Is Latin an important topic to learn at school? If not, what other practical skills should children learn?
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has initiated a new scheme to boost the take-up of Latin among disadvantaged pupils. He unveiled a £4 million “Latin excellence programme”.
Why focus on Latin?
“We know Latin has a reputation as an elitist subject which is only reserved for the privileged few. But the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to put an end to that divide,” said Williamson”.
Michael Rosen raises an important point in his letter to the Guardian.
“…I’m 100% in favour of Latin being offered as an option. But that option exists right now. This makes me ask, where are the teachers to teach it? I know your predecessor Michael Gove did away with the need for teachers to be qualified, but surely we would want someone teaching Latin to be at least one jump ahead of the students learning it for the first time?”
What do you think? I asked parents, teachers and home schoolers what they thought as well as those that studied Latin.
“Useful to know the derivation of words. It is a good mental exercise sorting out the translation”.
“I did Latin GCSE and it benefitted my English Language skills massively. I enjoyed the Roman History element too as I did geography rather than history GCSE”.
“My son did some Latin. He really enjoyed it and it is a good base upon which to learn other languages due to the structure. Latin itself is perhaps not particularly useful but then perhaps not everything should be viewed in that way”.
“Hated Latin....saw no point in it except to learn grammar. If that is taught properly there is no need”.
“Is Latin important - no not really given that too many children aren't having their needs met (or recognised) in schools already, too many are leaving school without a good grounding in basic maths and English, that talents are being ignored or quashed, too many children have had the joy of learning squashed and had the fear of failure instilled, given that the curriculum is already one size fits all and not even fit for purpose as it is anyway”.
A Latin programme could be hard to roll out due to the lack of teachers and is it really as useful as some other practical life skills that children could be learning on top of the curriculum? I asked some parents from my community, teachers and home educators which subjects they think would be beneficial.
What practical subjects should children learn in school?
Here are the most popular suggestions.
- Budgeting, money management, saving, understanding household bills, tax, banking
- Household safety e.g. wiring a plug/overloading plug sockets
- Basic DIY
- How to be employed or self-employed – interview skills, tax, pensions etc.
- Basic sewing skills, dressmaking and upcycling clothes
- Basic first aid, CPR
- Home economics – cooking, basic skills such as changing a tyre or light bulb
- Basic skin care, hormones, good body image (warning re airbrushed images in the media)
- Sign language
What do teachers think?
- Food hygiene and food tech
- Assertiveness and resilience
- Budgeting and Finance
- Basic plumbing, woodcraft and electrical skills, DIY
- Business studies and tax
- First aid
- BSL/Makaton (sign language)
- Further education options – to learn this from an earlier age, about University/College options
What do home educators/progressive education practitioners think?
- Typing “how many adults type at work?”
- First aid
- banking/budgeting/saving/spreadsheets - personal finances
- sewing/basics like sewing on buttons and taking up hems
- Physical health and Mental well being
- Nutrition/meal planning
- BSL (Sign language)
- Protecting the planet “How to live alongside nature and tread lightly on the earth”. The environment, sustainability.
It’s an interesting subject. With a lot of these topics, you learn them through life experience, asking others and learning from your parents. How helpful would it have been for you to learn some of these topics at school? For me, I can see real benefit in having some basic knowledge before leaving education and starting out into the world of job seeking and self-reliance.