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In the tradition of a high quality and broad curriculum, The Oratory maintains a strong enthusiasm for the Classical languages and cultures.

The provision of Latin and Greek at The Oratory looks towards the overall intellectual development of pupils, particularly in their use of logical thinking, general cultural development, linguistic competence, appreciation of literature, and mental discipline.


Learning Latin

We believe passionately in Classics for everyone, and all pupils take Latin in the First and Second Forms. It has advantages for all pupils, whether it be to improve their literacy, to help them understand grammar in a way which supports their learning of other languages, or to develop methodical and logical approaches to problem solving. 


Latin teaches pupils to understand systems, and this skill can be applied in turn to any other subject. Latin vocabulary helps pupils better understand English, with its many Latin roots, and expands their English vocabulary and literacy skills. Latin grammar helps them to understand many other grammar systems, but especially to gain a good grasp of how the English language works. Latin requires pupils to recognise patterns and work meticulously. The ‘code-breaking’ skills they develop transfer to the understanding required in Mathematics or Computer Science.  Latin finds its way into the language of Law, of Theology, of the sciences, and of Politics. However, the world that pupils encounter is also the background to western civilisation, and the life and texts of the ancient world underpin our history, literature, and philosophy.

Dr Clare Coombe - Head of Classics


All pupils in the  First and Second Forms take Latin. They study the first and second books of the popular Cambridge Latin Course, supplemented by departmental grammar worksheets and digital resources. They learn about the Roman world in 1st Century Pompeii and Roman Britain, while also learning the fundamentals of Latin grammar and vocabulary.

In the Third Form, all pupils who have previously studied Latin continue with the subject. They use the Cullen and Taylor course Latin to GCSE to consolidate their core grammar, and start to focus their vocabulary learning towards the GCSE curriculum. The stories they translate introduce them to the world of Roman myth, especially the exploits of Aeneas, hero of Virgil’s Aeneid.

Latin GCSE is an option that achieves excellent grades at The Oratory, and is a GCSE subject that makes pupils stand out from the crowd in terms of demonstrating a real range of skills and intellectual acuity. Pupils learn to translate unseen Latin passages, and to answer comprehension and grammar questions. They also study set texts in Latin verse, usually extracts from Virgil’s Aeneid and original prose passages on aspects of Roman life.

Latin A Level is a challenging and stimulating option, which really develops pupils in terms of their skill in language and logical approaches to unadapted unseen passages, alongside the development of sophisticated analysis of ancient prose and verse set texts. They are assessed on unseen translation and grammar analysis or prose composition, as well as the analysis, translation, and overall thematic interpretation of their prepared set material. Latin is extremely well looked upon by universities, and complements almost any other set of A Levels, especially the traditional academic disciplines, whether in the sciences or humanities. Pupils who have studied Latin at A Level at The Oratory in recent years have gone on to study Classics at some of the country’s top universities, including Cambridge.

Classical Civilisation

Classical Civilisation is an increasingly popular A Level choice. It provides a rigorous yet varied study of the classical world through its literature, history, and ideas, yet without the requirement to understand Latin or Greek. There are no prerequisites for the course, but it develops skills from GCSE History and English in particular.

The core module of A Level Classical Civilisation is The World of the Hero, in which pupils study (in translation) Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid, two of the most important pieces of western literature. They both approach the works thematically and learn to analyse passages in detail for their style and content. We also teach the modules Love and Relationships, a philosophical and literary exploration about Greek and Roman love, and Imperial Image, in which pupils discover how Augustus created the political and social idea of an emperor in the first century.





Classical Greek

Classical Greek is offered from the Third Form. It provides a chance for pupils to be challenged intellectually and to take a subject that really makes them stand out. They also find learning a new alphabet to be a lot of fun. We use Taylor’s Greek to GCSE, which provides a thorough introduction to the alphabet, core grammar, and basic vocabulary, while also directly preparing pupils to take it on to GCSE, should they choose to. The stories introduce our pupils to the world of Greek myth, especially the story of the Trojan war and Odysseus’ journey home, as told by Homer.

Classical Greek is offered as a GCSE, and develops similar skills to Latin, with the added attraction that this is a rare subject for pupils to take, and those who do stand out significantly when applying to university. They also learn about the literature that lies at the bedrock of western tradition, especially philosophy, drama, and historiography, which better informs them for History and English Literature, in particular.

Classical Greek is a striking and intellectually-stimulating A Level choice, which not only prepares pupils ideally for further study in Classics, but will also make them stand out in applications for any subject at a top university. It particularly complements Theology, as a grounding in Classical Greek is ideal preparation for the study of the New Testament.


The Classics Department has started running trips throughout all stages of the school.

St Philip House have the opportunity to go to Rome, where they will experience the physical remains of the ancient city, visiting key sites such as the Colosseum and Forum, while complementing their study of the Classical world with a visit to the Vatican and immersion in the culture of this vibrant capital.

The 3rd Form visit Chedworth Roman Villa and Cirencester, to learn more about Roman Britain and the archaeological record the Romans left behind.

The Lower Sixth go on a Roman Britain road-trip, taking in Hadrian’s Wall and York, among other key Roman sites.

Other opportunities to enhance Classics at The Oratory include Latin speaking opportunities, talks from visiting speakers, and trips to the theatre.  Plans are afoot to introduce a Prep Schools Classics Festival.

The Department runs a Classics Clinic on a Thursday lunchtime, which is open to all.