Classical Dragons
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The Classics are thriving at the Dragon where Latin is a core
element of the curriculum.
Dragons Today
spoke to Head of
Department Mark Edwards about the contemporary value of a
classical education.
A Reasoned Approach:
Why Classics Matters
D R A G O N S T O D A Y . W I N T E R 2 0 1 2 / 1 3
though and plough can share the same
four letters, but are pronounced in seven
distinct ways). Like German, Latin is very
different – it’s pronounced how it’s spelled.
More importantly, its strict grammar and
syntax encourage children to look carefully
at words, to work out each one’s role in a
sentence and find a coherent
meaning from all the clues.
This is what gives Latin
its unique place within
the curriculum. When
learning their native
tongue, children
aren’t accustomed
to breaking the
language down,
analysing it, and
taking time to put it
back together again.
In Latin, they have to. Our
graded in-house Latin
courses, specially
designed for prep school-age children, take
them step-by-step through the language
from the outset, with simple exercises at
each point. We firmly believe that children
enjoy any subject where they can succeed,
and due to Latin’s steady teaching at the
Dragon, our pupils gain confidence from
the start, and look forward to each mini-
challenge of Year 5 and beyond.
grammar and syntax
encourage children to look
carefully at words
‘Latin’s a dead language, as dead as dead
can be. First it killed the Romans, now it’s
killing me.’ Many readers will recognise
this rhyme. In these days of 24-hour
news, social media, and digital influences
throughout the educational world, does
any value remain in studying the language,
literature and culture of 2,000 year-old
civilisations?
At the Dragon, our pupils
love studying Latin. Here are
three reasons why:
Confidence with
language
English is a tricky language.
If, like me, you are a parent
whose child is learning to
read, you will know that
English spelling rules are
always frustratingly mitigated
by exceptions (through, tough,
thorough, thought, trough,
A challenge for everyone
Some think Latin is only for ‘clever’
children. We know from experience that
this is not true; but it can easily become
a self-fulfilling prophecy. At the Dragon,
with few exceptions, every child learns
Latin from Year 5. The vast majority find it
approachable, fun and stimulating - and
for many it is one of their top grades at
Common Entrance at the end of Year 8. For
those who find literacy more challenging,
the predictability of Latin spelling and the
unchanging fundamentals of its grammar
give confidence which transfers to other
subjects. One parent, whose dyslexic
child loved Latin, said it was like “a rock
of security in a sea of swimming words.”
We set children from Year 6, in up to eight
groups, which means we can tailor the
teaching appropriately.
At the same time, Latin, as well as
Greek (offered to the top two sets at
the start of Year 7), provides a worthy
challenge to our ablest pupils. In our top
sets, the level of the language studied
and the pace at which the pupils move is
exceptional. The same uniformity which
opens up the subject to all children, at the
same time yields a contained environment
in which the bright and interested pupil
can thrive and be stretched.  
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