We aim to stimulate a love of language learning in general and of French in particular. We believe that an oral approach to language learning is essential if pupils are to speak and write fluently in French, and consequently oral work in its various forms is the basis of most lessons. Pupils are also encouraged to read as much as possible, and the library is equipped with a range of readers, magazines, newspapers and literary texts. We introduce pupils to the wealth of French cinema through an extensive collection of French film DVDs.
While we ensure pupils develop the ability to use French as a means of practical communication and have a sound base of skills necessary for future study, work and leisure, we also give them an understanding of the process of language acquisition and foster independent learning. Students gain an insight into the cultural characteristics of the French-speaking world and develop an appreciation of a variety of literary and non-literary texts.
- Learning journey - Years 7 and 8
Upon entry in Year 7, pupils are assigned to a teaching group according to their previous experience of learning French, with one or two groups reserved for pupils who are new to the language. All groups follow a common course but at different speeds, and sit differentiated exams at the end of the year to reflect that.
In Year 7, we introduce pupils to a variety of topic and grammatical areas, largely through oral interactive work in class backed up by written exercises and worksheets. By the end of the year, they will have been introduced to vocabulary and structures to enable them to talk and write about themselves and their family, their home, their likes and dislikes, leisure and sporting activities, the weather, daily routine and school life. They will be able to express themselves using both present and past (perfect) tenses and will be familiar with other grammatical concepts such as gender and adjective agreement.
Pupils in Year 8 are set according to ability. Some of the topics previously covered will be developed further and new ones – such as shopping, holidays and travel, staying with a French family, eating and drinking, and illness – added. By the end of the year pupils should be able to use past, present and future confidently in both oral and written work and will also have covered other grammatical topics such as use of object pronouns and negation.
- Learning journey - IGCSE
All pupils are prepared in depth for the Edexcel IGCSE in French. This qualification gives students the opportunity to develop their ability to listen to and understand the spoken French language in a range of contexts and a variety of styles, read and respond to different types of written language, communicate in writing, understand and apply a range of vocabulary and structures, develop effective language learning and communication skills and communicate in speech for different purposes.
All groups have one lesson per fortnight in an ICT room where they use the software and a wide range of soundfiles and interactive websites to practise vocabulary and grammar.
In Years 10 and 11 all pupils have a small-group lesson with a French native speaker once a fortnight to help them develop their spoken French. The most proficient linguists have a structured extension programme (see ‘providing stretch’ below).
- Providing stretch
Students wishing to take their learning further can carry out one of the optional investigations set each term, from preparing questions using past tenses for an interview with a celebrity, to studying links between sounds and meanings in famous songs and poems.
In Year 8 we run a four-day trip to Normandy. Mornings are spent in French lessons, and there is a range of outdoor activities and visits arranged for the afternoons. Around 40 pupils take part.
Pupils in Year 9 can take part in our exchange with Notre Dame de Ste Croix, an independent Catholic college/lycée (with pre-prep and prep sections on separate sites) in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of Paris just two métro stops from the Champs-Elysées. Each year our pupils visit Paris for a week in October and French pupils stay with their Perse partners in February.
In Year 10 we run an exchange with Lycée St Thomas d’Aquin in Saint Jean-de-Luz at the heart of the French Basque country. French pupils visit in December and Perse pupils go to France in May. In addition to practising their French, pupils have the opportunity to experience the strong and distinctive identity of the French Basque region.
In Years 10 and 11 we provide extension sessions for the highest sets, designed to stretch pupils both linguistically and culturally well beyond the confines of the curriculum. They allow pupils to, by the end of Year 11, feel totally confident about pursuing an A level course in French, if they choose. Sessions take place during the normal timetable and include studying short stories, to explore more sophisticated and literary language than available on the syllabus; debating, to enable development of the ability to phrase points succinctly, listen to others and refute arguments; and looking at music and rhymes, to study the links between sounds and meanings in a selection of famous songs/poems.
We encourage Year 11 students to enter the Advanced category of the UK Linguistics Olympiad, and in 2016 all six participants from this year group received an award.
We celebrate European Day of Languages with quizzes, competitions, film screenings and an international twist to the lunch menu.
In the Sixth Form we offer a preparation to the DELF language qualification.
- Beyond the classroom
The French Soirée is a popular annual event in the Lent term during which we celebrate texts under all forms in cabaret style; pupils across the whole school (about 60 take part) read, recite, sing or act out a French text of their choice, studied in class or written by themselves. Parents, staff as well as all pupils are invited.
The French Debating Society meets each week or fortnight to practise phrasing points succinctly, using persuasive language and concluding a speech in style. Debating teams have had considerable success in formal competition and in friendlies against other local schools. In both 2014 and 2015 our Sixth Form French Debating Team made it to the French Debating National Final at the French Institute in London, while our Year 11 and Year 10 debating teams won the regional title against other local independent schools in 2014 and 2015. In 2017, our team won the national title and met with the French ambassador to the UK.
Apostrophe is a weekly and discussion club, aimed primarily at Years 9 to 11.
The Modern Languages Society organises cultural talks, film screening, competitions, debates, seminars and plays at lunchtime and after school.
Sports broadcast journalist Chris Dennis (BBC, Eurosport, Channel 4) ran a series of ‘languages in the workplace’ workshops to inspire our Year 11 language students. Students carried out a number of common tasks for multi-lingual journalists, including preparing a two-way interview in English to summarise an earlier interview in another language.
Our 42 society programme of lunchtime lectures includes languages. A recent speaker was Dr Jennifer Todd, Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at UCL, whose topic was ‘How do we understand the meaning of words?’
A number of Sixth Form students gain work experience at the Alliance Francaise de Cambridge working as classroom assistants.