In the French Department, we aim to foster both a love of communicating in French as well as an appreciation of the French culture and way of life. From the very outset, girls are taught in French, and they themselves are encouraged to speak in the foreign language in class, learning that perfection is not required in order to communicate a message. However, we also place great emphasis on building grammatically strong foundations, and understanding sentence structure and idiom, so that as they progress through to GCSE, they already have a good grounding in grammatical concepts, lexical structure and verb conjugation.
Our GCSE course follows the AQA specification, covering a range of topics including new technology, healthy living, careers and employment, and global issues such as the environment. Girls are encouraged to take responsibility for their progress, by using both the online interactive activities available through their registration with Kerboodle, and the powerpoints made available to them on the School’s Student network. They receive three lessons a week from subject specialists, allowing time for individual oral practice in anticipation of the GCSE oral examination.
We continue with the AQA specification at A Level, with the girls studying one work of literature (at present ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ by Françoise Sagan) and a film, ‘L’Auberge Espagnol’. Online resources play a significant role in the independent learning process, and allow the girls to keep up to date with current affairs in Europe through accessing authentic French material. Girls who have studied French at A Level in the past have gone on to study a range of language-based courses at prestigious universities including Oxford and Cambridge.
We think it is important to nurture a love of the language outside the classroom, and therefore we are continually developing the range of French readers we have in the Department and which the girls can borrow and take home. School trips and visits are offered to girls across the year groups and include a bi-annual residential trip to Montpellier for the Year 9 and 10 girls studying GCSE. They stay in pairs in host families and attend language lessons in the morning, and then participate in activities and excursions in the afternoon. Study days in London are also offered to both GCSE and A Level groups to consolidate their knowledge and understanding of various elements of the course.
Having spent a year working in Germany and France, Rachel read French and German (interpreting and translating) at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. After working in local government for a number of years, she decided to change direction and after completing her PGCE, joined Mayfield as full-time member of the French Department in 1996. In that time, she has been a Lower School tutor, a Middle School tutor, Senior Tutor in Middle School, and has been Head of the French Department for the last 12 years.