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A new army of volunteers is going into schools around the capital providing opportunities for young Londoners to learn Latin, many for the first time, and aimed at increasing interest in the Classics


The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has joined forces with educational charity The Iris Project to develop a new 'Love Latin' scheme as part of Team London, the Mayor's ambitious programme to recruit 60,000 volunteers by Spring 2012.

The Mayor, an avowed advocate for Latin, has lobbied hard to see more teaching of the Classics in schools. Funding for this new programme will enable The Iris Project to expand its provision of weekly Latin tuition in state primary schools. It has also enabled it to introduce a brand new volunteering scheme, with Classics graduates going into primary and secondary schools to give one-off talks on a range of classical subjects, such as democracy and the Olympics, and their relevance to society today.

60 volunteers have already been recruited and 60 state schools, including the three Mayor's academies, will all benefit from the 'Love Latin' scheme - most of them have not offered any Classics previously. The aim is to reach over 2,000 children in the first year.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'I firmly believe that the Classics have a vital role to play in the development of young minds, instilling in them invaluable analytical skills, providing a universal spanner for many other languages and engendering logical acuity that can be applied across other subjects and situations in life. There is still an undeserved cultural divide in the way that the Classics are perceived, which perhaps explains why only 20 percent of state schools provide some form of Classical education, unlike 75 per cent of private schools. With our merry band of Team London volunteers – manus londiniensis – the 'Love Latin' scheme will help bridge this gap.'

The Team London Love Latin scheme has been developed with The Iris Project based on research and the belief that the opportunity to learn about classical languages, literature, history and art should be available to all regardless of background.

Dr Lorna Robinson, Director The Iris Project, said: 'We are delighted to be joining forces with the London Mayor on this exciting project that will enable many more children from all backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of learning about Classics. Latin unlocks English and reveals the wonderful workings and roots of our language; it also provides a firm grounding for learning other languages. All children are entitled to this knowledge! Classical knowledge gives a deep insight into many of the most important aspects of our culture and society, from science, politics and sport to art, architecture and literature, there's no area that is untouched by the influence of Classics.'

Bettany Hughes, author, broadcaster and ancient historian, supporting the project said: 'Our kids want to learn Latin and Greek; they know this is a smart thing to do. But for decades the majority simply couldn't, they were denied the opportunity by wrongheaded naysayers who branded Latin and Greek 'irrelevant' and 'elite'. Enough of the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jubilate! 60 of our smartest graduates have now left behind their ivory towers and are perching on 60 school desks across the capital - their mission, to share a passion for Romanitas, Hellenism and the gorgeous possibilities of amo, amas, amat. Bravo - this is a brilliant initiative. I might slip along for a refresher course; because I know, as soon will thousands of Classical-neonates, that to love Latin, to get Greek, not only equips you for the life ahead but helps you love and appreciate life itself.'

Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London, which is also involved in the project, said: 'The Museum of London is excited to be a part of this new Mayoral initiative to promote Classics in schools and to support volunteers through training sessions, as well as continuing to offer a wide range of attractions and activities for school visits, including our 'Londinium 2012' exhibition. Sowing the seed of Classics at an early age is crucial to the development of London's school children, helping with the absorption of foreign languages as well as heightened awareness of important events in London’s past. This is an excellent project, and we are delighted to be supporting it.'

Cidalia Fruga, who is the assistant head teacher at Stockwell Primary School in Lambeth, which is taking part in the scheme, said: 'We are now entering our second year of teaching Latin at Stockwell Primary School. It continues to be incredibly successful and well received by both the pupils and the parents. The high-level of enthusiasm shown by the pupils in every Latin lesson and the links they are making with other languages is amazing to watch.'

The Team London Love Latin scheme is being taken into schools in 18 boroughs - Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Harrow, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster.

Source: Mayor of London

Written by Scott Buckler
Monday, 07 November 2011 15:03

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