Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop last night announced her support for the “dead” language to be resuscitated in classrooms in a move which would see children as young as nine studying the language and culture of ancient Rome. Hyslop, who herself studied classics at school, believes teaching Latin will give youngsters a better understanding of their own language as well as making it easier to learn French and Spanish.
And with JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books making Latin more popular than ever with children, as the boy wizard casts his spells in the ancient language, there is an appetite for learning among pupils. Teachers and politicians last night welcomed the move but warned Hyslop would have to find extra funds to help colleges train classics teachers and councils employ them. Although Latin remains an optional subject on the school curriculum in Scotland, its popularity has dwindled over the past decade. This summer, the numbers of pupils sitting Higher Latin fell to just 826, with only a quarter of candidates coming from state schools. South of the border Latin is already enjoying a renaissance. The number of schools offering Latin in England has tripled in the past eight years. A source close to Hyslop said the minister believed her own study of classics gave her a solid basis for learning English grammar and modern languages. The source added that Hyslop’s target of improving literacy could be propped up by the teaching of Latin.