In our French department, we aim to cultivate confident linguists who are comfortable with the skills and conventions of language learning.

The boys are encouraged to read, listen and view authentic resources in French, not merely for the short term purpose of exams but for their own, lifelong enjoyment. A balance is always sought between building a sound understanding of the application of grammar and the need to develop communication skills for the purpose of genuine interaction with native speakers.

The boys are encouraged and rewarded for ‘taking risks’ both in their written and spoken French; as much importance is placed upon the level of language attempted as it is on grammatical accuracy. They are greatly assisted by the contemporary knowledge of the native French speakers in the department.

The Curriculum

French is taught from the Pre-Prep upwards. In Reception and Year 1, French is integrated into the daily routine, for example taking the register in French or reading a story in French. A French immersion day each year introduces the boys to the delights of French food, culture and a wider use of the language. Formal lessons take place throughout the rest of the school, progressing from two 30-minute lessons per week for boys in Year 2 up to five lessons per week for boys in Year 8.

The Expo 1, 2 and 3 course books are used with Year 5, 6 and 7 respectively, which equates to a level approximately two years ahead of national levels. By the time the boys reach Year 8, most of the content and grammar has already been covered, ensuring not only that they are well placed for their senior school entry exams, but that they are well prepared for any future study of the subject.

Advanced Studies

At the top of the school, the Year 8 Scholarship teaching works to develop a whole range of higher-level language skills including verb tasks, translations, dictations and the discussion of current affairs. Literacy also features in the curriculum, where René Goscinny’s humorous and heart-warming Le Petit Nicolas stories are read not only for pure enjoyment, but also to introduce more advanced grammatical concepts such as direct and indirect object pronouns, the pluperfect and future perfect tenses.

Use of ICT

Regular visits to the ICT suites greatly assist the boys’ learning. The use of the individual PCs in the ICT suites is especially effective for examination groups in Year 8, where pupils work independently and at their own pace on developing their listening skills. Interactive whiteboards in both of the teaching rooms are a particularly effective resource, enabling the boys to visualise how the various pieces of the jigsaw that is a foreign language fit together. This is particularly helpful when manipulating grammar: verb endings, adjective agreement, word order, for example.

French language immersion

The French curriculum is further enhanced in Year 7 by a residential trip during the Christmas term to Maison Claire Fontaine in Burgundy. The boys enjoy a week packed full of activities run entirely in French by French speaking animateurs. Mosaic making, going to a restaurant, shopping at a local market and preparing a meal, performing drama - there is something for everyone. One of the highlights of the week is a trip to the hilltop town of Vézelay, renowned for its spectacular panoramic views.