Express & Star comment: A top education is a right for everyone, not the privileged few

How's your Latin?

Education is for all.
Education is for all.

It's probably better than you think, because many words in the English language are derived from Latin. It's what the Romans did for us.

And for that reason Latin is not quite the dead language people assume. Know Latin, and you can work out the nuances and meanings of many words in English.

Nevertheless, there is a perception that the Classics are for the posh, the elite, the super clever. That immediately sends out a message to students from poorer and ethnic minority backgrounds that the Classics are not for the likes of them.

From a statistical point of view, they are right. The Classics are not for them, but mainly for the white middle class students, as evidenced by the small representation from state school students and ethnic minority groups on the Classics course at Cambridge University.

Historian Professor Dame Mary Beard, who is from Much Wenlock, is a great advocate of Classics and is taking this particular bull by the horns in a scheme to promote equality of opportunity and encourage more diversity.

She will pay the £10,000-a-year living costs of two undergraduates from minority ethnic groups and low-income homes for the full duration of their degrees as they study at Cambridge.

“It’s a retirement present from me,” she says.

Two students is a small drop in an ocean, but it is a statement of intent. She says "it’s a way of showing we’re serious about equality of opportunity."

Putting your money where your mouth is like this really is an indicator of serious intent.

Now it may well be the case that there are not hordes of secondary school students across our region who are itching to go on to Classics degree courses – in reality they are unlikely to have had an introduction to discover whether they like the subject or not – but that is not the point.

The point is that if they happen to have an interest, and the academic capability, the system should not work against them and slam the door in their faces, while giving the impression of unfairness by leaving the door open to others from different ethnic and social backgrounds.

The days when "the right sort of people" were on the educational fast-track are for the past. Britain should tap into talent wherever it is found.

Great strides have been made in recent years in opening up about mental illness.

Once it used to be covered up and hidden, a source of shame and embarrassment, and many people would not dream of admitting to having mental health issues lest they be considered weak – or even dangerous.

People who would readily talk about various ailments drew the line when it came to "head problems."

It makes a difference to the pace of progress who is prepared to talk about these things.

The royal family by virtue of their status and profile are ambassadors, publicists, and advocates, and the young royals in particular have flown the flag for increased openness about mental wellbeing.

Prince William and Kate marked Mental Health Awareness Week by spending the day in Wolverhampton to learn about projects supporting the wellbeing of the city's young people.

Prince Harry has also been in the vanguard of raising the profile of mental welfare and moving it into the mainstream of health issues.

An old taboo is being shattered. Mental health is something we can all talk about. Indeed, doing so has the royal seal of approval.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News