The French Curriculum at Upper Wharfedale aims to encourage all students to embrace internationalism and to think about the importance of language learning in the wider world. It is our intention to create active citizens of the world, who are confident to speak French in real life situations and hopefully to develop into lifelong language learners. Uniquely, all students at UWS have the equitable opportunity to study French at KS3 at an appropriate level, and all students are offered the chance and are supported to study to GCSE level, regardless of ability. Building confidence is key in allowing all students to succeed but also being ambitious in our vision, to allow as many students as possible to study or purposefully utilise a modern foreign language post 16, whether that be French or another home language. We have also been able to use film as a gateway to deeper language study, both through the curriculum and a successful lunchtime French Film Club.
The National Curriculum informs our vision of a curriculum that underpins a key school vision of “excellence for all”. Teaching focuses on developing the breadth and depth of pupils’ competence in listening, speaking, reading and writing, based on a sound foundation of core grammar and vocabulary, building on foundations from Key Stage Two, even if students have had varying experiences at primary school. Our baseline assessment and one to one conversations with each individual student when they join us, enables us to provide a personalised curriculum that is appropriate to all students regardless of prior experience or ability. Students’ interests and needs to communicate are integral to planning our curriculum, but most recently, we have reviewed our curriculum to include crucial cross-curricular topics at an appropriate time in a student’s learning journey, timing topics to enhance and consolidate learning in other subjects e.g. introducing environmental issues in Year 8, when students are exploring these issues in Geography, and teaching healthy lifestyles in French to revisit and reinforce messages in Food Technology and as part of our SMSC curriculum. We also very much encourage the promotion of general literacy and numeracy skills, such as spellings strategies and drawing grammar and language derivation parallels with English, and the use of numbers, currency and time in French. Effective teaching in all areas for all abilities of students involves continual dialogue between language teachers but also discussion with colleagues in other subject areas.
As subject leader, I am constantly reviewing the content of our curriculum in collaboration with my departmental colleague and other subject staff to ensure it is relevant and engaging for students, but also enables students to learn the necessary skills for GCSE and A-level study and beyond and so that the language learnt can be used in the workplace in later life and even for travel and leisure. We are lucky to be a department of two experienced teachers with outstanding subject knowledge, but who as non-native speakers understand the process of language learning from the inside. We have access to excellent training, both in school and through local SLEs to ensure we are constantly updating and reviewing both our curriculum content and delivery. We have worked hard this year to look more at collaboratively planning resources for students, so they have equal opportunity but also have a personalised experience, ensuring that essential differentiation takes place in mixed ability classes, allowing all students to be “the best that they can be” and make their personal best progress.
Grammar forms the essential scaffolding of our language curriculum necessary to underpin use of language in various topics and is at the heart of helping develop excellent linguists and communicators. We have carefully planned opportunities for students to logically build grammar progression and to revisit this previous knowledge and skills in new contexts over key stage three and four. This spiral of progression allows students to make progress with new concepts but also to embed and deepen understanding over time. For example, students might first meet some examples of past perfect tense in Year 7 in a reading activity, and learn them as lexical items, look more deeply at how to form the past grammatically early in Year 8, in the context of a trip to Paris and then extend that knowledge of the past perfect tense in discussions about free time in Year 9, in combination with present and future tense verbs. Core grammar teaching prepares students for the rigours of the new GCSE examinations at KS4 but also allows students to build their own language in real life situations.
We try to use as much appropriate target language in lessons as possible to allow students to see the real purpose of language as communication, and not just an academic skill and to build listening and speaking skills. We also take every curriculum opportunity to look at cultural and geographical knowledge and understanding of France and the francophone world, and these learning opportunities are built into and interwoven into each language unit, something our students find fascinating and relevant to their own lives e.g. comparing, contrasting and evaluating school systems in France and the UK.
Students focus on ...
Students focus on basic language, working from single word to sentence and short paragraph level.
Students focus on the beginnings of more extended text work, and start to have an understanding of tenses.
Technology and reading/A trip to Paris
My identity/My home
Students focus on becoming more secure in working in three tenses and giving more complex opinions in preparation for the GCSE course.
Who am I?/Leisure time
Ordinary and Festival days/Town and country
Travel and holidays/School
KS4 (French GCSE AQA Foundation and Higher)
Who am I?
Ordinary and Festival days
Town and Country
Travel and Holidays
Future Study and Employment
Local, national, international and global areas of interest
Looking at each skill (listening, reading, writing and speaking) in preparation for the exams.
Year 10: Modules 5-8 are usually covered in this time.
Year 11: Modules 1-4 (at a more advanced level) and exam practise is covered in this time.
Formal assessment in KS3 and 4 takes place 3 times a year in one of the four skills: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking, and this informs our curriculum and teaching and allows us to revisit concepts that need more explanation or practise, or to plan in additional challenge and extension as necessary. It also prepares students for the format of GCSE examinations at KS4. As teachers, we are constantly formatively assessing students in lessons and through our school marking and feedback policy, with valuable students and peer feedback. As a small school, we feel we know individual student strengths and weaknesses well. DIRT time in lessons allows students to learn from their and others’ mistakes and misconceptions and to make outstanding progress, even down to individual word level.
KS3: Summary how units/work is marked.
KS4: Summary how units/work is marked.
Each module is formally assessed in at least one skill and all students sit an end of year exam in all 4 skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking) and are formally assessed internally in June in Year 10. In Year 11, students sit internally marked mock exams in November/December before sitting the real exams in May. All papers are now externally marked and assessed but the speaking is conducted and recorded internally.
KS3: Summary of work set during KS3.
KS4: Summary of work set during KS4.
Work can include learning of key vocabulary (spellings and meanings), longer written or reading tasks, translation, project work or exam revision, grammar work or preparation of speaking answers. Nearer the exams it can include the completion of practise exam papers. It is set once a week for at least an hour.
Support at Home
and BBC Bitesize French.
Additional Support in school and/or resources
We are pleased to be increasing access to French reading material within the school Learning Resource Centre, beginning with simple educational French magazines and building to popular bilingual novels for our Higher GCSE students to practise reading for pleasure.
We also run a Foundation (Thurs) and Higher (Mon) GCSE drop-in lunchtime intervention sessions to support our Year 11 students in the run-up to their examinations.
As part of the wider curriculum, we hope that as many students as possible will have the opportunity to use French in real life situations on one of our French trips: most recently a French and PE watersports trip to the Ardeche and a French and History trip to Northern France. We believe that it should be an essential part of every child’s learning to experience another culture and to enjoy the food, day to day life and the process of building friendships with other young people abroad as a vital and enjoyable part of language learning. For this reason, we try to support any pupil premium students to take part in these trips where possible. We also always take part in European Day of Languages in September through assemblies and in class activities and games to celebrate language learning and intercultural understanding. Last year, we had our first languages Deep Learning Day and we were delighted to invite a passionate speaker from the languages world of work to bring careers education to life. We also held taster lessons in Spanish, German, and beginners Ukranian, which were very well received. This year, we have a French theatre company coming to visit school and to work with students in the target language and we are excited to be beginning projects with our new partner school in the North of France, near Boulogne.
As passionate language learners ourselves, the department is strongly focussed on encouraging students to be good communicators and lifelong language learners. We know that developing and promoting excellent language skills early on helps equip our students with life skills in all areas and contributes to their cultural capital, allowing them to get to be where they want to be in life.