MAGISTRI linguae Latinae mittuntur in scholas urbis ut favent arti legendi et scribendi.
Or, in English: Latin teachers are being sent into Oxford’s schools to boost pupils’ reading and writing.
Oxford-based educational charity The Iris Project, which aims to reintroduce Classics in state schools, said the language of Julius Caesar and Spartacus can help children understand English grammar and sentence structure.
Now it is sending Oxford University undergraduates into primary schools in Blackbird Leys, Headington and Kidlington to teach the ancient language to nine and 10-year-olds.
On Wednesday, Christ Church student Shivani Singhal, 20, taught her first one-hour lesson to children at Pegasus Primary School, Blackbird Leys.
She said: “What is really relevant it that Latin helps children gets to grip with literacy issues in their native language, and shows them something they otherwise would not get a chance to see.
“I find Latin is really exciting, but there are a lot of people who were taught it in a really boring way at school.
“I want to draw on the tradition of story-telling, myths and magical tales in the ancient world, because that is what the children love.”
The school’s deputy head, Francis Murphy, said children had been looking forward to their first taste of the language for weeks. He said: “They are really excited about it. There are brilliant stories in the Classics which really engage children, and underlying that is the teaching of grammar.”
Iris Project founder Lorna Robinson said children’s literacy levels would be monitored to see if it improved as a result of the lessons.
She said that after a year of teaching, the Year Five and Six pupils would be able to read and write simple Latin sentences, and learn the different forms of common verbs.
Dr Robinson, a trained classicist, set up Iris five years ago after finding teaching Latin in a private school unrewarding.
Latin teachers will be visiting Pegasus Primary, St Andrew’s Primary, Bayards Hill Primary, West Oxford Primary, East Oxford Primary, and St Thomas More Catholic Primary in Kidlington over the coming year.
Cheney School in Oxford is the county’s only state secondary offering Latin.