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Modern Foreign Languages Department

 “I live in a small house, but my window looks out on a large world” Confucius

Students on an exchange trip to Paris

Learning a language is a fantastic way to gain insight into other cultures and ways of life. Being able to communicate in another language opens up a whole new world of opportunities, not only for work and travel, but also for film, literature, history, music, art and sport.

At Sutton Valence we teach French and Spanish, and all pupils study at least one of these to GCSE level.  Both languages are widely spoken within Europe and beyond, and in an increasingly globalised world, having a second language will prove to be a real asset to all our pupils and will open up a whole world of opportunities in the future.

French is the official language of 33 countries and is the only language, other than English, spoken as a native language on five continents.  French is one of the official working languages of many international organisations including the UN, the WHO and NATO. It is also a key language for international business.

Spanish is the third most-spoken language in the world with close to 400 million native speakers in 44 different countries including all of Central and South America (with the exception of Brazil). Spanish is also widely spoken in the United States of America and, like French, is an official working language for many organisations, as well as becoming increasingly important in business.


There are four full-time members of the department, all of whom teach both French and Spanish. We are lucky to have a mixture of native and non-native speakers who have all lived and worked in France, Spain and further afield. They are passionate about their subjects and between them have a wide range of interests from Les Bandes Desinées to 20th Century French cinema in the French department and the work of Pedro Almodóvar to Latin American literature in the Spanish department. We also have French and Spanish assistants who provide weekly one-to-one conversation classes for all Sixth Form students studying a language, as well as working with the lower years on a regular basis, to help improve their speaking skills.

Junior Curriculum (First –Third Form)

When pupils join Sutton Valence they can choose between French and Spanish. Many pupils have studied French previously, and in the First and Second Forms, the aim is to build on the language covered at Key Stage 2. We work closely with the Head of French at the Prep School to ensure continuity, but we also cater for pupils with no prior knowledge of the subject. Pupils who opt to choose Spanish generally have no previous experience of this language. For both languages, the emphasis is on communication and understanding the spoken language, while introducing basic grammatical concepts. Pupils learn to talk and write about themselves, their families and friends, their homes, their hobbies and their school. They also learn about everyday life and how to tell the time, understand the weather forecast, ask for directions and order food and drink in a café or restaurant.

In the Third Form pupils build on their knowledge from the previous two years and focus more on grammar and preparation for the GCSE course through preparing longer, more sophisticated pieces of writing and oral presentations. They are also introduced to the idea of French and Spanish as world languages and learn about other countries where the languages are spoken. In the first three years pupils make regular use of the MFL ICT room and have access to a wide range of interactive resources.

In the Third Form all pupils are given the opportunity to take up a second language as part of the Activities Programme. Pupils can study either French or Spanish alongside the language they started in the First Form. They follow an intensive one year’s beginners course and by the end of the Third Form can choose to continue with both languages to GCSE level or to focus on their original language of choice. The MFL department is very keen to encourage as many pupils as possible to take up a second language and to increase the number of dual linguists at GCSE and A Level.


For both languages we follow the AQA specification for GCSE which covers the following topic areas: Theme 1 – Identity and culture, Theme 2 – Local, national, international and global areas of interest, Theme 3 – Current and future study and employment. The examination is made up of four units: listening, reading, speaking and writing. Each unit makes up 25% of the overall GCSE grade and all units are taken at the end of the two-year course. Pupils benefit from regular conversation sessions with our language assistants and an extensive range of interactive resources, including online textbooks. We also offer lunchtime clinics to those pupils who need extra support.

A Level

Similarly, at AS and A2, we follow the AQA specification, which covers a wide range of topics such as popular culture, environmental issues and contemporary social problems. For A2, pupils also study a novel and a film. From September 2017 the A level course will be a two-year linear course and pupils will continue to study film and literature, as well as undertaking an independent research project as part of the speaking examination. All pupils have individual conversation lessons each week with our language assistants who also provide additional support with grammar as required. We have increasingly good numbers taking languages at A Level and most pupils continue French or Spanish at university, many of them combining the languages with subjects such as Business or History. We run a programme of specialist teaching for any pupils applying for Oxbridge to familiarise them with the literature, drama, poetry and advanced grammar required at this level.

The department and its opportunities

The department aims to provide a diverse programme of visits abroad and language based events in school. We run French and Spanish exchanges for Third to Sixth Form pupils, and study visits to Spain and France for Juniors. We also arrange theatre and cinema trips wherever possible, and hold language based enrichment days in School. We regularly run language clubs as part of the School’s Activities Programme; last year ‘The Best of French Cinema’ was a popular choice. We subscribe to many French and Spanish magazines so that pupils can come and read these during break and lunchtimes. We also have an extensive collection of films for both languages that pupils can watch in the department or at home to further enhance their language learning.


Mrs Sophie de Castro
Head of Modern Foreign Languages


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