animis opibusque parati
There has been a long tradition of Classics at St. Mary’s and it continues to thrive. Our enthusiastic department guides pupils through the languages of Latin and Ancient Greek, and the respective cultures of the Romans and the Hellenes. Furthermore, we also look at the even earlier societies of Mesopotamia – where civilisation started – so as to establish the idea of a continuity of cultures.
To paraphrase the great Scottish writer, James Boswell, almost all our religion, language, laws, arts, indeed our very civility, emanates from the ancient Mediterranean; to know the Greeks and Romans is to know ourselves. There is a unique breadth to the Classics, so every pupil can find something to inspire them and to enrich their understanding of the world around them - from architecture to agriculture, from pastimes to politics. Once piqued, our pupils’ curious brains will spot Classical references everywhere; even the school’s Maths department has an inspirational quote from Plato!
The emphasis at St. Mary’s is on the linguistic - from Form 5, Latin is gently studied by all pupils. They develop their knowledge through comprehensions and translations, based on mythological and historical stories, and take regular vocabulary tests, using both traditional and contemporary methods. As they progress through the school, increasing their vocabulary and their contextual understanding, richer, more complex texts become accessible. In the two senior years, where pupils are grouped by ability, more rigorous study of the language foments even deeper intellectual curiosity; it also sows the seeds for the critical thinking expected at senior schools.
Deciphering the Greek alphabet requires yet further mental dexterity. We are very fortunate to be able to offer timetabled Ancient Greek to our Form 8 pupils; again, the language is paramount, but we do examine numerous cultural points too. This fosters an even greater awareness of the cultural intermingling between our ancestors, and between them and us.
Pupils are encouraged to make connections between the ancient and the modern. In an age when voicing one’s opinion can be fraught with difficulty, Classics offers a ‘safe space’ to discuss challenging issues. Pupils are able to consider the behaviour of modern politicians by examining the actions of Roman dictators; by looking at barbarian invasions, and such characters as Boudicca, Charite and Pericles, they can consider issues of migration and power.
These wide-ranging topics fit around the ISEB 13+ Common Entrance syllabus. We aim to have all our pupils sit the Level 2 or the more challenging Level 3 papers. We also offer dedicated instruction to any budding scholars, tailoring it to suit their chosen senior school.
By the time our Classicists leave, they should be ready for anything!