Mar 16, 2018

Our Impact Report 2016-17

The Latin Programme's mission is to teach an innovative Programme of literacy through Latin in state schools. We strive for Latin to be embedded in both the curriculum and culture of the schools we work in. We teach Latin because it is the most orderly, logical, disciplined, structured, systematic, and consistent grammar in existence. Latin is also the base of over half of the English language. Learning Latin dramatically broadens pupils' vocabulary while deepening their understanding of language. 2016-17 marked a significant year for the Programme and our pupils. On average, 18% of our pupils were eligible for free school meals. Despite facing disadvantage, 86% achieved their expected levels in literacy in the end of KS2, compared to the national average of 75%. Our Programme is streetwise, focused on impact and dynamic, engaging children through raps, songs, games and interactive storytelling sessions. Our mission is to deconstruct the imposing and daunting grandeur of Classics; we are liberating it from its ivory tower and breaking down prejudices.

Overall our classes are considered underachieving according to usual criteria: a high number of children receive free school meals (FSM), have English as an additional language (EAL), are from ethnic-minority backgrounds and/or have special educational needs. Therefore, our targets have always been realistic. But the results far surpassed our expectations. By the end of 2017, 92% of students were at the expected level for Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation compared to the national average of 77%. We find that the greater the number of years of the programme, the better the results. Students who do Latin for one year do well last year, but results for students who have experienced three or more years of the programme showed a 10% overall improvement. For 2017-18 we’ve hired a data officer to ensure that the programme is having a remarkable effect on every pupils’ progress in literacy.

Pupils also feel the impact for themselves. In our end of year survey (2017) 94% of our Year 5 pupils felt that knowing Latin supported their learning in other subjects, esp. MFL, English literacy and history. Teachers also commented on the benefit of the Programme for developing confidence, resilience and for providing a leveler for EAL pupils. Even OFSTED commented that the Programme challenged and stretched pupils by helping them to ‘think hard about the structure of sentences’ (OFSTED Report, St Monica’s, Hackney 2017).

 After ten years, our focus is on the future with a film project based on Latin literature (Virgil’s Aeneid) and creating an interactive section on our new website – launching in May 2018 – to showcase the dynamism and creativity of our pupils. As one Year 4 pupil from Hackney says, “Latin is epic – you learn everything!” (2017).

 The Latin Programme’s full 2016-17 Impact Report will be available to download on our new website in May 2018.

Dec 19, 2017

A Day in the Life 2 - Sharon van Dijk

Sharon Teaching
Sharon Teaching

Sharon van Dijk “At this young age they are so excited by everything”

Teacher, Sharon van Dijk (25), talks about her teaching day in two London schools for the Latin Programme, her fascinating research cataloguing Latin poetry and why The Latin Programme stands out.

‘I have a really early start on my teaching days. I’m up by 6am so that I have time to pack my things, eat some cereal, drink some tea and make my lunch. I have a long commute from Hertford where I live, changing onto the underground at Finsbury Park and on into Victoria, Central London where both my schools are based. I use the commuting time to read and prepare for the day ahead.I arrive around 8.30 at my first school in time to prepare my resources. I teach one year six class at 9am and two year three classes during the morning. In the afternoon I teach two mixed year four and five classes at another local primary school.

Before becoming a Latin Programme teacher in 2016, I previously taught Latin in secondary schools. The Latin Programme has a very different approach to language learning. Latin Programme pupils get up off their seats a lot more, using kinesthetic techniques to learn new material and there are more games and songs too. My favourite game is ‘magistra dicit’ (Simon says in Latin). The focus is also much more firmly on the structure of language at The Latin Programme. For example, I wouldn’t usually have covered all the Latin noun cases and their functions until Year 9 in my secondary school teaching. At the Latin Programme we are introducing this in Year 4!

The other aspect of the Latin Programme that I love is working with primary school children. At this young age they are so excited by everything. They have their own favourite verbs, like ‘necare’ (to kill) or ‘ambulare’ (to walk), and they love the challenge of learning a new language in depth. We’ve enjoyed looking for Latin inscriptions on (old) pound coins, and learning Latin football mottos.

I think that the Latin Programme faces a big challenge surviving all the cuts to school funding at the moment. I hope that more schools can still offer The Latin Programme to pupils despite this.

My teaching day finishes at 3.30pm and I usually arrive home in Hertford by 5pm, in time to eat and then head on to choir practice. Beyond singing, I also like horse riding and I play the guitar. I’ve even developed a few new songs for The Latin Programme – like the ‘sum es est’ song which are now being taught in schools across London.

On the days that I am not teaching, I am studying for a PhD as part of a research team led by Dr Victoria Moul at King’s College London. The title of our research, which is funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is ‘Latin Verse in English Manuscript Verse Miscellanies, 1550-1700’. This involves working with original manuscripts in archives across the UK. We are looking at neo-Latin verse (written in the early modern period) in miscellanies (collections of pieces of writing by different authors). Some of the poetry has been written by school children in the days when Latin was the language of education from when a child began school at age 8 right up until they left university. Some of the poetry I’ve seen is by well-known English authors like Milton who wrote in Latin to appeal to a wider international audience. Sometimes I come across beautifully illustrated poems to commemorate a king or queen and even figure poems -poems written in the shape of something. It is so exciting to discover unknown work and catalogue it for readers of the future.

My research really demonstrates how fundamental Latin was to the development of British education and to the development of the English language. It is wonderful that our Latin Programme pupils are contributing to that second life of Latin in schools themselves and in doing so are developing a deeper understanding of English.’

This week I’ve been…

Reading Blair Worden The English Civil Wars 1640-1660 as background reading for my PhD.

Listening to Christmas carols and Christmas songs.

Watching the BBC series Dickensian on Netflix.

Oct 2, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Latin Programme Teacher

Jonathan Teaching
Jonathan Teaching
"Each week I lead my pupils on a new step and show them what they can achieve"

Teaching and Learning Director, Jonathan Goddard (37), on a typical day’s teaching in London schools with The Latin Programme. He tells us about the challenges and rewards of the innovative Programme to help improve literacy in schools. He tells us about the daily challenge schools face and why you should support the Programme’s future.

Early Rising

"I usually wake up early – between 4 and 6am while my wife and 18-month-old son Blake are still sleeping. It’s a good time for creativity and for thinking about things that nourish my work. I like to take a moment to visualize what I want to achieve with my day. I’ll then have porridge or cereal with my son and drink a lot of coffee because I'm tired.

I leave my home in Peckham, South London at around 7.15am to make sure I’m in school on time and photocopy teaching resources. There’s often a queue for the photocopier and schools have a really limited budget for this so that is what made me think of designing some new interactive resources this year for iPads (Jonathan has designed a new Interactive Latin Textbook for iBooks coming soon).

School staff are always friendly and really welcome you as one of their community. That’s really nice but it also suits my nature to travel from school to school for my teaching. I like to be independent and be in different environments. Each day I will teach six classes of between 20-35 pupils in two different inner-city London schools. Sometimes I’ve even taught classes of 43-43 pupils. There’s not much space to move around in classes as big as that."

 A Typical Lesson

"Teaching starts at 9am. A lesson will start with an interactive activity or role play such as Gladiators, ‘Simon Says’ in Latin, listening to a song or doing a clapping game. I use these exercises to get pupils moving and establish a tone in the room before we settle down to work.

Then we usually introduce a grammar point in English. Literacy is a big challenge for many of the schools we work with and it really lays a foundation for success across the whole curriculum, even subjects like maths. After that, we’ll begin linking this grammar with the Latin, applying the same rules and relating them constantly back to English. 

After 3-4 hours of back-to-back lessons I travel by train or bus between schools on my lunch break and try to eat something on the way. Once a week I can sit down and eat some West Indian food in the Roxy Bar in Hoxton."

The Pupils

"At the end of each day I’ve taught over 150 individual pupils. They are little firecrackers: absorbent and ambitious. They want to do well but sometimes need to be shown how to persevere, how to structure their thoughts and work independently. By the end of the Programme they have learnt as much in weekly lessons as pupils in private schools who have three times that amount of Latin lessons per week.

I love the challenge of teaching such difficult material: material that requires real intellectual discipline to master it. When pupils develop these skills it is incredibly satisfying. It is wonderful to hear stories of my former pupils who are going on to study languages at secondary school or even university and see how excited they are about this new content and how much they’ve achieved.

I’m not a classics scholar. I stopped studying Latin at School when I was 18 and I was skeptical at first about the Latin Programme, but it has proved robust. What I see more and more in schools today is the challenge that literacy presents but the schools we work in are addressing that challenge creatively. And it is working.

I think The Latin Programme has a great future."

This week I…

  • Read lots of conspiracy-related trivia, Aesop's Fables, The Alphabet Book.
  • Heard the 'Basketball Breakdown' podcast, 'In Our Time' and Wes Montgomery
  • Watched: Lots of YouTube videos


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