The French department is part of the Modern Languages department, situated in the Library block. French is a thriving subject with an ever-increasing take up at GCSE, A level and for the IB diploma programme.
In our modern world of global interdependence, many employers highly value the ability to speak a foreign language and our aim is for our pupils to express themselves fluently and confidently and to understand spoken and written French competently, as well as introducing them to the society and culture of the Francophone world.
Now that research has shown that learning a language boosts brain power – enhancing thinking skills and memory abilities – many pupils are choosing to add a language to a portfolio of other subjects. This is partly to enjoy the cognitive benefits that language learning brings to their whole programme of study, and also because Modern Languages are viewed by universities as ‘facilitating’ subjects. As the spokesman for the Russell Group of universities explains, “Some advanced level subjects are more frequently required for entry to degree courses than others. We call these subjects ‘facilitating’ because choosing them at advanced level leaves open a wide range of options for university study. These facilitating subjects include Modern Languages.”
In the Year 9 pupils are set according to ability and how much French they have already done when joining the Senior School. We then reset in Year 10 as the GCSE course is started. We follow the Edexcel iGCSE French course which provides an excellent grounding for A level and IB study, as pupils take final exams in all four essential skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing.
The WJEC syllabus is studied at Sixth Form, looking at the topics of Leisure and Lifestyles and the Individual and Society at AS and Environmental Issues and Social and Political Issues at A2.
Many pupils particularly enjoy the Cultural Studies part of the A2 in which French literature and cinema are studied as an assessed part of the course. The exam at both AS and A2 consists of a speaking exam, and a Listening, Reading and Writing exam.
Our results are always excellent, and well above the school average.
IB French can be studied at Standard or Higher Level as a Language B subject, and some pupils have also done it ab initio where this has been possible. The Language B assessment consists of speaking assessments conducted over the second year of the course, a written essay of 400-600 words, and two final exams, one reading comprehension paper, and one written tasks paper.
Since the IB diploma programme has been introduced, pupils studying French have consistently achieved extremely sound results.
The French department runs an exchange with the independent French school St Martin de France, situated just outside Paris This takes place every summer term, for our Year 9 pupils. We spend a week in France and our French counterparts come back for a week in Norfolk. Pupils have the chance to visit Paris, to experience a day in a French school, and stay with host families to improve their French and to experience at first-hand French culture and society – and all that delicious French food!
We also run trip for other age groups, including a very popular art and French trip to Paris for our Sixth Form linguists, and a homestay visit to the Loire Valley for our GCSE pupils.
The department also runs a very popular twice-termly French Society. We hold food tasting evenings, and film nights, and every summer term we hold a formal French dinner, with prizes for the best fancy dress. We also have a school boules terrain, and inter-class boules matches are very popular in the Summer term.
From time to time when the opportunity is there, we organise theatre and cinema trips for French students if there is a suitable play or film on. Every year we enjoy the French play put on by UEA French Department in Norwich. We have seen Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Rhinocéros in recent years.
The French department also is involved in wider MFL department events such as Translation workshops and Language Days, inviting specialists and native speakers to add their input to our full, varied and exciting curriculum.
Our pupils who choose French in the Sixth Form go on to study languages at a range of prestigious universities. Our current success stories include linguists studying at Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Bristol, York, Edinburgh, and Exeter. It is thanks to the expert teaching offered by the experienced staff in the French department that our results for both A level and IB are consistently amongst the best in the school.