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14th century proverb

  • Focus on Classics at British boarding schools | Dickinson School Consulting

Focus on Classics at British boarding schools

This time we turn our attention to the academic side of school life to focus on Classics.

Eminent historian Mary Beard recently announced she would fund scholarships for two students to study Classics at Cambridge University, as a “retirement present” after almost 40 years of teaching and research. Having brought ancient history to a wider, modern audience via television, the Cambridge professor wants to help widen the reach of Classics as a subject.

Emphasising its relevance today, she said Classics students are “trained to think hard, to express themselves, to write well – qualities that a hell of a lot of employers are looking for”, and that the subject offered a way of “thinking about the world differently”, with different perspectives on philosophy, culture, gender and race. A current Classics student at Newnham College, Cambridge, concurred, saying, “It’s about the past, but it’s also about how we understand ourselves now.”

While the study of ancient Greek and/or Latin language, literature and history has dropped off the curriculum of many schools, plenty of our British boarding schools are keeping the Classics very much alive, whether offering Latin and/or Greek as optional extras or as part of their core curriculum. Here’s a brief overview of just three of them.

All three cite the value of studying Classics to train the mind in the qualities of logic, precision and expression – skills that pupils can apply to other areas of their school life and beyond into Higher Education and the world of work. They also agree how the subject facilitates the study and practice of modern languages, including our own, and fosters an appreciation of the roots of Western civilisation, as well as a range of brilliant literature and thought in the original languages.

Clifton College offers Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation right through to Year 13. Its vibrant Classics department takes pupils to the great museums at Oxford and London, and to conferences relevant to their studies. When possible, they also attend performances of Greek tragedies, and travel to Greece and Italy to visit the major classical sites.

As well as offering Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation to GCSE, A Level and Oxbridge level, Cheltenham College has a Classics Society that provides extra-curricular, pupil-led opportunities to, for example, perform Classical material or run a game based around Classical knowledge. Visits to the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Roman Baths in Bath and Provence, lectures, plays and Classical speaking competitions also help bring the subject to life.

At Bradfield College students can take Latin and/or Greek to GCSE and A Level, and Latin is also included in their IB curriculum. Uniquely, the school has an open-air Greek theatre, set in a disused chalk pit right at the heart of campus. ‘Greeker’, as it is known, hosts a number of events throughout the year and triennially lives up to its name when the Greek Play, selected from the repertoire of the three great tragedians, Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, is performed in the classical Greek language.

As former Headmaster Dr Herbert Gray observed in 1922: “There are surely few among those who come to see and hear a Greek Play at Bradfield who do not go away feeling better, broader and bigger-souled.”

Book a call with Gina to find out more about these and the other UK boarding schools we recommend.