The Oracle: A Department’s Newsletter

On the first day of the summer term one of my GCSE students (often called ‘trouble’) came into my classroom with a perfectly typed article for our department magazine which he had produced over the holiday following a school trip to Sparta; He had included pictures and had clearly researched it carefully. It was only then, I think, as I looked at this voluntary extra homework, that I realised what a fantastic opportunity had been created when we decided to publish a magazine.

We wrote about all of the places we visited in Greece.

Pupils in my school just love Classics and the subject is massively popular. The A Level students in particular were very enthusiastic and the loveliest bunch of people you could hope to meet and so we set up a school Classics society and from this came the idea of a newsletter or magazine.

Our newsletter is called ‘the Oracle’ and is written by students, teachers and past pupils (who are now at university studying Classics or even Professors of Classics themselves). Early on in its conception I spoke to our marketing manager, and seeing the potential he had the title professionally designed for me. I was delighted with the design, as were the pupils, and so we set about writing the first edition. To fill the pages, I called in multiple favours from past pupils and current teachers, I approached various students and I had a huge dilemma over the year 12’s determination to include a ‘Classics hottie of the month’ section (eventually I relented and Brad Pitt as Achilles and Angelina Jolie as Queen Olympias were nominated). It was tough work and as the December deadline approached we only just found enough pieces of writing to fill the pages.

The journey to find articles and people to write them was fascinating and digging around I found a past student who is now a professor of Classics at Cambridge and a Classics teacher who had worked at the school for more than 50 years before retiring in 2006 who were happy to write for us. The best part though, was the way that some students rose to the occasion, researching and writing some excellent articles which they can now take to university interviews as published pieces of work.

A Times Journalist reviewed our production of Medea

The first edition was a great success and before the photocopier had cooled down the year 12 students and I were busy putting together the second. This was much easier, as the first edition was really popular and so more students were familiar with the concept and happy to volunteer to write. Also, teachers in other departments with a passion for the subject came forward with articles (our Head of Science wrote about Aristotle and our (Greek) Head of French wrote about Alexander the Great). In addition we put on a school production of Medea and so the Oracle gave us an opportunity to write about it, with my friend who is a journalist for the Times kindly penning us a review.

I think that every Classics department should have a newsletter or magazine. After all, ours is a subject that lends itself to this format as we review modern films like the Immortals (‘rubbish’ according to Jess aged 14), focus on a particular hero, write travel reviews and interview people of interest (a Professor of Egyptology from Liverpool University and a professional actor who recently played Agamemnon to date). The pupils gain from it as it develops their wider knowledge for and love of the subject while also giving them the opportunity to show off their ability and passion to Universities. The department gains as it shows the brilliant diversity of the subject, gives us a platform to show what we do and generates enthusiasm. Finally, the school gains as all prospective pupils, teachers coming for interviews, governors etc. get a copy to illustrate that the school is thriving, enthusiastic and (of course) academic.

This month our third edition has gone out and the Oracle has taken on a life of its own; I witnessed one student saying to another as we stood gazing in awe at the view in Delphi ‘I’m going to write about this for the Oracle’ and I knew my nagging days were over.

Nancy Moore, Head of Classics and Latin at St Mary’s College, Crosby

View the June 2012 issue!