Posted: 3 April, 2014

Why Putney is bucking a nationwide trend away from Modern Languages


A feast of languages greet our girls in Years 7 and 8, courtesy of Putney’s carousel programme which allows pupils to study Spanish and German in Year 7, followed by French and Mandarin in Year 8.

By sampling four different languages, girls can discover which ones they particularly enjoy.  In Year 9 all girls study at least two Modern Languages – three if they do not continue with Latin. The carousel enables them to make an informed choice about which languages are best for them, in keeping with Putney’s philosophy of ensuring breadth of opportunity rather than restricting choice.

Our Language Lab helps to bring learning to life, as do the trips. Most of Year 7 spends three days in Madrid sampling the cultural and gastronomic delights of the Spanish capital, and many also sign up for a day trip to Lille in Year 8.  There are outings to Chinatown and the German Christmas markets to complement this, as well as trips to Paris and Seville when the girls reach year 9.

In the GCSE years, our classroom teaching is reinforced by intensive language courses in Montpelier and Murcia in Year 10, and even Costa Rica in Year 11 for girls studying Spanish.

Putney High School offers support tailored to the needs of those pupils who may already be native speakers of any of the four languages on offer, and there are numerous other cultural opportunities including salsa lessons and foreign language plays.

We are hosting a Modern Languages Spelling Bee this summer, in which 13 schools from around the country will compete against girls from Putney’s pre GCSE cohorts.

This hive of linguistic activity has meant in recent years that a significant number of pupils have opted to study two languages at GCSE level, some do three. We expect Putney to continue to buck the national trend which sees languages diminishing in popularity.

Meanwhile, the Junior School is buzzing with languages – every girl receives two language lessons every week in addition to the 10 weekly co-curricular language activities on offer.

Not surprisingly, these language lessons and related co-curricular activities are extremely popular with girls because learning a language appeals to those with an appetite for knowledge.

Recent research suggests that performance in mathematics and verbal skills improves with each year of second language study. More importantly, perhaps, the lessons are fun and are getting the girls enthusiastic about learning languages.

Furthermore, in the Junior School we have 52 bilingual or trilingual girls who, between them, are fluent in 14 languages. In order to celebrate this, the School Council suggested a link with girls in the Senior School so bilingual girls can use their language on an informal basis. We certainly will establish this.

Mr Liam Bambridge, Head of Modern Foreign Languages

Mrs Jo Wallace, Head, Putney High Junior School

April 2014

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