The Perse School


Discovering ancient Rome, and the modern world that succeeded it

Our aim

We introduce students to the ancient world through a curriculum that includes Latin in Years 7 and 8; and Latin, Greek and ancient history from Year 9 upwards.

For anyone with memories of chanting “amo, amas, amat” in their own Latin lessons, the way we teach the subject at The Perse today  – integrating linguistic and cultural study – will provide a real surprise.

The ability to read Latin grants students access to some of the great works of Western literature – works which often addressed concerns that remain on the modern agenda. Knowledge of the vocabulary and grammar of Latin provides a firm basis for understanding the way in which languages work more generally. The study of Latin develops logical thinking. Investigation of the world in which Latin was written and spoken allows students to see the origins of many aspects of our own world as well as many fascinating ways in which the Roman world was unique.

The tradition of classical learning at The Perse is a long and distinguished one which stretches from the innovative teaching of Dr W.H.D. Rouse in the early twentieth century right up to the present, when students leave here to pursue classical courses at top universities including Oxford and Cambridge.

Learning journey - Years 7-9

All students in Years 7 and 8 study Latin.

Our Year 7 course caters for those who have not studied Latin before as well as for those who have some experience of Latin from their previous school (including those who have studied classics in Year 6 at the Perse Prep). Throughout Years 7 to 9 we make use of the Cambridge Latin Course textbook which has a range of accompanying online resources.

In Year 7, students learn about the way Latin works by reading stories about a family from Pompeii, headed by the banker, Caecilius. In Year 8 students progress to reading stories set in Roman Britain and Egypt. By the end of Year 8, all students have a sound knowledge of basic grammar and vocabulary and can read Latin confidently. They will also be fully aware of the links between Latin and English (and other languages) and will have a good appreciation of the cultures of Roman Italy, Britain and Egypt in the first century AD, and the similarities and differences between the Roman world and our own. The top sets in Year 8 receive an introduction to ancient Greek as part of their Latin lessons.

Those who choose to continue the subject in Year 9 learn to translate increasingly complex Latin with accuracy. Students may begin looking at original Latin literature (in translation or in Latin) and become familiar with literary critical techniques.

Learning journey - GCSE

Those who select the subject as a GCSE option for Years 10 and 11 need to have completed the Year 9 course.

In Year 10, students meet the remaining language features required for GCSE and further develop their appreciation of Latin literature, studying one or more pieces of prose literature in the original Latin, including their GCSE prose set text. Although the texts set by the exam board vary from year-to-year, they are likely to have been written by Caesar, Pliny the Younger or Tacitus.

In Year 11, students study the verse set text prescribed for GCSE, which is most likely to be a part of Virgil’s Aeneid. Alongside study and revision of the set literature, students will consolidate their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary and will gain regular practice in the translation and analysis of “unseen” Latin passages ahead of their GCSE exams.

Providing stretch

We set half-termly suggestions for pupils who would like to go beyond the curriculum, from exploring English words derived from Latin to listening to podcasts of re-told myths.

We host the annual Ludi Scaenici Latin Drama Competition on behalf of the Classical Association. Students in Years 7-8 write and perform a play in Latin, crafted from language and situations they have encountered while studying the Cambridge Latin Course.

We visit local sites of classical interest, such as Verulamium Museum and Park and the Roman Theatre in St Albans. We run trips to archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. In recent years we have visited Sicily, the Bay of Naples, Greece and Rome, exploring the ancient world through sites and museums, discovering modern culture and learning about the geography of each area.

We prepare students to compete in the two annual Reading Competitions run by the local branch of the Classical Association. In the Junior Competition, students in Year 7 perform a short play (in Latin) while students from Year 8 upwards read passages of Latin that they have studied. In the Senior Competition, Year 10 and 11 pupils read prose and verse passages drawn from the GCSE set texts.


Beyond the classroom

We regularly hold fascinating talks on classical themes, and run clubs, societies and competitions.

Some talks are are organised by our 42 society, such a lecture on ‘How the Roman gods can predict your future’ by Dr Jerry Toner, Director of Studies in classics at Churchill College, Cambridge and an Old Persean, while some are given by students, perhaps as part of their EPQ, such as a presentation assessing evidence that the Ancient Greeks had post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lyceum is the classical society for Years 9 to 11. Named for Aristotle’s famous philosophical meeting place, the society meets weekly to present, discuss and debate the relationship between the Classical and modern worlds, exploring the work of authors, artists, politicians and film makers.

Each year students enter the national Jowett-Sendelar Classical Essay Competition organised by the Joint Association of Classical Teachers. In 2014 one student was placed 4th nationally for the best essay in the warfare category, while two other students came in the top 20 and were commended for their work.

We also run classical writing and cartoon competitions.

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