The Classics Reading Competition Goes Online!

A celebration of Classics, Reading and Performance, the University of Leeds’ annual Classics Reading Competition is a great opportunity for students to practice their Latin, learn how more traditional school subjects link to Classics and develop their reading and presentation skills (through some friendly competition). After having to make the sad decision to cancel last year’s competition only days before the event due to coronavirus, there was no way we were missing another year — for 2021, we decided to adapt our usual in-person competition to be delivered online! 

For our Drama categories, we asked KS3 students to rewrite their own story of one of Hercules’ Labours and film themselves performing their story. For KS4, we asked students to do some research into who they think is the #1 ancient icon, from history or fiction. They then filmed themselves making their case! For our Latin categories, students filmed themselves reading texts; The Midas Touch, and Romulus & Remus; and our judges were looking for students to show their understanding through their reading and perfect their pronunciation. 

This year’s prizes – a whole host of Classics-themed books!

Our competition is usually run on-campus, and one of the positives of running the competition digitally is that it allowed us to receive entries from far and wide. We had 9 participating schools including Sheffield Girls’ High School and Bradford Grammar, who have taken part for the last few years, whilst Ipswich High and North London Collegiate were just two of the schools who joined us for the first time! 

Students showed amazing resilience to this year’s changing circumstances with many of them preparing their entries while studying from home.

Our judges, made up of academics and post-graduate students from the School of Classics, had their work cut out making their decisions and were hugely impressed by the entries. Dr Maria Haley commented:

It’s great to see the variety of takes on the task, I’ve seen students acting with props and costumes, a cinematic take on Livy and one student sit by a fire in a wing back arm chair to tell the story Jackanory style. I really missed seeing students in person, but preparing the entries at home/ in school has produced some really creative responses that were lovely to watch! Pet appearances were also a bonus.

Professor Emma Stafford said:

It was really enjoyable reviewing the videos, and an unexpected advantage of the online format was that I could watch my favourite entries more than once!  There were some very accomplished performances in the two Latin reading categories, which really got the meaning across.  Amongst the entries to the less traditional categories I particularly liked a song version of Hercules’ encounter with the Amazons – effectively updating the ancient Greek tradition of reciting poetry to musical accompaniment – and a brilliant defence of Patroclus’ claim to be the #1 ancient icon.

After their deliberation, our judges filmed a Virtual Awarding Ceremony, where they announced their winners and runners up in each category. Certificates were awarded to all participants and our winners received some amazing Classics-related books in the post as prizes!  

Check out our KS3 Drama category winner, Olivia from Sheffield Girls High School:


A teacher from Bradford Grammar School said:

I would like to thank you and the Classics Department at Leeds very much for running the event under these unusual conditions.  It has been an especially welcome experience for our students in what in many ways has of course been a year of tedious restrictions.

We’re very much hoping and looking forward to being on campus again next year, so that we can see students’ entries in person, but we’ve very much enjoyed our online categories and will be keen to keep them going in the future! 

If you’re interested in getting your students involved in the Classics Reading Competition, visit our webpage and email Lauren Barraclough at You don’t have to be teaching Classics at your school and it’s a great way to introduce Drama, English and History students to a new subject in an exciting way!