Sir James Smith's School

Modern Foreign Languages

Over the last few years the Modern Foreign Language Department at SJS has gained a reputation both locally and nationally for providing a high standard of teaching for students. 

We are a team of 3 teachers and all offer two foreign languages. 

Modern Language teaching at SJS is based on use of the target language by teachers and students alike. Lessons are lively, active and engaging and involve a lot of speaking and movement.  Visitors to our department frequently comment on the stimulating environment, on the positive, lively atmosphere and the enthusiasm of students for language learning.

We are currently building our contacts abroad.  In October 2010 we joined the Bristol  University ‘Adopt a Student’ scheme which enables us to follow the adventures of a university student during their year abroad. Our student for 2015-16 visited us recently prior to beginning a year in France studying at the University of Nantes.  At every opportunity we invite foreign nationals in to school to meet and speak with our students.

In July 2011 we began a programme of international visits, starting with a trip for 40 students to a residential centre in Brittany as part of the school Activities Week programme.  In 2012 and 2014 we ran trips to Namur in Belgium for 40 students and visited Brussels and Aachen in Germany, giving students an exciting experience of life in the heart of Europe.  Our next Belgium trip will run in July 2016 and students from Year 7 and Year 8 are already signing up.

During the school year, various events are arranged by the MFL department to keep languages at the forefront of students’ minds.  We celebrate European Day of Languages in September and a ‘Eurodraw’ runs all year, culminating with the final draw in the last assembly of the year.  Deep learning days enable students to experience other languages, including Spanish and British Sign Language, and to discuss the value of working and studying abroad, and our annual Eurovision Song Contest for Year 7 ends every academic year with a lively competition in which the whole school votes.

We were featured in 2010 in a national KS3 online teacher training module as an example of a school successfully using the target language as the normal means of communication in class.  We were also the Lead School for the North Cornwall network of MFL departments, and in July 2011 hosted the first conference of the Cornwall Association for Language Learning, welcoming teachers from all over Cornwall.

Key Stage 3 

Students in Years 7, 8 and 9 study either German or French.  All students study one language throughout KS3, and some opt to add a second foreign language when they reach Year 10.  More than half of our students continue their language studies to GCSE in Year 11.

Students have five one-hour lessons per fortnight, and as far as possible they work with the same teacher throughout KS3, enabling them to build steadily on their language competence and to gain considerable confidence in their communication skills by the end of Year 9.

Students in Year 7 and Year 8 will be assessed using STEPS.  To find out more about how this works, please click on the link below.  When the Powerpoint opens, if you would like to view as a Slideshow, select Slideshow from the top bar and then the From the beginning icon on the left hand side of the screen:

STEPS for Modern Foreign Languages

Key Stage 4

The number of students choosing to study a modern foreign language in KS4 has risen steadily in recent years, and with the introduction of the English baccalaureate, our students are now increasingly aware of the advantages of a GCSE language qualification.  More than half of our students continue with their language studies in Years 10 and 11, and a few very able linguists take advantage of our second foreign language option, studying two languages to GCSE level.

The GCSE French and German courses build on the work covered in Key Stage 3, focusing now on more adult topic areas such as French / German culture, films, youth issues, the environment, and many other topics.

We follow the AQA GCSE syllabus.  Students take examinations for listening and reading (40% of the total grade) at the end of Year 11, and do controlled assessments in class during Year 11 for speaking and writing (60% of the total grade).

Classes tend to be smaller than in KS3 and are highly motivated, allowing us to use active teaching and learning techniques and to give plenty of individual attention.  Students are encouraged to listen to French / German radio, to read French / German magazines, to look at French / German websites, to watch French / German films and, of course, to visit France / Germany!

So why study a language? 

  • An increasing number of colleges and universities now ask for a GCSE in a Modern Foreign Language as an entry requirement. Students need now to consider the English Baccalaureate subject combination, which includes a Modern Foreign Language, when choosing options.
  • A GCSE Language qualification enables many students following science/engineering/technology courses at university to spend a paid year abroad.
  • 75% of employers now consider a language as ‘desirable’ when they look at job applications.
  • 48% of firms actively recruit people for their foreign language skills.
  • In job applications candidates who offer a language have the edge over those who do not.
  • With the growth of the European Union there is an increasing need for young people with a language qualification.
  • A language qualification improves employability and promotion prospects in many careers, including science, business, government, engineering, financial services, events management, marketing, media, technology, travel and tourism, teaching, HM Services and many more.


Please click on the following links to see the Programme of Study for the different Key Stages:


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

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