We aim to combine rigour and enjoyment through a firm commitment to France’s wonderful literary and cinematic culture.

Enjoyment is paramount. French songs are widely used and pupils enthusiastically exchange letters with our partner school in Orléans. Grammar is clearly pivotal but we also use the early years to develop pronunciation skills through our annual Declamation competition, which attempts to nurture a feel for French poetry.

Free from public exam pressure, the Third Form curriculum is designed to prioritize the use of cultural resources via extensive use of film clips, songs, poems, cartoons and short stories to enhance learning and create an enjoyable environment for teacher and pupil alike. There is no textbook issued, and teachers are encouraged to innovate and experiment, covering both grammar and conventional themes, in addition to stand-alone modules on French Art and Music. 

We follow the Cambridge iGCSE course, believing firmly that it produces the best linguists. The oral examination rewards the time spent on spoken French in class, while the written paper allows pupils to demonstrate their range of expression and grammatical precision. Teachers are again encouraged to use diverse resources, especially film, and the most able pupils are also entered for the DELF Junior B1 exam, administered by the Institut Français. We have recently enjoyed success in the Oxford University French Film competition, where pupils have to create alternative endings.

 French is a popular option in the Sixth Form, with 65 pupils currently studying the language at A level. Great emphasis is placed on studying the various themes in a French context, so much use is made of extracts from French newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs and streamed television. Particular importance is attached to developing fluency and maturity of expression, and our brightest take the DELF Junior B2 exam, which fulfills the French University entry requirement for non-native speakers. The Cultural Topics option in the A level course also exposes pupils to aspects of French culture, and works studied in recent years include the novels of Camus, Maupassant, Zola and Sagan and the films of Truffaut and Kassowitz.

During the Easter Holidays we offer a popular Third Form exchange to Orléans, a study trip to La Rochelle for Fourth and Fifth Formers and a five day language immersion trip to Paris for A level pupils.

The French Society has frequent film showings and talks from eminent academics on both cultural and more arcane themes. Each year a healthy number of pupils go on to study French at top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, as either a single or joint honours degree course.

Ms C Hignett
Head of Department