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Carpe Diem! Seizing the day with Latin Partnership Programme

Last week 15 gifted and talented Key Stage 2 students from Arbourthorne and Gleadless Primary Schools took part in a pilot programme for a pioneering outreach project, aiming to use Latin to improve children’s literacy.

Sheffield Girls’ launched the Latin Partnership Programme with Arbourthorne and Gleadless Primary Schools from the South Sheffield East Learning Partnership (SSELP) in 2016, when no Arbourthorne child had secured expressive language expected of a three-year-old on entry to school. The children’s exposure to more advanced vocabulary, or words of cultural significance, was identified as an area for development.

Results from the programme saw improved outcomes in writing for children of Arbourthorne plus an expansion and enrichment of the children's vocabulary in English, and as an upshot a cultural trip to the British Museum is being planned on March 25 so the Latin-loving pupils can see first hand artefacts which they have studied in the sessions.

Susan Good, who runs the award-winning SHINE outreach programme, said: “Research has shown that a basic knowledge of Latin can significantly increase vocabulary and understanding leading to higher attainment levels across all subjects.

“The aim was to get the students to try to deduce the meaning from the context and also expand their English vocabulary by introducing them to more complex English vocabulary which derives from Latin.

“The programme has been a great success. Latin sessions are continued to be taught at Arbourthorne.”

The sessions for the Year 5 pupils aged 9-10, over ten weeks were first story based, read mostly in English but with some words replaced by Latin words, with the final four sessions focused on culture and history, introducing buildings, statues and letters.

Vanessa Langley, Executive Headteacher at Arbourthorne Primary School, said: “Such a need became very evident when we looked ahead to these children sitting the new SATS examinations in 2017.

“If the children were to demonstrate their understanding in reading, it was essential that they first needed to understand the meaning of the question.

“Our children learnt there are jobs which link to Latin for example science and medicine, and that they can widen and improve their vocabulary in English through the links to Latin. They enjoyed learning something new and different and were curious about language and historical events.

“Teaching staff at Arbourthorne highlighted that pupils attending the Latin lessons had a new enthusiasm and curiosity about languages; were keen to attend and share what they had learned, had an incredible retention of Latin words and that their confidence had been boosted. Expanding and enriching the children's vocabulary in English was also a key success of the project.”

Head of Classics at Sheffield Girls’ Emma Burne, who devised and led the programme with Sixth Form students supported by Modern Foreign Languages teacher Liz Griggs at Arbourthorne, added: “The pilot scheme used Latin to improve literacy levels, and increase the children’s ability to gauge an understanding of words that they may never have encountered.

“Students covered 80 Latin words over the course of ten weeks in the stories, each with obvious English derivatives which the students may not have encountered for example habitat, canine, maternity.

“We also wanted to capture the children’s imagination and increase their cultural capital. This was done by introducing them to classical myths and legends.”

Comments from pupils included: “We had a quiz to see if we remembered what we’d learnt and I didn’t get less than 9 every time!”; “I was nervous at first, but the girls made us feel very welcome and I was good at Latin!” and “I feel I can do anything now!”

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