Downside enjoys a rich tradition of success in Modern Foreign Languages, and it is particularly pleasing that over a third of pupils pursue a modern language post-GCSE, bucking the national trend considerably.

Languages at Downside School

French, German and Spanish are all offered ab initio, with pupils starting French in Year 7 and then a second Modern Foreign Language in Year 9. There is also provision in Year 9 for pupils to start French for the first time.

The department consists of seven staff, several of whom offer two languages up to GCSE, but specialise in just one language at A-level.

We firmly believe that communication is the most important aspect of language learning, and as such, we work hard within the department to create an environment in which all pupils feel able to contribute with confidence, and it is particularly pleasing to see this confidence grow over the course of the academic year. However, we also believe strongly that a rigorous understanding of grammar is important, particularly at A-level, and pupils are supported very well in this, as recognised in our last ISI inspection report: ‘An excellent grasp of grammar enables them to analyse mistakes and improve their work in modern languages.’

Modern Languages

We offer an exciting range of enrichment activities within the Modern Languages department; in recent years we have offered an exchange with Bordeaux, study trips to Granada, Berlin, Munich and Paris, as well as a programme of events in the UK or in-house, including trips to the theatre, meals, theatre workshops, 6th Form lectures at nearby universities and Modern Language Speaking competitions.

Chinese, Italian and Russian

In addition to the three languages offered on the curriculum, we are able to offer provision for private lessons in Chinese (first or second language), Italian and Russian.

At a time when there is such a dearth of linguists in the UK, it is gratifying to see Downside pupils making the most of the opportunities to learn a foreign language, and doing so with such enthusiasm and success.

Latin and Greek

Downside has a strong tradition of teaching the Classical languages throughout the school, and is now one of very few schools in the South-West to offer both subjects at GCSE and A level.

The Department consists of three staff, including the Deputy Head, who teach both Latin and Greek at all levels. In the study of these subjects, the Classics Department hopes to inspire pupils with a genuine love of learning.

In Years 10 and 11, we prepare pupils for the OCR GCSE examinations in Latin and Greek, and will be transferring to the new specification from September 2016. Similarly, at A level we follow the OCR courses which include the study of both language and literature. There is considerable examining experience within the Department, enabling teachers to guide pupils with clear understanding of the Board’s expectations towards excellent results.

Sitting on the Fosse Way – the Roman road that ran from Exeter to Lincoln – and in such close proximity to the ancient city of Aquae Sulis, modern Bath, there are many opportunities locally to engage with Roman culture. The Department organises regular lectures on topics of a broader Classical interest, and trips to visit University departments and see Greek plays in performance. We intend to run an educational tour of Greece in 2017.

English as an Additional Language

The study of (EAL) English as an Additional Language is of paramount importance to all of the international pupils at Downside for whom English is not their mother tongue. As a department we ensure that international pupils are quickly absorbed into the Downside community and we aim to fully support them to access the entire curriculum. The ‘full immersion’ experience begins immediately and in this way natural language acquisition starts to take place from day one. Simultaneously we help pupils to develop their study skills in English. EAL lessons focus on the productive skills of speaking and writing as well as on the receptive skills of listening and reading. Incorporated in to this work are specific grammar exercises alongside vocabulary expansion and the all-important perfecting of pronunciation.

We aim to develop the pupils’ appreciation and knowledge of British culture, manners and behaviour whilst continuing to maintain their indebtedness to their own. Click here to read more. 

Qualification in ESL

In Years 7, 8 and 9 pupils may work towards a recognised qualification in ESL (PET/FCE/CAE). In Years 10 and 11, pupils may still be working towards one of these, but in most cases will be working towards either IGCSE or GCSE English. When they reach the Sixth Form, in most cases pupils will need to work towards an IELTS qualification in order to assist them in obtaining an appropriate place at university.

Communication is key to all language proficiency and therefore as a department we ensure that pupils are able to work comfortably in an environment which fosters confidence and allows them to improve their language skills whilst increasing both their self-esteem and academic success.

Downside School Languages Staff

Mr R C Rawlins MA Faculty Head
Mrs A Maistrello Head of EAL 
Mr J Storey BA Head of Classics 
Ms R Burke DipSLD Teacher of EAL
Mrs L Williams BA (Hons), MA Teacher of EAL
Mrs C Dietrich BA Teacher of Modern Foreign Languages
Mrs C Dolman BA Teacher of Modern Foreign Languages
Mrs B Iglesias Grana BA Teacher of Modern Foreign Languages/EAL
Dr H Kelsh PhD Teacher of Modern Foreign Languages
Mrs E J Spurling BA Teacher of Modern Foreign Languages