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Demand for classicists on the up

Enthusiasm for Latin in England's state secondary schools is soaring, new figures show.

Research by the Cambridge School Classics Project has revealed that the number of secondary schools teaching Latin had increased by a quarter last term to 600.

Will Griffiths, director of the project, said demand was coming from students as much as from teachers.

"Children are turning up in their own time to study what is a very academic subject," he said.

But Mr Griffiths said state schools were struggling to find staff to teach Latin, made worse by the Government's plans to cut the small number of people on training courses.

Early results from a survey carried out by the project show that 72 Latin teachers are due to retire every year for the next five years, while only 27 teachers are being trained on Postgraduate Certificate in Education courses.

"We need more people to teach this subject, not less," Mr Griffiths said. "It is already very difficult for schools to recruit qualified staff."

He said that in one recent case a school's only Latin teacher had gone on sick leave for a term, the school had failed to recruit a replacement and the only solution was for a retired teacher to step into the breach.

Aisha Khan, director of the classics PGCE at King's College, London, said that the existing 14 students on the course were due to be cut to 10 by 2010. "It is simply not economically viable for King's College to run a course with 10 students," she said.

"For the past 10 years everyone who has left this course and wanted a job has found one."

The Training and Development Agency for Schools acknowledged that only 27 training places for Latin teachers had officially been allocated.

But it said that applications had been steady and it had funded places for 30 of the 66 who applied to do the course this year, funding the extra three places itself.

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