St. Michael’s pupils are fortunate in having the relatively rare opportunity to study Latin, the language of ancient Rome. The study of this language allows us to access the fascinating world of the Romans and to read a range of memorable and engaging literature produced by them. Latin is a complex language and the study of it can be intellectually challenging, involving close attention to detail, mnemonic and deductive skills. For this reason it can be hugely rewarding and satisfying as a mental exercise in and of itself. As a bonus pupils find that their study of Latin often consolidates and complements their progress in Modern Languages in terms of vocabulary learning and the understanding of grammar.
Key Stage 3
All pupils start the study of Latin in Year 8 and the subject is compulsory until the end of Year 9. In Year 8 three lessons are taught per week in form classes, on average two spent on the language component, and one on aspects of Roman life and culture, including topics such as the Forum, Food and Drink, Slavery, Gladiators and The Romans in Britain. The main course book is the ever popular Cambridge Latin Course; in Year 8 we cover Stages 1 through to 14 (the whole of Book 1 and the beginning of Book 2). Lessons are enriched with additional exercises and activities and drama is often used in the classroom to bring texts to life. There is an extended project in the spring term of Year 8 where pupils research in depth life in the town of Pompeii and the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.
In Year 9 pupils have two lessons per week in smaller mixed-form classes of approximately 24 pupils. The lessons focus mainly on language in order to cover the necessary content in preparation for those who wish to study at GCSE (see below). The cultural focus is the city of Alexandria in Egypt, established by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. We use the city as a starting point to explore the impact and influence of Greek civilization, then moving on to life in the city under Roman rule in the 1st century BC after the death of Cleopatra. We also introduce the Greek alphabet and some basic vocabulary in ancient Greek. Again pupils have the opportunity to study in depth this fascinating and cosmopolitan city, looking at its architecture, its history and religions and its role as a centre of learning and science in the Ancient World. Pupils produce a project on the city in the spring term.
Key Stage 4
GCSE Latin a very popular GCSE option and recently oversubscribed. There are two sets of around 20 to 25 pupils each. We follow the OCR syllabus for which there is a set vocabulary list of 475 words which can be found on this link:
At the beginning of Year 11 all pupils have the opportunity to take part in the four night residential tour to Rome. The trip gives pupils a unique and exciting opportunity to become acquainted with the capital of the former Roman Empire and the spiritual home of the Catholic Church. They witness first-hand the art and architecture of ancient Rome, enhancing their understanding of the evidence they study for the ‘Sources for Latin’ module.
GCSE Units (25% each)
- Language 1 (Mythology and Domestic life) – comprehension questions, translation, word derivations.
- Language 2: (History): comprehension questions, longer translation
- Prose Literature: The Letters of Pliny; the death of his uncle during the eruption of Vesuvius (about 133 lines of original Latin).
- Sources for Latin: study of various aspects of Roman life through the study of material evidence (no language).
The content of Language 1 and 2 is basically covered in Year 10, along with Sources topics such as, The Army, Occupations, Patronage, Houses, and Women. Year 11 focuses on Prose and further Sources topics: Dining, Chariot racing, Gladiators, Religion, Baths. All four units are examined at the end of Year 11. There is also continued practice and consolidation of language.
The subject is challenging and involves consistent and regular self-motivated study and revision. Results are very good and exceed the national average in this subject (74% A* - A, 91% A* - B).
Key Stage 5
Typically we have between 6 and 8 pupils carry their Latin on into Year 12 and about 4 into Year 13. AS and A2 Latin is a continuation of GCSE content with increased emphasis on works of literature, a more in-depth understanding of Latin syntax and style and the social and historical context of republican and early imperial Rome.
We follow the OCR syllabus for which there is a set vocabulary list of approximately 850 words for the AS units.
The A2 units have no prescribed vocabulary but we expect students to learn approximately 850 more words by the end of Year 13.
- AS Unit 1: Language – Unseen translation, translation of English sentences into Latin.
- AS Unit 2: Literature – Cicero, On the Command of Gnaeus Pompeius, Ovid, Metamorphoses III – The punishment of Pentheus by Bacchus
- A2 Unit 1: Verse – Unseen translation and analysis of Ovid’s elegiac poetry; Virgil, Aeneid Book 6 – Aeneas in The Underworld
- A2 Unit 2: Prose – Unseen translation and analysis of Livy’s History of Rome; Set texts Pliny’s letters OR Tacitus Annals Book 4.
Latin it is essentially a non-vocational subject in that it does not prepare you for any one defined career. However, the unique skills derived from studying and analysing an inflected language far more complex than English are utterly transferable to, and desirable in, many career paths: former students of Latin can be found working in Government, Law, Medicine, Media, Academia, Banking, Research and Journalism, inter alia. Mastery of Latin still commands a great deal of respect among employers, particularly in the Civil Service and other areas of Government. Top universities appreciate the academic rigour demanded of Latin students and look very favourably upon those with an ancient language amongst their A Levels.
Results at St. Michael’s are excellent, averaging at 100% A* to B in recent years and we have a good track record in preparing sixth formers for top universities including Oxford and Cambridge.