"A different language is a different vision of life" (Federico Fellini)

1 French, Spanish, German, and Mandarin Chinese are offered in the core curriculum at St Mary’s, (Italian IGCSE is offered within the Supracurriculum at Sixth Form). One huge advantage of our offering is the varying entry points for starting a new language in the lower school. We offer an interactive and engaging experience, combining the important study of lexis and grammar with cultural elements, as well as an insight into history and literature.


Fourth Form Languages

In the LIV Form ( Year 7), pupils choose one language from either French or Spanish and have 3 hours contact time per week. In addition to the romance language, all pupils study one hour of Mandarin Chinese per week. There is the opportunity to study Mandarin for an additional hour if a pupil is selected for the Mandarin Plus Programme.

In MIV (Year 8), pupils continue with either French or Spanish from LIV and add in a second language from either Spanish, German or Mandarin Chinese. They study each language for 2 hours per week.

In UIV ( Year 9), pupils opt to study either one language or two. In exceptional circumstances, there may be room for a pupil to study three languages. It is worth bearing in mind that if a pupil drops down to one language in UIV, it will be the language which she carries through to IGCSE. A pupil could carry on with the language studied in LIV and add in a new language (Spanish, German or Mandarin, although it is not possible to start French as a new language in UIV).

Fifth Form Languages

In LV and UV (Year 10 and 11) pupils study one language or two. We have a healthy number of ‘dual linguists’ every year and it has been known for exceptional linguists to study three languages. From September 2024, we will deliver the Edexcel IGCSE specification in each of French, Spanish and German; Mandarin Chinese will follow the Edexcel GCSE course for non-native speakers and the Edexcel IGCSE course for native speakers.. In addition to their three timetabled lessons per week, each pupil from LV onwards attend one 30 minute conversation lesson per week in small groups.

A Level

We offer the Edexcel A level course in French, Spanish, German, and Mandarin at St Mary’s. The course requires the pupils to study four varied socio-cultural topics, a literary text, and a cinematographic work. (N.B Mandarin usually opts for two literary works instead of a film analysis, due to the broader range of texts on offer.) We prepare pupils wishing to apply to Oxbridge successfully and a number of our linguists go on to read languages at other top universities also including Durham, St Andrew’s, and Bristol. On the back of positive language-learning experiences at St Mary’s, some pupils are inspired to apply to read ab initio languages such as Japanese, Russian, or Portuguese, and others combine their favourite language alongside another discipline such as History or Politics. As with IGCSE level, all pupils attend conversation classes with our Foreign Language Assistants (FLAs) but in the Sixth Form, pupils benefit from one-to-one time in which to develop their spoken proficiency.

IGCSE Italian is a popular choice offered in the Sixth Form as part of the Supracurriculum and is studied on 2 hours per week across the two years. The pupils also attend a 30 minute conversation class as with other languages.


IMG 1983In line with the St Mary’s Connected Teaching and Learning programme, we make the very best of opportunities on offer throughout the academic year to enrich and develop our pupils’ contact with, and understanding of, the languages and countries they are studying, beyond the classroom. The MFL Society run by the Head of MFL and pupil representatives, is the linchpin through which all activities and events are promoted and connected. We work with partner schools in the area as well as globally, to communicate with native speakers on a regular basis. We host theatre plays, as well as hold lectures, film and translation workshops, cultural activities, and broadcast webinars with alumni or associates of the school. Trips abroad to our target-language countries are an important part of our offering as we feel that authentic practice is essential to making strong progress in a language. Our Head of German, Frau Falconer, is Wiltshire Representative for Youthbridge, the British-German Schools’ Association, sharing best practice and connecting colleagues and pupils with a special interest in German. Every year, our staff and pupils volunteer to teach lessons to primary school children, including to pupils at St Margaret’s Prep. Pupils in the Sixth Form are invited to apply to be language leaders, representing and promoting the value of language-learning as a life-skill and encouraging our younger pupils to be curious about languages and other cultures, beyond the classroom.

Native Speakers

Native speakers of languages other than English are warmly welcomed and celebrated at St. Mary’s. We appreciate the diverse range of world languages spoken by our pupils. We understand that individual experiences and backgrounds contribute to varying levels of language ability and proficiency. Therefore, when applying to the school, it is helpful to provide detailed information about the prospective pupil’s knowledge of other languages and prior learning – a proforma is available for completion. This allows us to plan effectively for and support the pupil throughout her time at the school. Pupils with native proficiency in Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Italian, should expect to have to complete a spoken and/or writing assessment to gauge their level and therefore the best path to follow.

Our means of support for native speakers include conversation practice with our FLAs and facilitating requests for early entrance to take the Pearson Edexcel IGCSE. Depending on the circumstances, it may be most appropriate for a pupil to participate in a timetabled class while also dedicating some of this time to guided study in the Library. Alternatively, the pupil may choose to study independently outside of the regular timetable and be entered for the public examination in Year 10. It is important to note that all pupils are expected to take a foreign language in the Fifth Form and early entrance for an examined qualification does not release them from this requirement.

Mrs Leonie Moylan (Head of Modern Foreign Languages)