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Taster classes for local schools

15 March 2013

Thanks to a grant from the charity Classics for All, the Institute of Greece, Rome and Classical Tradition has been able to start a new outreach project in Bristol.

Thanks to a grant from the charity Classics for All, the Bristol Institute of Greece, Rome and Classical Tradition has been able to start a new outreach project in Bristol.  Classics for All supports projects which increase the provision of Classics in state schools in the UK, and which have the potential to increase the number of qualified Classics teachers (there is currently a nationwide shortage of qualified Classics teachers). 

We are using the funds to provide teaching bursaries for postgraduate or advanced undergraduate Classics students at Bristol.  The university students go through a condensed teacher training programme and then take on the task of providing 10 'taster classes' in Classics for local school students at state schools which do not offer Classics as part of their formal curriculum.  The main aim of the taster classes is to give the school students an introduction to the Classical world.  Secondary aims are to encourage Classics graduates at the University of Bristol to consider school Classics teaching as a career option, and to increase awareness of the value of Classics in local state schools. 

The first classes began in January 2012.  Two students from the Bristol Classics Department, Matthew Ball and Madeleine Fforde, were selected for two teaching positions.  We then identified four different state schools to participate in the project:  Redland Green School, Merchants' Academy School, Backwell School and Gordano School.  Some of the topics covered in the classes included Greek and Roman Myth, Greek Epic, Greek Drama, The Greco-Persian Wars, The Athenians and Spartans, Alexander the Great, Imperial Rome, the Monuments of Rome, Life in a Roman City, and an introduction to the Latin and Greek languages.

At the end of each set of taster classes we distributed surveys to the school students to get their feedback on the lessons.  Their responses have generally been very enthusiastic, with many students saying that they would like "more lessons please!" and that they would like the opportunity to study Greek and Latin.

All the school students involved in the first year of the project were invited to the University of Bristol in July 2012 for a special end-of-year talk by Professor Robert Fowler on the excavations and discoveries at Herculaneum.  This was a positive conclusion to the year; the students all seemed to enjoy their experience of the university environment.

The project has got off to a good start judging from the feedback from teachers at the schools and from the school students themselves.  Another successful outcome of the project's first year has been that Madeleine Fforde secured a place on the highly competitive Graduate Teaching Programme to train as a Classics teacher at King Edward VI High School for Girls, an independent secondary school in Birmingham. 

This year (2013) the project has expanded slightly.  We have four teaching positions, which have gone to Bristol Classics students Olivia Beard, Tom Derrick, Caitlin Greenwood and Eleanor Rupp.  The second round of taster classes started in mid-January 2013, with classes taking place at Orchard School and Henbury School, and we are also offering introductory Latin classes at Redland Green School.  After Easter classes will begin in three further schools.

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