We have many reasons for learning languages: some of us are travelling extensively and wish to be able to speak the local language, many employers expect good language skills from their employees and some people, like me, just have an innate interest in languages and in the cultures behind them.
I am Luis Fuentes, Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Sutton Valence School. Our Department does not underestimate the challenge that learning languages presents to young learners. After all, it is a skill and not just an accumulation of knowledge that any linguist aspires to master. We also appreciate that, however great the demands, even greater are the life-enhancing rewards that the study of modern languages can bring.
I am the Spanish specialist in the Department. I am from Cádiz and became a Language teacher here in the UK twelve years ago, reading Education and Language Learning at London’s Goldsmith College. My main goals as Head of Spanish are to ensure that our lessons are engaging, multisensory and enriching and that each of our students is making progress in line with their ability.
I pride myself on the dedicated team of linguists who work here at Sutton Valence, a mix of native speakers and English-born linguists. In my view, the best of both worlds from a student perspective. Each member of the Department is also a personal tutor, integrated within the different School Houses, so together we form a strong pastoral team indeed! Mrs Sylvia Gorman is our treasured Spanish Assistant, but also someone fully qualified to teach both Spanish and French.
Our Junior students embark on their language learning taking on either French or Spanish in the First Form. These initial steps are key for us as our aim is double; on the one hand to facilitate a well-paced acquisition of the basic building blocks in terms of grammar and vocabulary and on the other, to make the subject fun and rewarding. This in turn instills in our younger students a long lasting passion for Modern languages. An enthusiasm that leads some of them to study the other language in the Third form, opening the door for certification at GCSE in both French and Spanish.
The GCSE campaign begins for our students in the Fourth Form. By then they have grasped the rudiments of the language and we focus our attention on fine-tuning their proficiency on each of the four language skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing. In many ways it is also about “planting the seed” for those able to pursue the language further into the Sixth Form. Currently, we follow the AQA syllabus as it has brought us a sustained flow of success at official examinations. However, we monitor closely and regularly any proposed changes to the courses and the specifications from all exam boards and would always consider a change if deemed advisable.
At A Level, the study of Spanish comes to its own. The rewards for the students are greater than ever, because their learning gains in freedom, independence and a wider topic range to exercise and hone in their skills close to undergraduate level. The students transition from GCSE to the AQA A Level courses, as we feel this continuity benefits the work we do in the classroom as well as the students’ outcomes. As with GCSE, we are constantly reviewing what other Exam Boards have to offer.
The department and its opportunities
ICT plays an important part of what we do here at SVS and the way we approach language tuition. We have a SANAKO language lab available to all students; which enables them to apply new technologies when manipulating and experimenting with their language of study. The digital library of resources is up to date and ever growing!
The faculty endeavors to provide diverse enrichment opportunities and cultural tasters in the form of one day trips and visits, research projects and or themed events peppered throughout the School calendar.
Amongst the co-curricular offerings, The Spanish Department enjoys well established exchange programmes with schools in Seville and Chile. They prove to be extremely successful in showcasing to the students the wealth of experiences that can be accessed through speaking the native language in a foreign country.
In the words of Confucius, the Chinese Philosopher “I live in a small house, but my window looks out on a large world”. At Sutton Valence, we strive to assist our students in applying their language skills to make sense of that large, complex and ever changing outside world.
Mr Luis Fuentes
Head of Department