The Royal Belfast Academical Institution


Name of Department: Latin

Head of Department: Ms L Gordon

Members of Department: Ms L Gordon, Ms K Parkes

We have a long and distinguished tradition at RBAI of studying the Classics; while honouring the past, however, this is a department with its eyes firmly fixed on the future! We believe that a study of the ancient world and its languages - at whatever level – is essential to our understanding of who we are, how we got to this point in our history and how our language and literature have developed along the way. Latin really is the one subject central to any curriculum – and now that we have so many resources to help us learn, it can be fun too!

KS3 – Starting Out

Year 9: Latin

At the end of Year 8, boys can choose to study Latin in Year 9 (almost 75% of boys opt for this). We start with the basics of Latin as a language, using Suburani Book 1, a brand-new Latin course designed for use both in the classroom and at home as an e-text. This course helps students understand more about what life was like for Romans living in the huge slum area of the Subura in AD 64, the year of the Great Fire. As well as learning the Latin language, the colourful and varied background sections show how Rome was much more multi-cultural and diverse a society than we might realise, as we follow the fortunes of Sabina and her family and friends as well as the story of the infamous emperor Nero.

Here's a link to the first chapter of the course:

Year 10

Boys who choose to continue Latin move on with Suburani Book 1, which continues Sabina’s story as she deals with marriage, setting up a new home and a new life far from Rome. We carry on with language work, too, in preparation for GCSE and look at Foundation Myths, considering what we can learn about ancient (and modern!) societies through the stories they tell about their origins (focusing on Romulus and Remus, Horatius, Scaevola and Cloelia).

Here’s a link to the text for Chapter 7:

KS4 – GCSE Latin

Board: OCR

Boys opting for Latin take 3 papers at the end of Year 12 (Language, Literature and Literature and Society); there are no controlled assessments or coursework. This course allows boys to consolidate and extend their knowledge of Latin grammar and embark on reading Latin literature for the first time. Further context and insight into the Roman world is acquired through the new Literature and Culture paper, where boys study two prescribed topics in detail, such as Entertainment or Gods and Beliefs.

More details can be found here:

KS5– A level

Board: OCR

Boys opting for A level Latin take 4 papers at the end of Year 14 (Unseen Translation, Comprehension or Prose Composition, Prose Literature and Verse Literature); there are no controlled assessments or coursework. This is a fully linear A level, which means that boys do not sit a public examination at the end of Year 13; instead, there is an internal examination which is based on the AS paper for that year. Boys opting for A level Latin have the chance to refine their language skills to a very high level and tackle increasingly demanding Latin texts, which cover a wide range of Roman cultural experience – from the political speeches of Cicero to the epic poetry of Vergil to the dark histories of Tacitus, the aim is to expose senior students to as broad a variety of writing as possible so that they can fully grasp the importance of Roman civilisation and language.

More details can be found here:

Examination success

Boys taking Latin at GCSE have enjoyed a continuous run of very high grades at RBAI – in 2021, they achieved 100% A*-A, which is a reflection of their hard work, talent and commitment.

At A level, the standard is also high: in 2021, A level students in Latin achieved 100% A*-B

The standard is just as impressive in Greek – in spite of working off timetable, boys who took Greek at GCSE over the last two years have achieved 100%A*-A.

Additional information:

Greek at RBAI

RBAI is one of the very few schools in Northern Ireland which still offers the opportunity to study Greek alongside Latin. Boys who wish to study Greek may join the Greek class (Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes) and typically will work towards taking GCSE in Year 13. They can also attend the evening classes run by the Classical Association of Northern Ireland in QUB on Monday evenings as a useful supplementary. Details for the OCR Greek GCSE course can be found here:

Beyond the Classroom

Boys regularly attend events organised by CANI – the Classics Day for Schools (which features Roman legionaries, archaeological handling sessions and a talk by a leading authority on a subject related to GCSE study), the CANI Summer School for Latin and Greek (held in QUB in July), along with film nights and talks.

Senior students are encouraged to apply for Summer Schools in England too – we have a regular number of boys attending such events as an excellent means of preparation for Oxbridge application or as a means of pushing themselves to achieve more in their studies.

Normally, Year 11 and 13 students travel to Oxford or Cambridge to attend the Oxford and Cambridge Classics Open Days and as soon as travel restrictions permit, we will be returning to Rome on a trip for Year 11 -14 students, as well as Bath to help with the GCSE Literature and Culture paper.

06 2023
McCullough Cup - Hockey - Final (tbc)
06 2023
Foundation Scholarship Evening
08 2023
Year 10 Workshop 'Made for More'
11 2023
Year 9 Parent Consultations - School ends at 12.55 pm
College Square East, Belfast, Co. Antrim, BT1 6DL
Tel: 028 90 240461
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