French is studied by all boys from Year 5 upwards. After studying French for two years, boys are usually setted. These arrangements work well, and we have no plans for starting French at an earlier age, with the possible exception of language clubs and activities.
French is taught within the areas of experience listed in the National Curriculum and in the Common Entrance Syllabus. All boys start French with Equipe Nouvelle. The course book lends itself well to equal practice in the four skills, Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Year 8 study from the in-house ‘Dossier Français’ and the material from the annual Year 8 French Study Trip to Le Touquet.
Lessons are not conducted wholly in the target language. The extent to which the French language is used by the teacher in class varies according to the ability of the class, but all teachers recognise the value of listening to the target language and attach great importance to pronunciation and fluency, and to listening to and responding to the target language.
Written French is not neglected as it gives evidence of how well pupils have understood concepts of grammar. In the early stages, written French is fundamental and is used to reinforce grammar and vocabulary in simple exercises. Free expression in the target language comes in when the pupils have acquired a wider French vocabulary and a sound grammatical knowledge, and are competent in using a variety of tenses.
Teachers are aware of the need to differentiate according to ability. The school exams complement this approach. There is regular testing in a variety of aspects of the subject. Each boy in the school (except the scholars) has an oral exam in the summer term. This is conducted by the pupil’s teacher.
French results at Scholarship level are excellent. In 2017, the Tonbridge Knightley Scholarship (the top award for Modern Languages in Scholarship) was awarded to a New Beacon pupil. This award has been won by New Beacon pupils on a regular basis. It is customary for all scholarship candidates to gain A or A* grades in scholarship.
CE results in French are traditionally high, usually the highest of all subjects. The percentage of candidates achieving a grade A* (or equivalent) in French is always in excess of 90%.
Most pupils are placed in the highest set for French at their next school.