Independent schools are constantly under scrutiny to demonstrate their ‘public benefit’ to maintain their charitable status. While my school is proud of what it already does, there has been more and more pressure to prove the impact that the school is making and to ensure that every contribution is measurable and quantifiable. This is starting to obscure the worthy motivations that schools have to improve the educational landscape of this country.
I want my school to do more to benefit the local community, but I have been left scratching my head about how to make a start. How do I make links to local state schools? What can we offer them and what do they actually need? How do I involve already busy staff in new outreach initiatives?
A real turning-point came when attending a GDST ‘Outreach Hub Day’ where representatives from a number of GDST schools came together to share what they have been doing. I quickly realised that there was not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to outreach and ultimately the motivation should be raising aspirations and providing opportunities, not having data to include in a yearly audit.
As I sat on the train back to London with another assistant head and we were chatting about how I could take outreach forward in my school, she gave me the best advice: ‘just go with what you know’ and so I did.
A number of years ago, I was involved in teaching Latin at a local state primary school. Every week, I would teach Latin from ‘Minimus’ the excellent primary Latin course. Why could I not set up a similar partnership between my current school and a local primary school?
I have been following closely the work of the ‘Classics in Communities’ project which is currently undertaking an educational research study on the impact of learning Latin in primary school on children’s cognitive development. Their initial data shows how Latin can help to develop literacy skills and has a positive impact on children’s development of critical skills and global awareness. I was also aware that in the Key Stage 2 Languages curriculum policy, for the first time, Latin can be chosen for study by pupils aged 6-11 in place of a modern language.
Armed with this knowledge, I thought that primary schools would jump at the chance of secondary Latin teachers coming into their school and working pro bono. I was wrong. I sent out about 20 e-mails to the Heads of local primary schools and I only received one reply. Yet, one was a start and now I am teaching Latin to a Year 5 class.
I am part of a thriving Classics department which still has the capacity to share further its expertise of Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation. In September, the government published its green paper ‘Schools that work for everyone’ specifically saying that independent schools should, ‘support teaching in minority subjects which state schools struggle to make viable, such as further maths, coding, languages such as Mandarin and Russian, and Classics’.
We want to share our love of Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation and we work in the independent sector because it allows us to do this daily. However, we want every child to be able to access a Classical education, no matter their background. We are distraught by news of Classics departments closing down because of lack of funding or exam boards discontinuing Classical Civilisation qualifications. Independent schools are willing and able to support the teaching of Classics, but we just need help to identify the needs and opportunities of state schools. We want to keep Classics alive and accessible to all. We want to make an impact.
PS If you want to support the teaching of Classical-subject qualifications in all secondary schools, join the new campaign ‘Advocating Classics Education’ on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1403604912993457/