The study of Classics encompasses Latin and Classical Greek, and gives the opportunity to study the language, literature and culture of the Classical world – helping to make sense of the world as it is today.

Head of Department: Mrs Lydia Dakin

Lower School curriculum

Latin is taught as part of the core curriculum, being compulsory in the first two years.


Girls study Latin from the Remove. They have three lessons each week, and although some may have already studied Latin at prep school, we make sure that everyone has a thorough grounding in the basic grammar of the language, as well as studying the culture and life of the Romans, so that all girls finish the year at roughly the same level. We use the Cambridge Latin Course as a starting point but supplement this with our own grammatical course to ensure a better understanding of the language. Opportunities to stretch and challenge are given using a range of textbooks and resources as well as asking pupils to give presentations and put together projects on different aspects of the course.

Lower Fourth

In the Lower Fourth, the girls continue to have three lessons a week, and again we use the Cambridge Latin Course as the basis, but add to this from our own resources. As the textbook is set in Roman Britain, we take the opportunity to learn about Boudicca and the role of women in the ancient world. We also give girls a chance to do some Classical Greek so that they can consider whether they wish to take this up in the Upper Fourth.

Upper Fourth

Pupils have the opportunity to add Greek to their studies in Upper Fourth (Year 9), when they can learn the alphabet and the basic linguistic structures for three lessons a week, before commencing the GCSE course.

Upper School curriculum

Both Latin and Greek can be studied at GCSE level, where the skills of translation and comprehension are enhanced by the literary study of prose and verse texts written by some of the great Roman and Greek authors.

Sixth Form curriculum

Pupils are able to pursue their love of Classical language and literature into the Sixth Form, where we offer both Latin and Greek for the OCR A Level qualifications. A wide range of texts is studied alongside the texts set for examination, so that pupils gain an insight into the history and culture of the Greeks and Romans through contemporary writing. The skills which are practiced during the Sixth Form are those of close analysis, accuracy, fluency, essay writing and the consideration of historical and political context, all of which will stand the pupils in good stead for any university course.

Classics enrichment

Trips and events form a major part of the Classics Department calendar. We offer lots of extra-curricular activities across the year groups, such as a day trip to Fishbourne Roman Palace, a visit from a Roman soldier, our very successful Caroline Lawrence workshop and many other opportunities for the girls to dive into the ancient world and all its wonders! We also facilitate trips to Classics lectures and organise special classical cultural days at School.

This year, we held our first Classics Day event in the Murray Centre. Initiatives like this help put pupils’ studies into context and bring the subjects to life. It was also lovely to welcome pupils from the Kennet School where they have just introduced Latin GCSE and are looking to expand their department. We were delighted to welcome two guest speakers for the occasion. Dr Rosie Wyles spoke about Greek Theatre and the links between poetry and politics, and Dr Emily Hauser joined us virtually to read selections from her new book on ancient love and spoke about how she researched these topics and the difficulties with ancient sources.

Many of our Classics students continue their studies at university and, as Classics graduates, are sought after in a wide variety of professions, such as Law, Accountancy, Management and the Arts.

Full details of the curriculum can be found in the GCSE and Sixth Form options publications or from the Head of Department, Mrs Lydia Dakin.

Meet the Classics Department

The Classics department consists of four members of staff, two full-time and two part-time.

Mrs Lydia Dakin

The Head of Department, Mrs Dakin, has worked at Downe House for ten years (after studying Classics at Cambridge and teaching at Winchester College and Oakham School). She teaches all year groups and all three of the Classical subjects, but her particular passions are Cicero, Ovid and Alexander the Great. In her free time she enjoys running and has just completed her first ultra marathon!

Mrs Sarah Waller

Mrs Waller has been teaching Latin and Greek to all ages at Downe House for five years. Her particular area of interest is the Latin poetry of Virgil and Ovid. After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, she was a corporate lawyer for a number of years.

Tours & Open Mornings

The best way to find out more about Downe House is to experience it for yourself. Book a personal tour or join us at one of our Open Mornings, available throughout the year.

Now accepting more Day Pupils for September 2025! Learn more at our Open Event on Thursday 9 May.
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