CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Emma Thompson donates £500 to former school’s fund-raiser to save Classical Greek lessons

Exclusive: Camden School for Girls uses Just Giving site to raise money to keep course going

08 March, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Emma Thompson [Pic Justin Harris], Homer and Camden School for Girls

TO pupils and staff at one of the country’s most sought-after schools, education cuts are becoming a tragedy. A Greek tragedy.

With budgets squeezed, Camden School for Girls has taken the eye-catching step of starting an online fund-raiser in a bid to find the money needed to continue its Classical Greek courses for GCSE and A-Level students.It began with a target of £30,000, which organisers say will keep the class open for another three years. One of the first donors, it was revealed this week, is former student Emma Thompson with the Oscar-winning actress stumping up £500.

The total stood at around £4,000 when the New Journal went to press last night (Wednesday).

“Greek is a springboard into higher education, not only into Classics courses but also into a range of fields that require analytical, linguistic, historical or cultural competencies,” said the appeal issued by the school in Sandall Road, Camden Town. It said the language courses in Classical Greek were part of what made Camden School for Girls “special”, but that cuts mean the course is now maintained through “contributions from our alumni and families”.

One of the capital’s best known schools, its former pupils include education campaigner Fiona Millar, actress Tamsin Greig and singer Geri Horner. If the courses are maintained, students at GCSE level could be studying the likes of Homer and Thucydides. In the past there have also been schools trips to Greece and also the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The school last week staged a production of Medea, the Greek tragedy written by Euripides and adapted by Classics teacher Jacob Lundholm.

In 2015, the school raised £11,000 and 25 students were able to enrol on the Ancient Greek GCSE course. The course is currently

being taught by three teachers in a “hub” that is available to other schools in Camden. “Studying Greek has been a most amazing opportunity,” said Elika, a pupil studying Classical Greek in the sixth form.

“I’ve found it to be a highly stimulating subject. It has given me a deeper appreciation for the English language I use in everyday life, and by studying Greek texts directly I feel much closer to these ancient stories that have captured problems and struggles that are an essential part of human nature.”

The use of online fund-raisers is a new tactic for schools struggling to balance the books or pay for new projects with reduced budgets.

The New Journal has revealed several ways in which schools at both primary and secondary schools were resorting to in order to generate an income, including holding a lottery and asking families to fill a Smarties tube with 20p pieces.

Gerald Clark, the secretary of Camden National Education Union (formerly the NUT), said: “It’s a sad state of affairs when state-funded schools need to raise their own money to keep courses going. This wouldn’t be necessary if the government had maintained levels of real-terms funding to schools, but the truth is that, although the government continues to say schools have never had more funding, this is because schools have more pupils than ever.”

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