Latin is a central part of Common Entrance and Public School Scholarship examinations, and virtually all children in the school from Year 5 upwards learn the language.
It is studied as part of a classical education but remains ever pertinent in a modern school due to its rigour, the accessibility it offers to modern languages, and the opportunities it presents for problem solving.
The Latin Common Entrance paper incorporates three different levels ranging from the simplest to the relatively advanced, thus catering not only for those who have reached a high standard by the time they leave Cheam but also for those who have only studied Latin for a short time or find the subject difficult. Those sitting scholarships to senior schools vary in difficulty with most sitting around the GCSE standard.
We place great importance on instilling a proper understanding of grammar and syntax so that this can lead to accurate comprehension and translation. There is now a larger emphasis on the ability to translate from English into Latin and this is practised from day one building throughout the school. Regular vocabulary testing is undertaken by the children, who are encouraged to notice the links with modern languages such as English and French. This learning is not only to ensure that the children have learnt the required content, but it is also aimed at improving their independence. By Year 8, the children take full control over their learning by devising their own tests to extend their vocabulary.
A variety of resources are used and ‘So you really want to learn LATIN PREP’ by Theo Zinn and ‘Latin Practice Exercises’ by R. C. Bass are a popular choice for use in Years 5-7, while in Year 8 the emphasis is very much on putting what has been learnt into practice by tackling past Scholarship and Common Entrance papers. Appropriate ICT software such as Quizlet, Memrise, and Wordwall are also used to back up the learning process.
Although there is no longer a cultural question on the Common Entrance paper, the principal Greek myths and many aspects of Roman life and civilisation are studied at various points throughout pupils’ Cheam careers. In addition, many of the stories are used for translations and discussions which take place to broaden their cultural capital. To encourage accurate pronunciation and greater familiarity with the language, a Latin reading competition is held in the spring term in which every child in Years 5-7 takes part with a final held in the Chapel.
The top sets in Years 7 and 8 also learn Greek and reach a high enough standard by the end of Year 8 to tackle the appropriate level of a Common Entrance or Scholarship paper. The workbooks ‘Prep School Greek’ and ‘More Prep School Greek’ by R. C. Bass are used to support the curriculum.