“Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.” – Flora Lewis

The fundamental aims of the department are to foster a passion for French language and culture in pupils. We want our pupils to leave our school with the skills necessary to use their French in the real world; to be able to express themselves and to develop a love for further language learning. The French Department at Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School therefore looks to take a skills-based and communicative approach to the teaching and learning of French at our school.

We aim to give pupils the tools to:

  • Communicate effectively in a variety of ways
  • Understand and develop the confidence to infer meaning when they are faced with unknown language and respond accordingly
  • Have thorough understanding  and apply grammatical rules in order to manipulate the language effectively
  • Develop confidence and mastery in all four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing
  • Develop a love and an interest for Francophone culture, traditions and customs both in and beyond the classroom.
  • ‘Speak with increasing confidence, fluency and spontaneity, finding ways of communicating what they want to say, including through discussion and asking questions, and continually improving the accuracy of their pronunciation and intonation’ – The National Curriculum.
  • Be able to translate both to and from French
  • Be able to summarise text and audio clips at KS5

The department adds to this a strong focus on both oral and written communication with students from the start of Year 7. We recognise that in the current climate it is not enough for pupils to be able to master the basics, in order for our pupils to be able to excel we aim to challenge our pupils by promoting and encouraging the use of challenging phrases and structures.

At all Key Stages, content is based on pupils’ prior learning in order to build strong foundations and enable pupils to move forward with confidence. Topics and grammar are regularly consolidated as a routine part of lessons.

The French curriculum has been designed to ensure that it is accessible to all students. In year 7 we study topics that are personal in nature and relevant to the student themselves to ensure that all students have a frame of reference, topics such as: family, interests, school etc. The nature of a language means that key verbs and vocabulary are regularly revisited and the deliberate interleaving of topics ensures this takes place. This, combined with the retrieval practice exercises that take place each lesson ensure that key terms and vocabulary are regularly revisited. In addition, in order to support learners, sentence builders are often used to ‘chunk learning’ and to enable students to formulate clear sentences. These are available for use in lessons and are shared on the GC for use at home.

Correction codes are used in marking to indicate the type of error the pupil has made e.g. spelling, gender, verb ending. This is on Google Classroom for pupils to use when correcting the work and the codes help them to identify the mistake and correct the work themselves. We regularly promote good SPAG in this way as well as in lessons. In KS3 and 4 pupils are required to be able to write and understand different types of text e.g. an email, blog or article. Model answers are frequently used to guide pupils with their writing and aim for excellence. 

Reading is one of the four key skills and is practised almost every lesson and features regularly in homework. Pupils carry out a range of comprehension activities such as true, false or not mentioned, who said what, answering questions in English and answering questions in French. At KS4 an extract from a French novel will feature in the reading paper and pupils are expected to complete a comprehension task on it. We practise this through past papers. At KS5 pupils read and analyse a French novel (Vigan’s No et moi) and write an essay on this in test conditions. Pupils read the novel independently in the summer between Year 12 and 13 before lessons on comprehension and analysis begin. Pupils are taught how to structure an essay appropriately and lots of modelling is used.

Subject specific key terminology is used frequently in lessons. Although pupils are not required to know it all for the exams, they are expected to know it in lessons for the teaching of grammar. This terminology is used regularly throughout lessons and pupils themselves use it when giving explanations, meaning that it’s stored in their long term memory. This links to the correction codes in marking: pupils need to understand the type of error they have made in order to correct it. Vocabulary tests are carried out regularly (often from English to French) at all key stages and pupils are encouraged to use ‘Quizlet’ to assist their vocabulary learning. ‘Active Learn’ is also used for vocabulary learning support and pupils can be tested online this way too. We expect pupils to achieve at least 60% in vocabulary tests, though many regularly surpass this.

The department largely takes a communicative approach to the teaching of French.

The department has no specific prescribed approach to the teaching of French which enables individual teachers to make the most of their own skills, abilities and professional judgement. However, there are common ways in which the curriculum is implemented across the department.

  • Staff have excellent subject knowledge and are all subject specialists.
  • Lessons use appropriately challenging resources and go beyond rote learning methodology.
  • Students are regularly given challenging tasks requiring them to work independently and/or with others as appropriate.
  • Lessons engage students and encourage them to have an appreciation of French language, culture and customs.
  • Skills are developed for wider study, including revision and retrieval of language, focusing on the development of understanding and long term memory.
  • Assessment – in the form of teacher assessed or peer assessed work – that informs teaching and gives pupils feedback on the success of the work they have carried out.
  • Homework is set regularly, in line with school expectations. Tasks are substantial and make a meaningful contribution to the programme of study including tasks which require retrieval practice, and recycling of class learned vocabulary, research, and revision. At KS3 one homework per term is graded using the department’s homework mark scheme.
  • We build upon student’s KS2 SPAG knowledge and this facilitates the explanation and use of key technical vocabulary and grammatical terms which are embedded from the start of Y7. It is an expectation that students understand and use this terminology with confidence as they progress in their studies.
  • The deliberate development of literacy skills, with high expectations of students’ spelling, punctuation and grammar, tasks that push students to write confidently and precisely, and activities in which pupils engage with appropriately challenging tasks and course materials.
  • SEN provision effectively meets the individual needs of students, ensuring that they have equal access to learning and progress.

Retrieval Practice is embedded within the department’s schemes of work and specific lessons. Previous topics are regularly and deliberately revisited (either in low stakes classwork / homework or in higher stakes exams and assessments) to ensure that students are required to recall previous topics to push them into long term memory and to form links with prior learning.

Assessment at KS3 and KS4 is divided into the basic skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Speaking and writing assessments are graded on a ‘best fit’ mark scheme that focuses on the expected level of progress/ability for each core skill. Assessments model the tasks and activities required of them at GCSE at a level appropriate to their stage of learning.

At Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 formal assessments mirror the forms of assessment students will face in their GCSE and A level exams. Beyond formal assessment, at Key Stage 3 work is assessed regularly, in line with school policy and focuses on developing a range of skills and knowledge as set out in the ‘intent’ section.

The department provides students with a number of trips designed to complement and enhance engagement with their studies. In Year 7 students have the opportunity to go on a residential trip to the Pas de Calais. In Year 8 students visit Le Touquet for the day and in Year 9 there is a day trip to the Lille Christmas market.  At KS4 and KS5, students may participate in a residential trip (current destination is Paris). It is an expectation that on any French trip students will be required to undertake transactional tasks that require them to use, apply and develop their French language and cultural knowledge.

The impact of the curriculum can be seen through a number of measures.

  • Pupils clearly enjoy their French, as shown through their approach to lessons, the work in their books and their commitment to its study.
  • Students have a sound foundation of French by the end of Key Stage 3 which contributes to their understanding of France and Francophone countries
  • Internal assessment processes demonstrate that pupils effectively develop both linguistic knowledge and communication skills that they can utilise and develop.
  • Formative assessment of oral and written competencies shows pupils’ ability to adopt and use these skills.
  • SEN and disadvantaged students achieve outcomes in line with their peers.
  • Cognitive techniques and wider study skills are developed by the department, particularly in terms of students’ recall of work from previous years and ability to make links with this prior knowledge.
  • Students compare and contrast many aspects of fundamental British values with those of Francophone countries, along with a well-developed SMSC awareness and knowledge.
  • A secure uptake of French at GCSE and  A-level as an indication that students are enjoying their subject and opting to continue with their studies. Their success at all these levels shows them as well prepared for the next step of their education and study of French.

Schemes of Work

Year 7 Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11 Year 12 Year 13