St James is proud to have been designated a Lead School for Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) by the Department for Education (DfE). We are one of nine schools to have been designated as such and will be working with local schools to improve the uptake of MFL. At St James School, the vast majority of our students study a language to GCSE and we have had some exceptional results in languages recently. Last year, under the new GCSE measures, 84% of students gained a grade 9-4 in French (old measure of A*-C), 64% a 9-5 and 32% a 9-7 (A/A*). Eight of our students achieved the top grade 9 putting them in the top 3% of students nationally. These students were not native French speakers, they were students who were passionate about the subject and who worked hard. The languages department has worked tirelessly for these outstanding results by building a highly skilled teaching team that has dramatically improved the perception of and outcomes in MFL.
We work with several core principles in mind. Firstly, languages are not the preserve of the middle class or privately educated- our school is broadly comprehensive as is our uptake of languages. Amy Grashoff, Headteacher, says “For us, languages should be accessible to all as they offer a brilliant opportunity for students to develop their confidence and skills which they apply to many other subject areas. Languages open students’ eyes to the world around them and our languages department work hard to foster an inclusive and international community.”
Secondly and most importantly, we place all our energy into teaching and learning and delivering the best quality curriculum to our students. We challenge our students- they interact with authentic literature, music and art from France and Spain. They explore the language and the culture whilst maintaining a relentless focus on grammar, use of the target language and meaningful practice. Our lessons are engaging without the need for gimmicks, students work hard and achieve good results. Languages foster a curiosity- our students regularly challenge us with questions about grammar and cultural concepts.
Our third focus is to look beyond school. To that end that we have had over 15% of our students go on to study an A Level in French or Spanish at Exeter College in 2018. This is at a time when there was a 10% drop of A Level French entries nationally in a single year. Furthermore, we have worked hard to develop links with both Exeter University and Exeter College so that our students get an opportunity to experience studying A Level and degree level content at KS4. Going to college or university to experience a lecture on the French Revolution is truly an inspiring opportunity for our students. We have also had student Language Leaders lead lessons in our feeder primary schools. Moreover, we are now in a position to begin developing our enrichment provision for students with a trip to Boulogne in the summer.