A final lesson in Latin

Picture by Julian Brown 22/05/17

Teacher Pauline Hilton pictured with Latin students

The Deanery High School, Wigan, is removing Latin from its curriculum.
Picture by Julian Brown 22/05/17 Teacher Pauline Hilton pictured with Latin students The Deanery High School, Wigan, is removing Latin from its curriculum.

Generations of Wigan pupils will be crying: “o tempora, o mores!” after a secondary school in the borough decided to stop teaching Latin.

The Deanery CE High School will hold its last lesson in the subject next month and is bringing the curtain down on teaching about classical civilisation in style.

The language, literature and culture of ancient Rome has been a fixture of the Frog Lane school’s timetables since 1972, with current Latin teacher Pauline Hilton having spent more than 20 years passing on her knowledge.

However, it will be the end of an era on June 7 with year 11 pupils preparing for their literature exam having the honour of being taught the last Latin class at the school.

Miss Hilton has invited former pupils to The Deanery for an informal event saying goodbye to the subject.

She said: “It will be a very sad moment, I love teaching the subject and it has proved very popular.

“The pupils enjoyed it and we cater for all abilities. It’s not just about the gifted and talented.

“We ran a version of it for our bottom sets and they were so keen to carry on to GCSE we set up a classical civilisation subject for them until we had to stop offering it a few years ago.

“It often attracts pupils who don’t like speaking in modern languages and struggle with confidence, because obviously Latin isn’t spoken.”

The school’s management decided to axe Latin a couple of years ago, with the final groups of pupils taking the subject continuing through to their GCSE exams this summer.

Latin was put on the timetables as an optional second language to be chosen in year eight and A-level courses were also offered until numbers fell too low.

Latin has also been a notable exam success for The Deanery, with last year’s GCSE group earning an impressive crop of grades including 10 A*s and 10 As.

Pupils study translation exercises, comprehension, Roman life and culture and extracts from literature by authors including Horace, Cicero, Juvenal, Martial and Ovid.

Despite the subject’s somewhat tweedy image tied to public schools Miss Hilton said it was still relevant to Wigan pupils in 2017 and there were many reasons to study it.

She said: “It’s not elitist. If it’s good enough for public schools there’s no reason why it can’t be offered in comprehensives too.

“It’s very logical, not like modern foreign languages. Pupils learn a lot about English grammar and we do lots of background information so they find out about the Romans.

“Getting to grips with Latin grammar is like a puzzle. It’s very concise, which is probably why it’s popular for mottos.

“It’s always impressive on a CV and when our students were applying to uni that was always picked up on straight away. Winstanley College also loooked for the GCSE Latin as showing a good candidate.”

The Deanery headteacher Janice Rowlands said: “We are very proud of the fact that we have been able to deliver a Latin course at the Deanery for so many years.

“However, times do change and all schools have to review and balance the needs of all pupils against the resources that are available to them.

“Having said that, who knows what may happen in the future?”