French is taught throughout the Primary school so that pupils entering the Junior department have a familiarity with the language. From Year 4 French is taught by a subject-specialist and the course focuses on communication, aiming to build confidence and an understanding of grammar and linguistic structures, assist in the comprehension and mastery of languages in general.
French continues in Year 7 with pupils following the three-year Studio course, an audiovisual textbook that builds knowledge and confidence, combining topic based learning and the acquisition of grammar. At the end of Year 9, pupils have a chance to choose whether to continue with French as a GCSE option.
The GCSE course commences in Year 10 and builds upon the foundations laid in Years 7 to 9. The course itself is divided into five modules, enabling pupils to gradually develop their fluency as well as their cultural knowledge. The topics are:
(a) identity and culture;
(b) holiday and travel;
(d) future aspirations; and
(e) global dimensions.
The exam is divided into four papers, testing the four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking, with equal weighting given to each skill. Pupils will learn to understand sympathetic native speakers, as well as being expected to read and write letters and emails and give presentations, opinions and justifications.
In addition to GCSE, pupils may study for the DELF qualifications, a European language qualification that enables pupils to study for and take exams focused on language at a variety of levels from A1 beginners to C2 near native.
A Level French
In Year 12, the A Level carries on from the GCSE, enabling students to study the subject in far greater detail. In addition to the language, students study (a) social issues and trends; and (b) political and artistic culture, in relation to at least one Spanish speaking country. The other core element is grammar, and this is designed to ensure that students are sufficiently fluent by the end of the A Level course to enable them to attain an A* grade in the exam.
In addition to the core element, pupils study a choice of French literature, from classics of the 17th century to modern authors including de Vigan and Joffo. We also study French films, such as Kassovitz’s ‘La Haine’ and Cantet’s ‘Entre les Murs’.
The exam itself is divided into three papers:
- Paper 1 is a listening, reading and writing paper.
- Paper 2 is a written paper focusing on 2 of the works students have studied.
- Paper 3 is an oral exam, divided into 2 sections. The first section is based on the core element of the syllabus and requires the student to elicit information and opinions. In this way the conversation between teacher and student is more complex and demanding of the student’s linguistic skills. The second section will be based around the student’s own research project, which they will be required to research, develop independently and present and discuss with the examiner.
Outside the classroom, pupils from Years 9 to 13 have regular lessons with the French Assistants. These lessons build pupils’ confidence, enabling them to develop and perfect their conversational skills.
A language qualification is an invaluable asset enabling you to live and work all over the world.