Latin will be taught in more state schools as part of a new government program aimed at ending “elitist” perceptions of the subject.
Classicist Mary Beard has welcomed the move, which will see £4million in funding for the Latin Excellence Program (LEP) ahead of a review in 2026.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is known to be a proponent of Latin, having studied the classics at Oxford.
LEP will try to increase the number of pupils taking a GCSE in the language of the Roman Empire.
It will also include “visits to Roman heritage sites to give students a better understanding of the classics and life in the ancient world”.
Announcing the move, the Ministry of Education said it follows the Mandarin Excellence program model.
This program, launched in 2016, now involves 75 schools across the country and has more than 6,000 students moving towards language proficiency. A further £16.4m has been committed to move the project forward.
Education Secretary Gavin Williams said, “We know that Latin has a reputation for being an elite subject that is only for a select few. But the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to end this divide.
“There should be no difference in what students learn in public schools and independent schools, which is why we are relentlessly focused on improving school standards and ensuring that all students study a curriculum broad and ambitious.
“Latin can help students learn modern foreign languages and bring wider benefits to other subjects, including math and English.”
Currently, Latin is only taught in 2.7% of public schools at a key third-grade level.
This compares to 49% of independent schools.
LEP will be led by a “Center of Excellence”, which will work with no less than 40 schools to create resources for teachers and students in grades seven through eleven.
Teaching will begin next year.
Mary Beard, Classics teacher and facilitator, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the DfE is supporting Latin in schools and helping more pupils to be challenged and have fun learning about the ancient world.
“Latin is an extraordinarily enriching subject. It gives you direct access to some of the most inspiring literature in the Western world (from Virgil’s great Aeneid epic to the historian Tacitus’ critique of the corruption of power and the counter- subversive culture of the poet Ovid).
“Studying the classics opens up history to us – from the first dramas, which 2,000 years later are still part of the theatrical repertoire, to a fundamental philosophy, from democracy to empire, from powerful rulers to slaves.
“But it’s not just about the past. Studying the ancient world helps us look at ourselves, and our own problems, anew and with clearer eyes.”