40th JACT Latin Summer School – 2020 Director’s Report

It was heartwarming to see, in the midst of such a difficult period of human history, so many students still making the improvement of their Latin a priority for their Summer holiday. After finally taking the reluctant decision in May to abandon all hope of a live Latin Camp (which would have been our first ever in Harrogate), I really did not know how many remote takers we would get. Well there was nothing to worry about there and we ended up with our third biggest cohort ever (129 students) including many who had signed up for live and decided that remote was better than nothing. And that it most certainly was – an excellent group of students, among the very nicest hardworking cohorts we have ever had, and a committed team of new and old tutors, saw to that.

I was surprised that the remote facility did not lead to a further surge in overseas students – in fact we were down to around 5% – though perhaps less surprised that the intake was rather younger than in recent years with 78% of our students still of school age (of whom roughly a quarter were from the state sector). We were delighted to continue offering our support to Wilberforce Inc., the charity supporting the learning of Latin in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Dick Mowbray has taken the lead with this and I have put a brief report from him at the end of this report. This support is ongoing and I hope that it will be my pleasure to welcome three of their students to Harrogate in 2021 on completely free places.


Staff and Teaching

It was an unusually large team this year because I wanted to make the teaching groups a little smaller for a remote affair.

Back on the team this year were:

·         Mish Bancroft

·         Naomi Bradshaw

·         Lindsey Cullen

·         Rhiannon Litterick

·         Dick Mowbray

·         Sophia Potter

·         Laura Snook

·         Tarika Sullivan

·         Claire Wilkinson

We also had another great injection of new blood this Summer

·         Oscar Barber

·         Katherine Barker

·         Tamsin Benns

·         Charlotte Drinkwater

·         George Johnson

·         Tom Lambert

·         Andy McKellar

·         Filippo Viti

·         Hayley Walker

Dick Mowbray and Sophia Potter have continued to perform the assistant director roles (academic and student welfare respectively) and Lindsey Cullen is now tutor i/c remote learning with oversight of Teams and the logistical side of setting up the remote arrangement in the event of us being fully or partially remote in future years.

Please look on the website under “our courses” for details on what we offer. Once again we had groups from complete beginners tackling the traditional and totally uncompromising So You Really Want to Learn Latin course aiming to cover all the essential grammar of current GCSE specifications and sit an actual past language paper at the end, to GCSE students who mainly focused on readers and other selections of the finest extant Roman literature reading more widely than they would have time for in school, to A Level students reading rather more demanding and “left field” texts (Lucan 7, for example, or Seneca’s Thyestes) which they are highly unlikely to have met before to provide themselves with that edge for university applications. The grammar clinics were run remotely, pre-recorded on YouTube before the tutors appeared to go through the work and answer questions.

We have also been welcoming increasing numbers of students over the years who are about to embark upon a PGCE or are indeed already working in a school without much Latin teaching experience; some of these enter the regular groups reading texts at different levels alongside to improve on their own Latin if they were not fortunate enough to have started it at school, others are already fairly strong in the language and we focus more on the teaching side – a whistlestop fortnight of what we consider the “bread and butter” of how Latin is taught in schools and examined at GCSE and A Level, as well as reading and various work on current set texts. (Translating but also considering literary features and themes.) Needless to say it will always be the more experienced among the tutors delivering this course. I am very keen for us to keep developing it as a real contribution we can make to UK Classics teaching and intend to make it a priority over the coming years, continuing the process in consultation with the PGCE course leaders. There were only a handful of such students this year – unsurprising in this difficult times but we normally expect to have two bespoke teachers’ groups and several other teachers joining the regular text reading groups. I am very grateful to Classics for All for the funding they provide to help enable teachers at or about to join state schools to attend.



I am so very grateful to all our speakers who, having agreed to come to the live Summer School, were unilaterally willing to deliver their lectures remotely this year. As with the clinics, these were pre-recorded and uploaded to YouTube for the students to view in advance of the speaker for that day appearing to answer questions live.

As usual, we aimed for a mixture of “mainstream” talks on texts the current students are likely to be studying at school and talks of wider and more general interest. And as usual the quality of talks was without exception first-rate. Dr. Anthony Bowen once again opened with his “Sound of Latin” talk. Prof. Matthew Leigh also returned, this time to talk about Philippics II. Prof. Costas Panayotakis gave his usual passionate delivery on Petronius’ Satyricon, this time focusing on the historical characters. Ben Kane once again taught us about the life of a Roman soldier in Britain and Prof. Llew Morgan returned with a talk on Horace and his artistry. Two new speakers joined the fold this year – Dr. Zara Chadha spoke to us about warfare in the Aeneid and Prof. Carrie Vout closed the programme with “The Art of Being Roman Emperor” drawing on a particularly wide range of material sources.

Although the usual trips and last night party were sorely missed, we were able to replicate much of the other entertainment we normally lay on at a live Camp and I am grateful to tutor Laura Snook who did much of the work setting this up. The live quiz night in the first week was replaced by a Kahoot, the costume competition which would have arisen from the party happened remote on Twitter and Instagram, as did a “best shelfie” (replacing the usual best selfie) photos of people’s collections of classical books.


Acknowledgement and Thanks

This year I awarded £4480 in the form of 14 free remote places; it is always very important to us that we make the Summer School and the learning of Latin as accessible as possible and we welcome applications from all educational levels and backgrounds.

The sponsorship we are so generously given not only allows us to provide places to those who would not be able to come otherwise but it also helps us keep fees down overall and replenish textbooks, among other ongoing expenses. I would like to thank those sponsors whose generosity helps makes this possible:

  • The Classical Association
  • Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge
  • The Craven Committee, University of Oxford
  • The Jowett Copyright Trustees
  • Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Classics for All

The 41st JACT Latin Summer School will run from Monday 19th to Saturday 31st July 2021, for the first time at Harrogate Ladies College. The website www.latincamp.co.uk continues to be the key source of information and contains a very simple online application form. If you have any questions at all after reading this, please do get in touch with me on d.stephenson@warwickschool.org.

Let me end this by once again expressing my deepest appreciation to everyone – staff, students, speakers and sponsors – who collectively make Latin Camp such a resounding success year on year. Of course in many ways things were unique this time round but in others it really was business as usual because the usual top-quality participants made it so.

I very much hope to be welcoming a live cohort of students to Harrogate this Summer!


David Stephenson

Director JACT Latin Summer School


Appendix – Sierra Leone Report (by Dick Mowbray)

I was asked in June 2020 to take on the long-term management of three students from Sierra Leone, who, under the auspices of Wilberforce Inc, a charity, were coming to Harrogate Latin Camp in July 2020, but were prevented from so doing by COVID-19. They could not commit to the Remote Camp which replaced HLC for administrative and technical reasons. After discussion with David Stephenson, and Philippe Vernes and Richard During from Wilberforce, I agreed to have bi-weekly 2 hour sessions, using Oulton’s ‘So you really want to learn Latin?’.

The three students, Foday Koroma, Abdul Thomas and John Moana, are aged between 19 and 21, and two of them are orphans of the 20+ year Civil War in their country. Their education, like that of their peers, has been severely disrupted. They came top of an examination to win this opportunity with Wilberforce and regard it as a great honour. There seems to be the further objective in the longer-term for the three students to teach a further thirty what they have learnt.

The students have no little ability and plenty of motivation. They regard themselves as being an elite with a privileged opportunity which they have earnt. They receive lots of technical support from a local school and are well aware that poor attitude and performance could result in them losing this opportunity. In a recent end-of-book 1 exhaustive test on formation of nouns, adjectives and verbs, and case usage, they scored 98%, 96% and 96% respectively.

As I have taught these students it has become clear that learning Latin can be a vehicle for the exploration of ideas associated with English derivatives. Without wishing to politicise their education, there is an unashamedly liberal educational agenda at work here, with the full-permission of Philippe and Richard. Richard attends all lessons and his input is invaluable.   We may well integrate into our lessons some of Adrian Spooner’s book (BCP 1991) ‘Lingo- a course on words and how to use them’. A sub-text to what we are doing is the notion of ‘language deprivation theory’ and the success of Latin in one of America’s poorest neighbourhoods, the South Bronx.