A BLACKBIRD Leys primary school is thought to be the first in the UK to offer pupils an exam in Latin.
Pegasus Primary School has been teaching the ancient language for six years thanks to work with city charity Iris UK.
Now its pupils will take an OCR entry-level Latin qualification with two 20-minute written tests and coursework on ancient Rome.
Francis Murphy, deputy headteacher at the Field Avenue school, said: “We want to give our children the best education possible. Our children should do Latin as much as children in other schools.
“That is one of our big things – raising the profile of education.”
The charity’s lessons are helping pupils to make links between the building blocks of Latin and the modern languages, he said.
And Mr Murphy said: “It is about children’s confidence.
“They are extremely proud when they leave primary school with their SATs. If they leave with a qualification in hand, it boosts their confidence.”
The first exams will take place next summer.
Ten-year-old Esinam Asanu, who is set to take the exam, said: “It is fantastic. I like that you get to learn different languages and Latin helps you speak French and Spanish. It’s kind of easy.”
Iris director Dr Lorna Robinson said the school was the “perfect setting” to pilot the exam, which could then be rolled out to other city schools.
Dr Robinson, who will lead the lessons, said: “Learning Latin is enjoyable and people get a lot out of it. Latin is the key foundation of the English language.
“The children love it – they feel like detectives. It gives them an understanding of English.
“That is an important thing for developing their own literacy and communication skills.”
She said the view that Latin is an elitist subject best left to public schools is “complete nonsense”, adding: “No child should be deprived of the knowledge of where the language they speak comes from.
“I don’t see why it should be limited to a group of children.”
Dr Robinson said not enough secondary schools teach the language, adding: “It would be brilliant if they did. It would mean the pupils doing it in primary school will be able to carry on that interest.”
The charity has also worked with other local primaries – East Oxford, New Hinksey, St Thomas More, Church Cowley St James, Bayards Hill, Sandhills, North Hinksey and Kidlington.
A FEW USEFUL LATIN PHRASES ...
Taken from Latin For All Occasions by Henry Beard
Sane ego te vocavi. Forsitan capedictum tuum desit.
I did call. Maybe your answering machine is broken .
Hostes alienigeni me abduxerunt. Qui annus est?
I was kidnapped by aliens. What year is it?
Di! Ecce hora! Uxor mea me necabit!
God, look at the time! My wife will kill me!
Braccae tuae aperiuntur.
Your fly is open .