schools dropped by only 5 per cent.
Ancient Greek has almost disappeared from the state sector. Last year, there were only 25 Greek GCSE candidates from comprehensives and 90 from grammar schools.
Now the Online Latin Project run by the Cambridge University School Classics Project is piloting a scheme to provide Latin in secondary schools that have no Latin teacher.
Fifty students aged 12 and 13 at Saffron Walden County High School, Essex and St Mary's Catholic School, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire will study Latin after school or in lunch hours using distance learning materials and with the help of trainee classics teachers via e-mail. Sixth-formers in another comprehensive, the Hertfordshire and Essex High School, will have e-mail tutoring for Latin A-level.
Bob Lister, the project director, said: "I believe children have an entitlement to learn Latin and in this electronic age we ought to make it possible."Reuse content