The scheme will see thousands of 11- to 16-year old state school students learn LatinNick Fewings/UNSPLASH

Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, has welcomed the government’s plans to give more state school students the opportunity to learn Latin.

The £4 million Latin Excellence Programme aims to increase the number of students taking Latin at GCSE, and will be launched in September 2022. It will initially run as a 4-year pilot scheme across 40 schools before being subjected to review. 

Speaking in a video shared by the Department for Education (DfE) on Twitter, Beard said that she was “very pleased” with the project “because [...] the more that we spread the excitement of learning Latin, the better for everybody and the better for Latin.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “We know Latin has a reputation as an elitist subject which is only reserved for the privileged few. But the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to put an end to that divide.”

According to the Language Trends 2020 survey conducted by the British Council, Latin is taught at Key Stage Three in less than 3% of state schools, compared with 49% of independent schools.

As part of the Programme, the DfE will work with schools delivering the best Latin teaching in the country to create classroom resources for the participating schools.

Class trips to Roman heritage sites will also be funded in order to“give pupils a deeper understanding of Classics, and life in the ancient world,” a Department press release said.

Beard continued: “This scheme is going to be really effective if it can actually share the pleasures and the challenges and sometimes the difficulties of learning Latin with a much wider group of people.” 

“I think that Latin in some ways still struggles with the view that it’s really just for posh white boys and nothing could be further from the truth,” she added.


Mountain View

Mary Beard’s retirement gift to financially support under-represented classicists

Earlier this year, Beard announced that her retirement gift, amounting to £80,000 in total, will fund the new Joyce Reynolds Award at Cambridge.  This award is given to three Classics students from under-represented minority ethnic backgrounds and low-income households, and will cover the full living costs for the duration of their undergraduate studies.