Once thought the preserve of leading public schools and written off as dusty, irrelevant and too difficult, Latin is enjoying a surge of popularity in state comprehensives.
Following a sustained campaign over the last decade by classics organisations and charities, more comprehensives are now offering Latin than grammar and independent schools combined.
Research carried out by the Cambridge Schools Classics Project (CSCP) reveals that, in England, 511 comprehensives now offer Latin, compared with 104 grammar schools and 403 independent schools. This represents a 9 per cent rise in the number of comprehensives offering Latin since May 2007 and a dramatic quadrupling since 2000.
CSCP director Will Griffiths largely credits the surge to initiatives introduced under the previous Government, and to campaigns and outreach work by classics groups.
"These results show that classics in the state sector is very healthy and has a vibrant future," Mr Griffiths said. "We are delighted to find there has been such a huge surge."
Mr Griffiths said that making quality teaching and learning resources available online had been significant, as had greater variety of assessment.
The figures include schools that offer Latin as an extra-curricular activity, as well as those which have placed it on the main timetable.
Lorna Robinson, director of the Iris Project, which promotes classics in state schools, said teachers are "waking up to the fact" that the subject can enrich the curriculum and develop a range of important skills.
Rowlie Darby, who teaches Latin at Patcham High School in Brighton, said the subject should be open to all.
"There are many reasons why Latin is good for students - from where our language comes from to what makes us similar to and different from the Romans," he said. "It also encourages students to think."
He suggested that non-specialists like him who deliver Latin through their existing teaching skills should continue to work in partnership with classically trained teachers.
A spokesman for the Joint Association of Classical Teachers (JACT) said he was "pleasantly surprised" at the survey findings, but expressed caution about the future.
"We receive more and more letters from teachers who say they no longer have the funding to carry on with teaching the classics," he said.
Mr Griffiths also suggested that current policies may hamper future growth. While he applauded the current Government's support for Latin, he was concerned that the most popular GCSE-equivalent qualification - offered by the WJEC exam board - does not count towards the English Baccalaureate.
"It is the most popular Latin qualification offered in state schools and universities see it as equivalent to the GCSE course," he said.
TES PHRASEBOOK - CLASSIC EXAMPLES
- Matthew appellor et magister sum hodie. My name is Matthew and I am your teacher today.
- Canis studia domestici devoravit. The dog ate my homework.
- Haud mea culpa, domina. It wasn't me, Miss.
- Ubi est latrina? Where is the toilet?
- Quo usque ludus meus tablulis scolasticis perrexit? Where does my school come in the league tables?