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The Department offers a colourful and vigorous experience of the classical world, its languages and its literature (including in translation).

We hope that your son will develop his awareness of the influence of the classical civilisations of Greece and Rome on our world today. More generally, pupils will gain a sensitivity to societies whose spiritual and moral values and priorities contrast with those of the modern western world.

In addition, we aim to encourage pupils to respond searchingly and personally to what they read; to think independently and analytically; to apply their evaluative skills to classical material; to express themselves with clarity and accuracy.

Small numbers in most of the sets allow there to be a really personal touch about Classics lessons, enabling each boy to flourish at his respective level. The ensuing results in public exams has in turn, led to numbers increasing in all three of the Classical subjects, including Classical Greek.


Rachel Fawthrop

Rachel Fawthrop

Head of Department

Mrs Fawthrop is the Head of Department and teaches Latin, Classical Civilisation and Classical Greek throughout the School.

Matthew Hillier

Matthew Hillier

Teacher of Classics

Mr Hillier is the Head of Classics and teaches Latin, Classical Civilisation and Classical Greek throughout the School. He coaches cricket and fives. He was formerly Housemaster of Laidlaw South.


The Classics Department teaches Latin, Classical Greek, and Classical Civilisation throughout the School.

Latin is compulsory for most boys in II and III Forms and then can be chosen for study in IV Form and at GCSE and A level. We use the Cambridge Latin Course in the lower years and then follow OCR syllabuses.

Classical Civilisation is offered as an alternative to Latin in IV Form and then can be chosen for study at GCSE and A Level. In IV Form we follow our own course studying topics of Roman life and reading a Greek play in translation. At GCSE we use the OCR syllabus and study the ‘Myth and Religion’ and ‘War and Warfare’ topics. The subject can be taken up at A Level with no prior knowledge. In the new OCR syllabus we shall be studying the Epic and Theatre units.

Classical Greek is also offered in IV Form, and can then be chosen for study at GCSE and A level. We use Taylor’s ‘Greek to GCSE’ and follow OCR syllabuses.


Every year we have a wide range of co-curricular activities in the Classics department. In November we hold a Classical Reading competition, inviting pupils from other Edinburgh schools to join us. Boys from II Form to UVI perform plays and recite texts in Latin and Greek, competing against each other and pupils from other local schools. Dr Donncha O’Rourke from the University of Edinburgh kindly adjudicates.

Boys studying Latin in the Sixth Form attend conferences on their set texts and also take part in the international CICERO competition, involving translation of some demanding Latin text. Boys also participate in other competitions such as the Gilbert Murray Essay Competition. Boys studying Greek are able to immerse themselves in the ancient language by attending the university Greek plays; in 2016 we greatly enjoyed the Cambridge double bill.

Classical Civilisation groups and other interested pupils are taken to see productions of Greek dramas in Edinburgh, London and other cities. Most years there are several opportunities, including the experience of seeing well-known set texts performed live.

Classical Civilisation groups also visit the British Museum and Hadrian’s Wall, as relevant to their courses. We are excited by the new emphasis on material culture in the reformed OCR specifications, which brings further opportunity for trips to support pupils’ learning.

Our student-led Medical Society provides opportunities for prospective medics to collaboratively apply their scientific knowledge in a medical context. On average, 7% of our Year 13 students have applied for Medicine at university over the last three years.


Through our close links with the Roslin Institute, IGCSE and A Level pupils also get to experience advanced genetics techniques as well as a wide range of the usual practical work offered within schools. Being able to use the Roslin labs has enabled the department to deliver hands on experiments on subject matter elsewhere only able to be taught theoretically.

Ms Williams Head of Biology

Coming from a state school, science was taught very theoretically. Here at Merchiston, we do so many practicals to reinforce our knowledge. This has given me a totally different view on school in general: every day I wake up and I look forward to my lessons

Vincent B Year 11 (S4)

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