The U.K. education secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a new $5.5 million programme to teach Latin at 40 schools across the country. Mr Williamson said the Latin Excellence Programme aims to "level up" opportunities for students in some government-run schools. Latin is a language that was spoken in the area around Rome over 2,000 years ago. It is taught in 49% of the UK's "elite" private schools but only 2.7% of state schools. Williamson said: "Latin has a reputation as an elitist subject, which is reserved for the privileged few, but the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to put an end to that divide." He added: "Latin can help pupils with learning modern foreign languages."
The initiative has sparked a heated debate about the benefits of Latin. Many people have ridiculed the programme as being nothing but a "poorly-funded gimmick". Politician Tim Farron wrote: "Latin is elite because only people who are guaranteed successful careers, thanks to family connections, can afford to waste time on a subject whose only practical application is in understanding...the dialogue in [ancient] books." Author Emma Kennedy questioned the use of a "dead" language. She uses Latin to "occasionally translate things on tombs". A teacher said money would be better spent on living languages like Chinese or Arabic that would enable children "to get ahead in and engage with the world," or on computer coding.