A dramatic rise in the number of Removes (Year 9) pupils studying Classical Greek at Haileybury is symptomatic of a more general renaissance of Classical subjects at the school.
Fifteen pupils have chosen to study Greek in Year 9 this year, the largest such cohort for several decades. When invited to explain this phenomenon, Mrs Carole Gandon, Head of Classics, said: "Subjects like Greek offer the sort of challenge that bright, imaginative youngsters relish."
As for the pupils, all in this year’s Greek class have studied Latin and say their enjoyment of Latin had influenced their choice. They believe that Greek will greatly improve their "word power" and understanding of English. One pupil added that his father regretted not being able to study Greek at school and intended to learn alongside his son.
Mrs Gandon suspects that a renewed enthusiasm for Classics is part of a much wider interest nationally in seeing subjects perceived to stimulate intellectual curiosity re-established within the curriculum.
"It is also true to say that, with Classics unavailable in most state schools, the appearance of Greek or Latin on academic CVs is becoming increasingly distinctive in the eyes of universities and employers alike."
The Removes Greek course at Haileybury introduces pupils to the Greek alphabet (precursor to our own), to the wonders of Greek myth and Aesop’s fables (both early attempts to explain the world around us) to highlights from Homer’s "Odyssey", one of Western literature’s "greats". It also looks at the achievements of Alexander the Great, the subject of a recent Hollywood blockbuster and the first European general to invade Iraq. The course also teaches the basics of a demanding inflected language.
"Far from being buried in a dusty and distant past, Classics teachers try to make the most of ICT and to explore modern parallels with remarkable achievements of the ancient world," explains Mrs Gandon. "The recent interest shown by the film and television industry in the Classical world has also helped to bring the subject alive."
Pupils also have the opportunity to study Greek at GCSE level and for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.