The Perse School


Fostering a love of this dynamic language, and a fascination for its culture

Our aim

Spanish is a major Romance language with rich associated cultures and a vast literary tradition on two continents. It has an estimated 400 million native speakers, and is the official language in 21 countries. By 2050, the US is expected to become the country with the largest Spanish-speaking population; the ability to speak Spanish there – where Hispanic consumers are the fastest-growing market segment – is rapidly becoming a business necessity.

While we certainly foster our students’ interest in the Spanish language in its own right as an academic subject, we go much further by exploring the importance of the language in the modern world and discovering the history, arts, traditions, and popular culture of Spanish-speaking countries.

Through their study of Spanish, our students develop their oral and analytical skills, as well as their linguistic accuracy and their ability to express themselves in a persuasive manner both orally and in writing.

Students have a weekly lesson in pairs with the oral language teacher to improve their skills in spoken Spanish. These intensive lessons are invaluable in helping them develop fluency and the ability to debate and defend their point of view confidently, and to prepare for the oral exam.

Learning journey - Lower Sixth

September 2016 heralds the start of an exciting new A level syllabus.

In the first year of the course, students will examine aspects of contemporary Hispanic society including changing family values and the influence of the Catholic church, the growing role of social media and our increasing reliance on technology, and aspects of equal rights such as gender equality and gender identity. Artistic culture also has a central place in the syllabus. Students will study the culture of fame and celebrity as manifested in the Spanish-speaking world, as well as examining regional differences within Hispanic countries, regional languages spoken alongside Spanish, and art, architecture and traditional music genres. In the Lower Sixth the themes of regional culture, family values and social inequality will be further explored through the study of a film.

Learning journey - Upper Sixth

In 2016-2017, Upper Sixth students will complete the old AQA specification, which covers contemporary social issues including multiculturalism, the environment, law and order, and ethics in science. They will also study Réquiem for a Spanish Peasant, a short novel about the Spanish civil war, and the works of the Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro. Also in 2016-2017, students will benefit from a weekly cultural enrichment lesson in which they will study 20th century Spanish history and key literary figures.

From 2017, students will continue to study multiculturalism, but the course will also include the involvement of young people in politics, the evolution of Spain’s monarchy, the role of dictators in Latin American politics, and the impact of trade unions and social movements. In this year of the course students will study a short novel, and will be required to carry out a project on a Hispanic subject of their choice which will form the basis of the final oral exam.

Providing stretch

We encourage students to enter the Advanced category of the UK Linguistics Olympiad. In 2016 27 students took part, securing seven gold, seven silver and eight bronze awards in this challenging test.

Students are encouraged to read as widely as possible, but we are not prescriptive about what they read, as it is important that the reading should derive from their own motivation. For a student who is keen to read but does not know where to start, we might suggest looking at short stories by authors from the Latin American Boom, such as Julio Cortázar, Augusto Monterroso and Gabriel García Márquez. Carlos Ruiz Zafón is an award-winning contemporary writer of novels for young people, whose works include La Sombra del Viento and El Prisionero del Cielo.

We encourage students to take part in the annual Canning House Spanish essay competition, and to undertake work experience in a Spanish-speaking country.

Beyond the classroom

We hope to repeat the success of our recent Spanish language production, the 16th century comedy El astrólogo tunante, performed by the Sixth Form Spanish Drama Club. Students also have the opportunity to study Spanish poetry in extra lunchtime sessions.

Students can keep up with news from the Spanish-speaking world by browsing a wide range of publications at school, from the insight into popular culture provided by ¡Hola! to comment on current affairs in El Mundo. We encourage them to read authentic materials by borrowing a work from the extensive Spanish language collection in our library.

The Modern Languages department organises cultural talks, film screening, competitions, debates, seminars and plays at lunchtime and after school. Our 42 programme of lunchtime lectures also includes languages. Recent speakers include Dr Jennifer Todd (Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at UCL) who spoke about semantics, and Dr Rebecca Mitchell (Perse School and University of Cambridge) who spoke about language endangerment.

Spanish at university

Each year, students in our Upper Sixth class apply to read Spanish at university, usually in combination with another subject. Recent applications have included Spanish and ab initio Portuguese, Spanish and economics, Spanish and German, and Spanish, Russian and ab initio Arabic.

Students wishing to study Spanish at university are assigned a mentor to advise them on their application, and to guide their programme of extra reading and independent study.


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