French is offered both as a first and a second modern language. Beginners’ French is taught from the end of the MIV as a five year ML1 course through to IGCSE or from the UIV as a two year ML2 course which can then be continued to IGCSE in four years. Girls who have studied some French previously will be able to maintain that interest through the MIV spelling bee competition and other clubs until they resume it after the Discovering Language course in the MIV.

Students will use the Tricolore Total course books as well as a full range of supplementary resources. Lessons are taught in French and students will develop the skills to express themselves accurately on topics of relevance to their lives as young teenagers. The aim is to equip them to converse in an informed and interesting way with their French-speaking peers about differences and similarities in their lifestyle, education and matters of general concern such as the environment and careers. They will of course learn useful transactional language and be fully prepared for the IGCSE oral examination.

Grammatical structures are integral to the course and by the IGCSE examination all pupils should be able to manipulate the major tenses, as well as hypothesise and express opinions using the conditional and subjunctive moods. They will also understand the importance of idiom and lexical nuance as well as mastering key grammatical concepts. Over the five years we incorporate a programme of enhancement into the topic teaching, so as to broaden students’ cultural knowledge and appreciation of French society. The Pre-U qualification is accessible to any student who has taken a language to IGCSE. In the VII the students deepen their grammatical knowledge and significantly extend their active vocabulary to explore issues touching on the position of the young person in society. They have to be able to offer opinions on relevant topics ranging from the positive and negative effects of popular trends to the environmental impact of mass tourism. From the summer of the VII they will embark on study of a literary work which they will write about in English. All students have one lesson a week with the oral teacher in which they prepare their oral examination and develop their speaking skills.

The second year of Pre-U asks the student to consider their position as a member of the global society and interestingly, is one of the few senior school subjects which insists that students explore ethical issues, such as euthanasia, globalisation and nuclear energy in depth. The discursive essay prepares them well for many higher education courses which require such skills whilst the use of language paper hones their linguistic awareness and rigour. The cultural paper includes the essay in English mentioned above and a comparative study of two or more texts and/or films.

Trips and cultural opportunities

In the UIV, students may take part in the week-long exchange visit to Marseille. In the V, there is a study visit with family home-stay to Montpellier. Senior school students travel independently but are able to seek advice and recommendations from the department. Students are also encouraged to form and maintain individual relationships and projects in French-speaking countries. We have had great success in the London schools’ debating competitions and the French drama festival and regularly attend theatre and film productions in French and in translation.