West Suffolk: Harry Potter author JK Rowling sparks revival of Latin lessons in schools

Students at King Edward VI School learning Latin. Various state schools in Suffolk have begun to rei

Students at King Edward VI School learning Latin. Various state schools in Suffolk have begun to reintroduce the language. Left to right, Huge Poward and Hannah Fleming-Brown. - Credit: Gregg Brown

There is a renaissance in learning Latin in some Suffolk schools -– and it may be partially down to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

King Edward VI School, in Bury St Edmunds, has been teaching the subject for two years and is now rolling it out to Hardwick Middle and St James Middle.

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI, said the reintroduction of Latin at the school had followed demand from the students – but he thought their interest may have been sparked “because of Harry Potter”.

He said: “I think what it’s done is to take a language which has always been at the heart of English and reignited interest in it in some way.”

He said a University of Cambridge academic had discussed author JK Rowling’s use of Latin words during a recent talk with King Edward VI students.

Latin teacher David Hopkins believes Latin is “very much” relevant today, adding how it is part of many aspects of life, such as culture, literature and politics.

He said: “It’s there all around us and I think it’s great growing numbers of people are taking an interest in it.”

He added it could help those studying modern languages and can make students stand out when applying for top universities.

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“It is edging into the actual curriculum, but the majority of it takes place outside the curriculum either after school or at lunchtime,” said Mr Hopkins, who also teaches at Bury’s County Upper School and runs an after-school club at Thurston Community College.

Latin is open to all students at King Edward VI School, but it is particularly aimed at high-ability students through the Open Minds programme.

Claire Stothard, leader of Open Minds, said the Hardwick Middle students interested in learning Latin were “so enthused” by the taster session they had on Wednesday.

“All of them have signed up as wanting more sessions; I think because David is able to make them see how much of our language comes from Latin words that it can help them in other areas.” Students can gain the equivalent of a GCSE in the subject, which has translated into some students taking the subject at AS-level, Mr Barton said.

He said teaching Latin again took the school back to its roots, mentioning that a 16th Century predecessor of his as headteacher, Edmund Coote, had been sacked for teaching English and not Latin.

Graham White, of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said students should have the opportunity to develop particular skills and abilities, but he did not think Latin would necessarily help them in the job market.

He added: “It depends very much on the type of career you follow. I don’t think Latin is terribly relevant for many careers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study it.”