French is a popular subject at The Perse attracting students from all subject specialisms who recognise that studying French beyond GCSE, either to A level or for a Diplôme d’Etudes de Langue Française, will be a real asset at university and beyond.
The language proficiency that students develop studying French beyond GCSE opens doors not only in terms of university applications, but also in the world of work. Many of our students decide to add another string to their bow by going on to study one of more than a thousand university courses offering French in combination with another subject. Others take their language study further still by choosing to attend a prestigious French university or work in a French-speaking environment.
The study of French allows students to develop confidence and demonstrate competency in the most sought-after transferable skills. There is no better way to demonstrate communication skills than through the ability to discuss, debate and persuade in another language. By the end of the course our students can also work collaboratively and individually to research topics, critically analyse information and creatively solve problems.
Cultural awareness is also increasingly important in our society and in the global economy. What employers will be looking for in post-Brexit Britain is global citizens with the intercultural skills to drive our economy and ensure we remain a major player on the world stage. We aim to foster this awareness as we study Francophone culture across the different continents.
- Learning journey - Lower Sixth
In the Lower Sixth students develop proficiency in French through the in-depth study of French language, Francophone culture and current affairs. They learn increasingly more complex grammar and sophisticated language and develop a cultural knowledge which allows them to analyse authentic sources and express viewpoints fluently in speech and writing on a range of topics including:
- Current trends in French-speaking society: technological advancements, changing attitudes towards family and marriage, the impact of volunteering
- French culture: cultural heritage, cinema and music
- French political life: the involvement of young people, strikes and protests
Students also benefit from a weekly lesson with our French language assistant to build their confidence and fluency speaking French. These two-to-one sessions allow for individualised feedback and plenty of time to develop confidence discussing and engaging with the topics of the moment, whether that be the recent Gilet Jaune protests or which singer is tipped to win the latest Nouvelle Star series.
- Learning journey - Upper Sixth
In the Upper Sixth further aspects of the social background are covered, this time focusing on issues such as life for those on the margins of French-speaking society as well as looking at the positive influences that diversity brings. These topics tie in well with the literary text and film students study; the iconic film La Haine and the must-read French classic L’étranger both present societies where immigration, diversity, marginalisation and criminality are significant features.
Students also have the opportunity to undertake an Individual Research Project, in which they choose an aspect of French culture that is of particular interest of them and prepare to present and discuss this in the oral exam. This project, as well as being incredibly enriching, provides an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate the subject interest and research skills that universities look for. Below are a few examples of topics in which students have chosen to undertake research in recent years:
- The work of Médecins Sans Frontières to combat the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Which figures had the most influence under the reign of Francis II?
- Examining the environmental hazards threatening the Vanuatan people and their responses to them
- Sartre’s Existentialism: A pessimistic or an optimistic theory?
- How did Dadaism develop in Paris in the early twentieth century?
- Post-war women in literature: a comparison between Sagan’s “Bonjour Tristesse” and Rochefort’s “Les Petits Enfants du Siècle”
- Learning journey - DELF
The Diplôme d’Etudes de Langue Française (DELF) is a highly regarded and internationally-recognised language qualification delivered by the French Ministry of Education via its worldwide network of Alliances Françaises. The DELF can open the door to universities and other higher education institutions, including a number of Grandes Ecoles, in France and in all French speaking countries. For those who are studying A level French we offer the DELF at B2 level and for those who are not we offer the B1 level qualification.
Language course and DELF B1 qualification for non A level linguists
Each year a number of students who are not studying A level French, but who are keen to keep up and further develop their French language skills post GCSE, choose to take the DELF B1 qualification in addition to their A level subjects. This practical, skills-based qualification allows students to develop knowledge of lexical fields more specifically targeted to higher education and working environments, which is useful for those who wish to keep their university and careers options open. As well as allowing access to some higher education institutions, the DELF B1 qualification is recognised by employers around the world so can assist in obtaining employment in international companies or voluntary organisations. It is also an excellent way for students to further strengthen their academic profile and stand out from the crowd.
We teach the DELF B1 qualification in two sessions a week in the Michaelmas and Lent terms of the Lower Sixth year and students have the option of taking the qualification in addition to or instead of undertaking a research project. Since offering the qualification, we have had a 100% pass rate every year with students regularly achieving scores well above the required pass mark.
DELF B2 qualification for A level linguists
The DELF B2 is an additional and optional qualification for those studying A level French. It allows those who would like to keep their options open for future study or work in a Francophone country the opportunity to obtain internationally-recognised proof of their French-language skills for life at the level required by most higher education providers and employers. Past students, for example, have been able to use their DELF qualification to fulfil the language requirements for entry to the prestigious Sorbonne university and to assist in obtaining work placements abroad.
Thanks to the significant overlap between the DELF qualification and A level course, we are able to prepare students successfully for the exam with one preparation session a week in the Michaelmas and Lent terms of the Upper Sixth year. Since offering the qualification, we have had a 100% pass rate every year with students regularly achieving scores well above the required pass mark.
- Providing stretch
In lessons we provide a broad and enriching curriculum, often extending beyond the requirements of the A level specification to look at interesting aspects of French language and Francophone culture. We encourage students to read French newspapers and magazines, listen to French radio and watch news online and will frequently discuss topics that have hit the headlines. We also never hesitate to delve into undergraduate level grammar when students come across interesting structures in class and are keen to find out more.
Outside of class we encourage students to challenge themselves by looking into areas of Francophone culture and current affairs which inspire them. For all our topics we recommend films, literature, articles and other resources which students can explore to further develop their understanding and we regularly provide individual suggestions to students to cultivate their particular interests. We also regularly share interesting articles on our Twitter account (@PerseMFL) and promote language competitions.
- Beyond the classroom
We have a well-established Sixth Form exchange to Notre Dame de Sainte Croix, an independent school in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of Paris only two métro stops from the Champs-Elysées. As well allowing students the opportunity to develop their language and cultural awareness by experiencing life in a French family and school, this exchange offers a program of visits linked to the A level course. In previous years, for example, we have visited political headquarters to interview French MPs, made our own short film at the Grand Rex cinema and perfected chocolate making at a Parisian cookery school.
Each year we enter the Independent Schools’ French Debating Competition as well as the National French Debating Competition. In the past three years our students have made it to the national finals at London’s French Institute twice and have won many regional titles.
We have a student-led French society organised by our Sixth Form French ambassadors. The society hosts regular lunchtime talks with students, staff and external speakers all presenting. Over the past couple of years we have had many fascinating talks on such varied subjects as: ‘Duelling in literature’ (Dr Leigh, Cambridge), ‘Medieval French (Dr Gilbert, UCL), ‘Voltaire’s Micromégas’ (Dr Mander, Cambridge), ‘Butchers of the French Revolution (Dr Spary, Cambridge) and ‘The French of Gabon’ (Dr Mitchell, Perse and Cambridge). The society also runs film nights, a breakfast book club and outings.
Many of our Sixth Form linguists choose to volunteer as classroom assistants during French lessons at the Alliance Française in Cambridge or The Perse Prep school. We also have a successful French primary outreach program where students go out to local primary schools to teach French as their enrichment option and a mentoring scheme in school where Sixth Form students help Year 11 students prepare for their GCSE oral exams.
We support students who wish to undertake a work experience placement in a Francophone country. In recent summers a number of our students have enjoyed work experience placements in France offered by the Halsbury company.
- French at university
A measure of the success of French at The Perse is the encouraging number of students who go on to read French at top universities, either as part of a modern languages degree or in combination with another subject. There are over a thousand courses at UK universities offering French as a joint honours degree combined with almost every subject imaginable.
We have a wealth of experience within the department for those looking to apply, including our very own Cambridge lecturer, and we run a series of sessions throughout the Summer term of the Lower Sixth year and Michaelmas term of the Upper Sixth year to ensure students get the best advice and preparation possible for their university applications and interviews. In recent years we are delighted to have sent students to Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Oxford and UCL