Mr H Cullen MA (Oxon)
Head of Classics
Classics opens doors. A study of Roman and Greek language and culture is a gateway into an ancient world both strikingly familiar and shockingly alien to our 21st-century minds. But it is also much more than that, since any study of the classical past prompts us to think afresh about our own society and values. Much of what the Romans and Greeks created – their art, drama, political systems, buildings, and much more – remains central to our lives today, and the languages of Latin and Classical Greek are mother-tongues for modern European languages. To study a classical subject is also to study ourselves.
The Classics Department provides three ways in to this ancient past. Latin is offered throughout the school for Years 7-13, Classical Greek is an option from Year 10 and Classical Civilisation is available as an A-level. All three subjects provide a rigorous and broad academic syllabus.
All pupils study Latin in Years 7 and 8. The focus of the course is primarily linguistic, as we explore the key grammar concepts and meet vocabulary which shows links to English, Spanish, French and many other modern languages; we also aim to put this language study in context by studying cultural topics such as Roman daily life and the revolt of Boudicca. Roughly half of the year group opt to continue with Latin into Year 9, where foundations are laid for the GCSE course. In Years 10 & 11 we follow the Eduqas course, which blends language, literature and cultural study. In our language lessons we use Latin to GCSE, a textbook co-authored by the Head of Department. In a typical year between 15-25 students sit the GCSE.
In Year 10 Classical Greek is offered as an additional subject to extend keen linguists and introduce them to the society and culture of ancient Greece. This course is taught with a mixture of timetabled and off-timetabled lessons, and depending on progress it is possible for students to sit the OCR GCSE at the end of Year 11.
In the Sixth Form both Latin and Classical Civilisation are offered as A-level options (OCR). Latin A-level combines more advanced language study with detailed examination of prime selections of classical literature (e.g. the epic poetry of Virgil or the legal oratory of Cicero).
Classical Civilisation A-level provides a broad study of the ancient world through its literature (studied in English translation) and material and visual culture. Topics are very diverse: they include Greek and Roman epic poems, a study of how the Greeks portray ‘barbarians’ in their culture, and examination of ancient ideas about love, gender and relationships.
A-level students regularly go on to study classical subjects at university, and several have received Oxbridge offers in recent years.
In addition to all of the above, the department is keen to get students out of the classroom on visits, study days and overseas trips – for example Rome and the Bay of Naples, Greece and London which is, of course, a Roman city and we take advantage of its remains and world-leading museums.
Finally, we also attempt to get parents of our pupils into the classroom to sample Latin for themselves. Our Parents’ Latin course, first run in 2017, generated significant interest amongst our parents and in the national media: there is great appetite for Classics throughout the Colfe’s community.
A-level course details: