Modern foreign languages

Head of department

Mr T Chamberlain

Teaching staff

Mr T Higson
Mrs L Lyons
Mrs F Stevens
Ms A Wallington
Mrs D Stoker

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Modern foreign languages

Aims of the department:

Students can learn French, German and Spanish. The department’s philosophy is to help students develop their use of these languages for practical purposes and develop an appreciation of languages, other cultures and of language learning in general.

We believe in an oral approach, with lessons conducted largely in the foreign language, supported by careful study and practice of grammar and vocabulary. We aim to develop the skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing through a wide range of activities including: class oral work, pair work, group work, acting out dialogues, vocabulary learning, oral and written grammar drills, listening to and watching recorded material, songs, playing language games, dictation, using interactive computer resources, memorising talks and writing compositions.

Summary of subject content full syllabus links:

Lower school (KS3)

All students learn French. There are 4 lessons a week in First Year, 5 in Second Year and 4 in Third Year. In addition to French, Third Year students take 3 lessons a week of German or Spanish. Students have 2 pieces of homework each week.

In French, the course followed is Tricolore Total. In the Third Year, Spanish students use the ¡Mira! Express course, and German students use the Echo Express course. We also use a wide range of other resources including interactive websites, our own worksheets, games on the interactive screen (e.g. Atantôt). We sometimes exchange penfriend letters with our partner school in France.

Assessment takes the form of regular end of unit tests in listening, reading and writing, along with end of year examinations, which also include an assessment of oral proficiency. 

Set arrangements:

French classes work in their form group until the end of Second Year when they are put into sets, one top (Alpha) and four mixed ability groups.  Almost all those studying in Alpha sets will go on to achieve grades 7, 8 or 9 at GCSE, while those in the mixed ability sets will generally achieve a range of results.  The French pass rate (achieving grades 9-5) in 2019 was 98.6%.

In the Easter term of the Second Year, students are asked if they have a preference for German or Spanish as their second foreign language and are accordingly placed in mixed ability groups for their chosen language in the Third Year.  They study their chosen second foreign language throughout the Third Year, the aim being to give an introduction to the language for all and to provide an accelerated course for those who wish to take the language, either on its own or alongside French, at KS4.

Upper school (KS4/GCSE)

All students choose a language as part of their core curriculum, with the option of a second language as part of the options system.  At present, a majority continue with French, but there are usually also one or two sets for both German and Spanish.  All languages are taught for 4 lessons a week.  The Oxford AQA course is followed in all three languages, with additional material studied from Zoom in German and Tricolore Total in French.  Assessment continues to be by end of unit tests, regular vocabulary testing, along with two examinations in Fourth Year and a mock examination in the Fifth Year.

Exam Board: AQA.

A large majority of students enter at higher tier.  All four skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking) are assessed in end-of-course examinations.

Sixth form (A Level)

French German and Spanish are offered at A Level. Students have two teachers for both French and Spanish, and one for German.

Students enter for A Level exams at the end of the Upper Sixth year.  The Upper Sixth course revisits some of the material from the Lower Sixth in greater depth.  In the Lower Sixth, students study a film.  In the Upper Sixth, a novel or play is studied, along with further study of the film.  Students also undertake an Independent Research Project (IRP).

Exam Board: AQA

Trips, special projects, extra-curricular clubs/activities

All students are invited and encouraged to join the Second Year Normandy trip, which takes place in the final week of the summer term in the Second Year.  This is a week spent at a rural chateau near to Bayeux, in the north of France, with educational visits to sites of interest (including the Bayeux Tapestry, the D-Day landing beaches and war cemeteries) and opportunities to speak French and learn about the culture of the region.  This is not only valuable from the linguistic point of view; it provides an excellent and fun opportunity for social development.

Since 1988 we have been running an exchange scheme for Fourth Year, Fifth Year and A level students with the Institution Saint Louis in Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult in south west France. This exchanges runs every other year.

Spanish pupils have been able to participate in trips to Madrid in the last few years, and in 2018 a new exchange programme was started with a school in Granada in the south of Spain.  This is open to pupils in the Fourth Year, Fifth Year and Sixth Form and runs every other year, in the years when the French exchange is not running.

Over the last few years there have been cultural trips to Berlin for students of German.  This year (2019) there will be a trip for students in the Fourth Year, Fifth Year and Sixth Form to Bremen.

The department was recently rehoused in the brand new classroom block, and uses five modern and well-equipped teaching rooms, provided with up-to-date interactive screens and computers. Pupils make regular use of the school ICT rooms in MFL lessons. The school library is well-stocked with books, dictionaries and DVDs, whilst satellite television is also available to students.

Additional information

Exam results

In 2019, two thirds of our students achieved grades 7, 8 or 9 at GCSE in a language, with some achieving high grades in two languages.

We attract an unusually large number of students at A Level (there are over 35 A Level linguists at present) and well over half achieve A* - B grades.

Career opportunities

"Language is information, and information is power".   Constantin, Killing Eve

The outlook is very positive indeed for students who learn modern foreign languages. Employment rates after languages degrees are amongst the very highest. Employers particularly welcome graduates with good communication skills and who can offer one or more modern foreign languages.

Languages graduates may get involved in education or translating/interpreting, but it is much more likely that they would work in commerce or industry using languages as an ancillary skill.