Sheffield school launches crowdfunding appeal to pay for classics teachers

Classics students at High Storrs School
Classics students at High Storrs School
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A school in Sheffield has turned to crowdfunding to help pay for its classics teachers.

High Storrs School in Ecclesall is seeking to raise £100,000 so it can continue teaching classics and prevent the subject becoming the 'preserve of the private sector'.

Gina Johnson teaching students

Gina Johnson teaching students

It claims to be the only state school in the city offering classical civilisation, which is the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and Latin.

All students at the secondary school currently get the chance to study classics in year eight, before choosing whether to take it for GCSE and A level.

But staff say school funding cuts coupled with changes to the national curriculum - including the introduction of the English baccalaureate qualification, towards which classical civilisation does not count - have placed it under threat.

Gina Johnson, subject leader for classics and Latin at the school, said: "We are very concerned that, unless we can access significant external funding with which to subsidise small teaching groups, our wonderfully vibrant and enriching subjects may cease to be an option for our genuinely comprehensive student body, impoverishing their learning experience.

Classics students and staff during a study trip to Greece

Classics students and staff during a study trip to Greece

"We have, therefore, decided to take a new and innovative approach to ensuring the long term survival of our department through launching a crowdfunding initiative. We are aiming to raise £100,000 which will be used solely to subsidise the cost of smaller class sizes going into the future.

"We want to reach out not just to parents locally but to anyone who thinks these subjects are useful and interesting and should be available to all, not the preserve of the private sector."

Former classics students at the school include England defender Kyle Walker, former world squash champion Nick Matthew and ex-Eastenders and Miranda actor Tom Ellis, all of whom studied it in year eight.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Chelsea great Frank Lampard and author JK Rowling, who drew on it when naming spells in Harry Potter, are among the famous names to have studied classics.

High Storrs School classics and Latin teachers Gina Johnson and Georgina Gill

High Storrs School classics and Latin teachers Gina Johnson and Georgina Gill

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson and journalist and TV star Ian Hislop, meanwhile, are two of its most high-profile advocates.

Latin forms the foundation of many European languages and is the root of most English words, making it easier for Britons to master foreign tongues and perfect their native speaking and writing skills.

Ms Johnson, who is one of two classics teachers at High Storrs, says it also teaches students the logical reasoning skills required for other subjects such as maths and music.

As for classical civilisation, she says it helps people appreciate the rich cultural heritage handed down by the Greeks and Romans, including the development of democracy and theatre, which continues to affect the way we live.

Nicole Donaldson

Nicole Donaldson

Classics is safe at High Storrs for this academic year but with just 16 students - half the size of a typical class - having opted to study GCSE Latin in 2018/19, Ms Johnson says outside funding is urgently needed to secure its long-term future at the school.

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'I feel really fortunate to have studied classics'

Nicole Donaldson studied classical civilisation at A level and Latin at AS level, and feels 'really fortunate' to have had the opportunity.

The 18-year-old from Ecclesall is heading to the University of Birmingham to read English literature, and believes her background in classics stands her in good stead for her degree and future career, whatever that may be.

"Classics is so incorporated into our lives and many people don't even realise it. Latin's the foundation of our language and the classics are part of our art, philosophy, architecture, maths - almost everything, in fact," she said.

"I feel really fortunate I went to a school that enabled me to study classics, and where the teachers are so passionate about the subject. I would never have been able to go to a private school."