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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 Classical Civilisation at The Oratory gives students the opportunity to explore the influential language and culture of Ancient Rome. In so doing, they improve a range of skills, such as linguistic competence, appreciation of literature and analysis of a range of historical evidence.


Learning Latin

We believe passionately in Classics for everyone, and all students take Latin in 1st and 2nd Form. It has advantages for all students, 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. 


Through studying Latin, students learn the grammar and vocabulary of a language which provides roots to Modern Languages, such as French and Spanish. They learn to recognise also the connections between Latin Vocabulary and English words, developing their literacy skills, and they develop an understanding of how grammar systems work. Latin is a very logical language, and students develop 'code-breaking' skills, which also aid their studies in a variety of subjects, from Maths and Computer Science to Music. 

We also study a variety of thought-provoking topics, from gladiators to slavery, which encourage students to reflect on classical society in comparison with modern culture. 

Rachel Fec - Teacher in charge of Classics


All students 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, Latin is studied by those with previous experience of the language. We continue with the Cambridge Latin Course, introducing some of the key grammatical constructions required for GCSE, while also consolidating their core grammar. The stories this year focus on the town of Aquae Sulis, modern-day Bath.

Latin GCSE is an option that achieves excellent grades at The Oratory, and is a GCSE subject that makes students stand out from the crowd in terms of demonstrating a real range of skills and intellectual acuity. Students 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 students 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. Students 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.



Latin offers students the chance to get an insight into the language, literature, and culture of ancient Rome; it develops skills in logic and analysis that transfer well across the curriculum. The GCSE course is an intellectually stimulating one, which develops the Latin language skills already introduced in prior learning, continuing with the Cambridge Latin Course and supplementing with other resources. Additionally, the exciting breakthrough that will be made during the GCSE years is the reading and appreciation of actual Roman literature in its original language; it is at this point that the grammatical work of the preceding three years gains true meaning. As a result, therefore, the Latin GCSE qualification is only available to those who have continued with the study of Latin during their 3rd year. The language aspects of the course will be attractive to those with a logical or mathematical mind-set, as well as to those with a natural instinct for languages. The literature elements of the course introduce the students to the foundation texts of European culture, and complement their studies in English and History. They teach the students to analyse prose and verse texts stylistically and appreciate their themes. They learn to develop their own opinions on the ideas, plot, and characters presented by the texts, and to present these in essays. The topics are examined in three written exam papers.



Language: Learners study texts and stories in Latin to build knowledge and understanding of Latin vocabulary, accidence, and syntax.

100 marks

1 hour 30 minutes

Written paper

This component is worth 50% of the total GCSE.

Prose literature: Learners study a Latin prose set text, for example stories from Pliny’s letters. They answer questions in English on
aspects of content, and analyse, evaluate, and respond to the
ancient literature studied.

50 marks

1 hour

Written paper

This component is worth 25% of the total GCSE.

Verse literature: Learners study a Latin verse set text, for example an extract from Virgil’s Aeneid. They answer questions in English on  aspects of content, and analyse, evaluate, and respond to the
ancient literature studied.

50 marks

1 hour

Written paper

This component is worth 25% of the total GCSE.




The study of Latin requires a capacity for logical thought and analysis that suits those with aspirations towards Medicine, Law, and a number of other top academic degrees. The course also introduces students to the great literature of the ancient world, which forms the bedrock of Western writing and thought, and so helps provide an excellent foundation for other arts and humanities subjects. It is an option for those with Latin GCSE and is extremely well looked upon by universities.

Latin combines well with Modern Languages, English Literature, and History, all disciplines that have clear cultural and linguistic links with Classics; however, owing to the logical nature of the language, it also forms a natural link with Maths and Sciences. For those considering taking a classical subject at university, Latin would be particularly well paired with either Classical Civilisation or Classical Greek. The course comprises the study of the language, tested by unseen translation, and comprehension or prose composition, and the study of prose and verse literature, tested by textual commentary and essay writing. All units are assessed by written examination. Success in the language papers calls for a high level of linguistic flair and intelligence. The prescribed literature is studied in detail with a view to consideration of style, form, subject matter, and particular literary techniques, as well as translation. 



Unseen translation


Learners build their knowledge of vocabulary and linguistic structures through reading and studying prose and verse texts in Latin. Learners study texts written by a range of prose authors and the verse unseen author to develop linguistic competence.

Unseen Translation (33%)

1 hour 45 minute written paper

Prose Composition or

Comprehension (17%)

1 hour 15 minute written paper

Prose literature


Learners study two Latin Prose Literature set texts in depth. Learners also study additional literature in translation in order to understand the context from which the set texts have been taken.

Prose literature (25%)

2 hour written paper

Verse literature


Learners study two Latin Verse Literature set texts in depth. Learners also study additional literature in translation in order to understand the context from which the set texts have been taken.

Verse literature (25%)

2 hour written examination

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 students 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 students discover how Augustus created the political and social idea of an emperor in the first century.


The Classics Department runs a variety of trips including overnight stays for GCSE Latin students to sites in Roman Britain. In lower years, we regularly run visits to sites such as Bath, Fishbourne and Butser Ancient Farm.

Beyond the Course

GCSE Latin
Students with a GCSE in Latin will stand out from the crowd when applying for university or jobs. They develop transferable skills in logic and analysis, in understanding patterns and systems in language and beyond, and a grounding in the fundamentals of western literature and culture. They will, of course, be well prepared to continue with an A level in Latin, and it is also a useful GCSE subject for those who may wish to further their linguistic study in the future in terms of Classical Greek, as the languages support and complement one another. Naturally, learning a challenging language such as Latin is also very useful for students wishing to learn modern languages. However, Latin also develops skills in problem-solving that are useful for mathematical subjects in particular, and the literature topics in the GCSE support further study of the arts and humanities, such as English or History A Levels. 

A Level Latin
Apart from the traditional employers of Classics graduates, such as the Civil and Diplomatic Services and Legal Profession, the IT industry and other businesses regularly recruit those with a background in Latin and Greek. Classicists have a good reputation for their clarity of expression in English, their ability to learn demanding foreign languages, and their imagination and resourcefulness.


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The Oratory School

Tel: +44 (0)1491 683500