Roman invasion take two as Latin returns to north Norfolk classrooms

Vivat Latin! The so-called 'dead' classical language is alive and well in state schools across a wide area of north Norfolk this term.

Children as young as seven are about to meet Roman rodent Minimus the mouse, while more than 20 teenagers are already voluntarily staying after school for a weekly two-hour Latin lesson which will lead to a GCSE in the language.

The revival has been made possible through a �20,500 grant from the national charity Classics for All which wants to see Latin and Greek taught once more in state schools.

An application on behalf of North Walsham High and its cluster of feeder schools was one of eight successful bids out of 37 hopefuls, according to languages teacher Jane Maguire, one of those behind the project.

Norwich's Castle Museum has also received a �1,000 grant from the charity to stage two Roman days and will be working closely with the north Norfolk schools taking part.

Mrs Maguire thinks Latin has not been taught at North Walsham High for more than a quarter of a century but believes it has enormous benefits.

'Latin lays the foundation for an understanding and appreciation of the structure of language.

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'If anyone says it's a dead language, I would suggest they have a look at the 115 pages of Latin words, phrases and abbreviations listed by Wikipedia as being in common use in English.'

Mrs Maguire, who used to teach at North Walsham High, retired this summer from a post as East Norfolk Schools' gifted and talented co-ordinator where she saw the Minimus Latin course for younger children successfully introduced in 15 schools.

From next week Minimus mouse will become a familiar character among pupils at Antingham and Southrepps, Bacton, Millfield, Swanton Abbott, Worstead, Mundesley Junior and North Walsham Junior schools.

Mrs Maguire and fellow teachers Mary Cheeseman and Maxine Wood will work alongside a member of staff at each feeder school so that they will be able to continue once the two-year funding ends.

And at North Walsham High, head teacher Caroline Brooker hopes the success of the north Norfolk pilot will make the government recognise the value of Latin and fund it as part of the curriculum.

'It's very important to our use of English,' she said. 'You can't express yourself correctly in Latin without understanding parts of speech and the way in which they inter-relate.'

Once a term there will also be Latin-related events in the new Atrium building at the high school, beginning on October 10 with a talk by Barbara Bell, author of Minimus.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council's children's services department said they did not think Latin was taught in many secondary schools across the county but there had been an upsurge in the number of primary schools teaching the subject, largely among Year Six pupils and those on gifted and talented programmes.

She added: 'Latin is seen as a way of extending learning in primary languages and also has very strong links with English and literacy. Schools are finding that it is effective in raising standards in literacy, improving children's vocabulary and their understanding of language.'