Inner-City Latin

by The Latin Programme
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Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin
Inner-City Latin

`And one day we shall lift

your children to the stars’

(Aeneid Book III)


During June and July, The Latin Programme is embarking on a documentary film project about the reimagining and dramatising of Virgil’s Aeneid with Year 5 and 6 pupils (aged 9-10) across 10 London inner-city state primary schools.

Project Manager and Creative Director: Lucia Yandoli (The Latin Programme)

Shoot Director: Nic Wassell (Strage Day Films)

With drama facilitators from Talawa Theatre Company, the oldest black-led theatre company in the UK and The Kallos Gallery and raps produced by Jonathan Goddard.

“Wait, come, my guest,” she urges, “tell us your own story,

start to finish […] the pain

your people suffered, the wanderings you have faced.

For now is the seventh summer that has borne you

wandering all the lands and seas on earth”

(Aeneid, Book III)


Stage 1 – Behind the scenes filming as the children in ten London primaries learn the story of The Aeneid with professional storytellers and teachers and respond to it through creative writing, drawing, sound sampling, storyboarding. They discuss themes, characters and different kinds of journeys in relation to their own life (e.g. a difficult bus journey, the journey to meet a new baby). We talk to pupils afterwards about what they’ve understood about Aeneas’ journey. We see glimpses of what they are learning about language and what they understand about myth and legend.  

Stage 2 – The children from 3-4 primary schools work with an animation specialist during half-day workshops to create drawings/collages inspired by some sections of the poem. They can continue to work on their creations independently after the workshops have taken place, ready to be animated by the professional animator at a later date. (3-4 days of workshops – ½ day of behind the scenes shooting in one school scheduled for w/c 25 June 2018)

Stage 3 – The children from 3-5 Latin Programme primary schools will focus on dramatizing sections of the Aeneid. These sections are: 1. the beginning Aeneas escapes Troy and receives a prophecy that he must travel to Italy, 2.  Dido and Aeneas (retold as a primary school friendship) 3. Aeneas’ descent into the underworld to meet his father and vision of hope for the future.

 A small professional crew (sound recordist, shoot director/DOP, camera assistant, drama practitioner) will film the pupils’ final workshops with their drama facilitators. Each school will focus on material from a specific section of the script (one of the 3 main sequences) and whilst we will aim to shoot some specific shots that have been planned in advance we also aim to capture lots of spontaneous moments during the workshops, moments when children are absorbed in their activities and don’t necessarily feel aware that they are being filmed. Every school will film the same finale in which the children rise one by one from kneeling in the playground. (Filming – half-day workshops scheduled for w/c 2 July 2018)

Stage 4 – A professional film editor edits the footage and animated material – weaving children’s readings / re-imaginings of passages of the Aeneid with images from their storyboards to create a 7-10min final film for a collective screening to the communities, schools and families involved in October or  November 2018 – to be scheduled soon. After this, we will submit the film to festivals and edit it into a series of 2min clips to be distributed in an interactive section of our website dedicated to sharing responses to the film. (4-6 days of editing in July 2018).

Stage 5 – We edit the behind the scenes material to distribute in short (30sec) clips on our website. (Oct -Dec 2018).

Output: 1 short piece of ‘lyrical’ film (7-10min) and a series of short behind the scenes footage. 

Why the Aeneid?

The Aeneid feels completely relevant to the lives of children in London today.  Many London children have even travelled a journey across the Mediterranean themselves, one that mirrors the one that Aeneas took himself as it is retold in the epic. Focusing on rich but accessible themes of journeys and hope for the future allows the children to re-frame their own experience through this epic poem and allows us as the audience to re-experience the story through their eyes. How do these myths of journeys and their experience of the city differ from our own? How do today’s children find a place in the metropolis today? How does the meaning of the poetry change when we see it recited in a non-traditional setting and by London school children? Yet, also running through this is always the question of language and history. We wish to celebrate the voice of the children – their readings, their raps, their re-tellings as well as the language of the Latin poetry itself.

The Importance of Process

We feel it is very important, particularly when working with young children to allow some fluidity to the project and allow the children to guide us rather than impose our own views on them. However, there is a grammar to the imagination as well and during the first three to four weeks the children follow a pre-designed scheme of work that encourages them to explore the story, and study the language. This scheme of work will incorporate some storytelling, drama, poetry etc. to inspire the children and help them to understand and think deeply about the core themes we are exploring. That’s why the script of the film will have a sense of openness. However, we also aim to capture as much as possible about that process on film so that this itself also becomes a fascinating story in itself, one that we very much hope to be able to communicate.

 What we will need

We are working with a small budget of £8,000 already secured by the Latin Programme to produce the film. The producer/creative director will not earn a fee but the rest will go towards paying the crew, drama facilitators, animator and for all other costs of making the film. We also hope to be able to raise additional funds to grow the project and publicise the great work the children have done! Please support our project in any way you can. 

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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.

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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.

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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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TLP teacher, Laura Shiels, with pupils from Argyle
TLP teacher, Laura Shiels, with pupils from Argyle

As The Latin Programme seeks to improve English literary in state primary schools through the study of Latin, we use a diverse range of teaching methods to make learning Latin accessible, engaging and fun. One of these involves the use of songs and raps to teach children aspects of Latin grammar.


Any student of Latin dreads learning the endless grammar tables. Surely they can only be learned through mere repetition? Well, it has in fact been scientifically proven that words set to catchy music make it easier to remember those pesky bits of grammar!


Music and education have been talked about as a match made in heaven since the middle of the last century. An article from 1969, for example, states that ‘songs provide a means of increasing the amount of repetition possible without losing the learner’s interest’, and so ‘help the teacher by consolidating his teaching’.[1] Yet new scientific research has come to light since the turn of the millennium, and has shown that rhythmical music lyrics can ‘itch’ our brain into creating memories.[2] What’s even more interesting is that repetitions of that particular piece then ‘scratch’ the itch, and help us to produce clearer memories of the images invoked by the lyrics!


With this in mind, our teaching syllabus aims to use songs to their full potential. Songs composed by our teachers are then sung by the students, which are used to reinforce the teaching throughout the lesson. While we are always looking to increase our repertoire, the current favourites include the ‘Noun Song’ and the ‘First Declension Song’, composed and recorded by our teacher Jonathan Goddard!


Examples of our songs and can be found by following the links below –


‘Noun Song’ –


‘Bo Bis Bit Song: The Future Tense Song’ –


‘The Case Song’ –


‘How we teach Latin and literacy’ –




[1] Richards, J. (1969) ‘Songs in Language Learning’, TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 161-174.

[2] Anuta, J. (2006) Probing Question: What Makes a Song Catchy? (

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