As one would hope and expect of an Oxford preparatory school there remains something of the ‘grand, old, fortifying, classical curriculum’ at CCCS. Classics can be compared to the pancreas: it has two rather different roles. There is of course Latin, still thankfully allowed a place in the timetable. And there is the cornucopia of the seminal and enduring Greco-Roman culture. The learning of elementary Latin happens to be a useful vehicle for the study of language in general, which otherwise would have little coverage in our modern curriculum; and in the spaces appearing between construing and parsing there is a little (but never enough) time to explore the stories and fabric of the ancient world.
Boys learn Latin from Year 5 onwards, beginning with the gentle and colourful cartoons of the Minimus course. We take a different tack with the Pompeian world of the Cambridge Course in Year 6; and in Years 7 and 8 the study of the language is aimed more particularly towards the requirements of Common Entrance and Scholarship. To maintain interest in classical mythology and civilisation boys in the last two years choose classical topics for presentation to the class - often a very useful and enjoyable learning exercise. At the end of his time here the industrious boy should be well prepared to take the language further should his next school offer him the opportunity; and if not, he will be better equipped to tackle other languages and have a better understanding of his own.
Just as a proficient musician will learn more than one instrument so a keen classicist will want to learn a little Greek – and the opportunity to begin the study of this seminal language is offered to those who wish in Years 7 & 8.
Parents often say that their child loves Greek mythology but finds Latin a slog; but for classics teachers this is as much news as hearing that children prefer ice cream and chocolate to broccoli and French beans. Latin can be hard, but studied with application it should be absorbing and beneficial; and there are many ways to sweeten and enliven the process of learning. As someone once wrote: omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci.