School mottos fit for the modern age

28th April 2006 at 01:00
No matter how hard you try, it will never be good enough. This is the type of ancient sentiment that teachers are expected to use to mould young minds, according to contributors to The TES online staffroom.

The phrase is a rough translation of "ultra optime melius est" ("beyond the best, there is always better"), one of the traditional school mottos encountered by teachers.J Often, teachers struggle to apply such mottos to the realities of 21st-century life. One was confronted with "the best education today, for the women of tomorrow". "Fine," she said, "until the sixth form became mixed. Although a few of us suspected that it applied to some of the boys."

Another teacher was faced with "semper eadem": "always the same".

Boring or what?

And misunderstandings are rife. As a child, one contributor interpreted the imperative to learn, "wisdom giveth life", as "if you're not clever, you may as well be dead". Another commented that "in omnibus laborum" was regularly translated as "do your homework on the bus".

Meanwhile, some bemoan the irrelevance of the traditional motto to the current era of spin and mission statements, while others believe that schools should adapt their message to the modern world.

One contributor suggested replacing Latin epithets with "Let us try to avoid teen pregnancy" or "Thou shalt not bring dope to school".

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today