“Greek and Latin languages and literatures are fundamental to Western Civilization.”
Head of Department: Mrs Lydia Dakin
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (in conjunction with the English Department’s literary festival) 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.
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.
The Classics department consists of four members of staff, two full-time and two part-time.
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 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.
Mrs Heck studied Classics at Cambridge. Upon graduation she spent a few years working in law before realising that she would much prefer to spend her days reading Latin than contracts! Having completed a PGCE at King’s College London, Mrs Heck worked in a variety of schools around Oxfordshire. She has a particular interest in Roman epic and the principate. Mrs Heck has recently completed her first year of teaching at Downe House.
Ms Plummer has also just completed her first year of teaching at Downe House, having previously taught at Bosworth Independent College in Northampton and with various educational charities, such as The Brilliant Club. She studied Classics at the University of Manchester, carrying out five years of post-graduate research into fertility control and female use of medicine in the early Roman Empire. She enjoys teaching pupils about the ancient world to help them better understand who we are and the world we live in today.
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