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Latin is taught as part of the core curriculum, being compulsory in the first three years. Classics – the study of the languages, literature, history and culture of ancient Greece and Rome – continues to thrive at Downside within its rich and distinguished tradition of Benedictine scholarship.


Pupils study Latin. They have one lesson each week, and although some may have already studied Latin at prep school, we make sure that everyone has a thorough grounding in the basic grammar of the language, as well as studying the culture and life of the Romans, so that all our students finish the year at roughly the same level. We use the Cambridge Latin Course as a starting point but supplement this with our own grammatical course to ensure a better understanding of the language. Opportunities to stretch and challenge are given using a range of textbooks and resources as well as asking pupils to give presentations and put together projects on different aspects of the course.


In the Second Form, pupils continue to have one lesson a week, and again we use the Cambridge Latin Course but add to this other material from our own resources. As the textbook is set in Roman Britain, we take the opportunity to learn about Boudicca and the role of women and slaves in the ancient world. In the Summer Term, we also give pupils a chance to do some Classical Greek.


Pupils have the opportunity to study Greek alongside Latin in the Third Form (Gratin), when they can learn the alphabet and the basic linguistic structures for three lessons over two weeks. We continue to use the Cambridge Latin Course.


Both Latin and Greek can be studied at GCSE level, where the skills of translation and comprehension are enhanced by the literary study of prose and verse texts written by some of the great Roman and Greek authors.


Pupils are able to pursue their love of Classical language and literature into the Sixth Form, where we offer Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation (examining board: OCR). A wide range of texts is studied alongside the texts set for examination, so that pupils gain an insight into the history and culture of the Greeks and Romans through contemporary writing. The skills which are practiced during the Sixth Form are those of close analysis, accuracy, fluency, essay writing and the consideration of historical and political context, all of which will stand the pupils in good stead for any university course.


Trips and events form a major part of the Classics Department calendar. We offer lots of extra-curricular activities across the year groups, such as a day trip to the Roman baths in Bath, Chedworth Roman Villa, the British Museum in London, a visit from the actors of Dionysus, workshops and many other opportunities for pupils to dive into the ancient world such as school visits to Italy and Greece. We also facilitate trips to Classics lectures and organise special classical cultural days at School.

Head of Classics

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