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At Shiplake, Modern Foreign Languages are recognised not only as highly academic subjects but also as life skills that opens up many opportunities for pupils in the future with over 80% of the world not speaking English and only 6% using it as their first language, the benefits of be able to speak at least one foreign language is clear. The Modern Foreign Languages Department is staffed by three full time teachers and one part-time teacher of French and Spanish and prides itself on excellent, innovative teaching to embrace the College’s policy to utilise technology wherever possible to enhance pupils’ learning and understanding. All pupils are introduced to languages in their early years at Shiplake, and continuation of study into the later years is on an upward trend.


The Modern Foreign Languages Department enjoys use of three dedicated classrooms with state-of-the-art audio visual technology. The department is ideally located at the heart of the College, in and around the major teaching hub. Teachers are warmly encouraged to put their own spin on the classrooms to provide an interesting and evolving learning environment for pupils.

All pupils in the College have their own mobile devices which they are expected to bring to every lesson. These are utilised wherever possible throughout the curriculum to increase interaction in the classroom.

Additional Opportunities 

Teachers enhance pupils’ studies by incorporating co-curricular activities into their learning. This naturally includes trips abroad to put language skills into practice as well as regular enrichment activities closer to home such as cooking dishes from the target country and running ‘theme’ days.

Depending on the language studied, there are opportunities for GCSE pupils to travel to Barcelona, Madrid and Montpellier in order to gain practical experience of using a foreign language and in December 2018 a member of the department is organising a ski trip to Flaine for the whole school.

Cultural enrichment visits to Europe are not limited to older year groups, the department also runs short trips to France and Spain for younger pupils..

Successful Languages clinics run twice weekly at lunchtimes and during prep. Pupils attend by recommendation, appointment or to drop in for support from their tutors. Year 12 pupils have the opportunity to become a languages mentor to support and inspire younger linguists lower down the school.

We offer a high degree of flexibility to cater for individual needs and interests.  Private classes with visiting tutors for native speakers of other languages can be arranged and we regularly have pupils studying Italian, German, Japanese, Chinese and Russian to iGCSE in this way.  


Key Stage 3

The majority of students who join in Year 7 have studied French in their previous schools. At Shiplake, all pupils in Year 7 and 8 study Spanish for 2 periods per week. Language choices are then made at the end of Year 8 when Shiplake students and the incoming Year 9 students who are not core pupils study either French or Spanish for three periods per week. We often facilitate early entry to GCSE languages for students with a native background in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Mandarin and Japanese. If you are interested in this option, please contact the Head of Modern Languages.


Learning a language will broaden horizons. You do not have to be completely fluent in a language for it to make a real difference, making the knowledge gained at GCSE will serve you well long into the future. At GCSE, pupils may opt to study Spanish and/or French. Whilst the study of a language is not compulsory, pupils are actively encouraged to pursue one due to the wider benefits which it entails.

Teaching follows the AQA iGCSE syllabus as it best suits the needs of our linguists and prepares them for A level entry. The Modern Foreign Languages Department does not rely on a particular course textbook, preferring instead to develop a variety of their own resources. The iGCSE tests the four key language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Each element carries an equal weighting of 25%.

In addition, outside of the standard curriculum, the department are currently accommodating students preparing for examination in German, Portuguese and Mandarin. This is generally for international students who have the option to earn a qualification in their native language.

Sixth Form

French and Spanish are taught by specialist teachers for 5 lessons per week. In order to study a modern foreign language at A Level, a pupil must have achieved at least a B grade at GCSE. The aim of Modern Foreign Languages courses at Key Stage 5 is to develop a lifelong interest and enthusiasm for language learning. Again, teachers prefer to formulate their own schemes of work and draw from a variety of resources, contexts and genres. Pupils develop awareness and understanding of the contemporary society, cultural background and heritage of countries and communities where their chosen language is spoken. French and Spanish follow relatively similar course structures, exploring topics such as social issues and trends in the target country, political and artistic culture, grammar, literary texts and film.

Pupils will sit three assessments, including two written examinations and one speaking examination. The written elements will include listening and responding, read a variety of texts and answering questions in the target language, translating passages into English, and critical and analytical responses to a set text and a set film. The speaking examination requires students to discuss a theme and give a presentation based on individual project research.

Whilst studying a foreign language at A Level is undoubtedly a challenging prospect, the advanced qualification is highly respected by employers and higher education establishments. As European countries draw more closely together, having an in-depth knowledge of a modern language is becoming increasingly vital in today’s world. Language A Levels demonstrate to universities and potential employers excellent academic ability, allowing access to a broad range of university courses as well as future career opportunities.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela