Modern Languages

KS3 Modern Foreign Languages


The Modern Languages Department passionately believes in 'Languages for all' and we strive to offer a good breadth of experience at Key Stage 3, with all our students able to access all four languages on offer: Chinese Mandarin, French, German and Spanish. Our aim is to make the learning of foreign languages a positive and enriching experience, offering enjoyment and intellectual stimulation, and promoting confidence and achievement to inspire our students to study a language at GCSE and instil a lifelong love of language learning.

In a spirit of internationalism, the Modern Languages Department seeks to promote global citizenship by fostering a genuine curiosity and interest for the world and motivating our students to discover other cultures. We explore cultural references to the target language countries to develop cultural awareness and mutual respect. We encourage our students to be more open and adaptable to new experiences and equip them with the skills to become successful citizens of a multicultural world.

The Modern Languages Department endeavours to nurture linguistic curiosity, to develop strong linguistic skills and a solid understanding of key grammatical concepts in an environment where active and successful learning is encouraged. Authentic materials and real-life scenarios are routinely used to provide challenge and emphasise the value of language as a communication tool, to develop oracy and to equip our students with the skills to unpick and decode unfamiliar language. We are committed to highlight links and draw comparisons between languages so that our students deepen their understanding of how language works and enrich their use not only of foreign languages but also of their own native language. Grammar, as the foundation for building language competency and enabling students to express themselves accurately, confidently and fluently, is taught explicitly and regularly revisited.

Curriculum sequence

Students joining Didcot Girls’ School have had varied experiences of languages at Key Stage 2. Our curriculum seeks to build on prior learning by reinforcing phonics, transactional language as well as set the foundations for key grammatical concepts in Year 7. In Year 8 students deepen their understanding of grammar, phonics and vocabulary, and they develop their fluency and accuracy in using the language.

Most students study Spanish and either French or German in Years 7 and 8. At the end of Year 8, students opt for the language they wish to continue to study in Year 9.

Some students in Year 7 opt to follow the Mandarin Excellence Programme when they join the school, and they study Chinese only. From September 2022, Year 7 MEP students will also study Spanish.

Year 7

Unit 1

Unit 2

En classe

Quién soy

Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3
En classe La mode Vive la France
Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3
In der Klasse Familie und Tiere Mein Austausch


Year 8


Unit 3

Unit 4

Unit 5

La comida

En el restaurante

Mi insti
Unit 3
​Unit 4
​Unit 5
Vive la France T’es branchée? Paris je t’adore Literary project
Unit 3
​Unit 4
​Unit 5
Mein Austausch Wild auf Musik Bleib gesund!

Year 9

Unit 6

Unit 7

Las vacaciones Mi gente
Unit 6
​Unit 7
Unit 8
Ma famille et mes amis Mes loisirs Les fêtes en France
German Unit 6 German Unit 7 German Unit 8
Digital exchange
Auf in die Schule Zeit für Freizeit Menschliche Beziehungen Balloon German cinema
Mandarin Excellence Programme

Year 7

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4

My family and I My pet family Hobbies School
Year 8 Unit 5 Unit 6 Unit 7 Unit 8 Unit 9
Food and Drinks Holidays All about me Where I live Shopping and travel
Year 9 Unit 10 Unit 11 Unit 12 Unit 13
Who am I Leisure School Daily life and Media


National curriculum links

Our curriculum matches the breadth and ambition of the KS3 National Curriculum. Students at Key Stage 3

  • understand and respond to spoken and written language from a variety of authentic sources
  • speak with increasing confidence, fluency and spontaneity, finding ways of communicating what they want to say, including through discussion and asking questions, and continually improving the accuracy of their pronunciation and intonation
  • can write at varying length, for different purposes and audiences, using the variety of grammatical structures that they have learnt
  • discover and develop an appreciation of a range of writing in the language studied.

Grammar and vocabulary

Students are taught to become resilient, independent and curious linguists who:

  • identify and use tenses or other structures which convey the present, past, and future as appropriate to the language being studied
  • use and manipulate a variety of key grammatical structures and patterns, including voices and moods, as appropriate
  • develop and use a wide-ranging and deepening vocabulary that goes beyond their immediate needs and interests, allowing them to give and justify opinions and take part in discussion about wider issues
  • use accurate grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Linguistic competence

Students are taught explicitly how to develop their skills so that they can

  • listen to a variety of forms of spoken language to obtain information and respond appropriately
  • transcribe words and short sentences that they hear with increasing accuracy
  • initiate and develop conversations, coping with unfamiliar language and unexpected responses, making use of important social conventions such as formal modes of address
  • express and develop ideas clearly and with increasing accuracy, both orally and in writing
  • speak coherently and confidently, with increasingly accurate pronunciation and intonation
  • read and show comprehension of original and adapted materials from a range of different sources, understanding the purpose, important ideas and details, and provide an accurate English translation of short, suitable material
  • read literary texts in the language [such as stories, songs, poems and letters], to stimulate ideas, develop creative expression and expand understanding of the language and culture
  • write prose using an increasingly wide range of grammar and vocabulary, write creatively to express their own ideas and opinions and translate short written text accurately from and into foreign languages

Meeting the needs of SEND and Pupil Premium students

In accordance with our whole school policy, Modern Languages teachers place SEND and Pupil Premium students at the heart of their lesson planning. We strongly believe that students of all abilities can be successful in languages.

In Modern languages we provide for the progress of SEND and Pupil Premium students by:

  • emphasising the global dimension to our curriculum.
  • delivering inclusive quality first teaching which, for all students, offers challenge, develop meta-cognition and involve active participation.
  • creating a tolerant and supportive environment where mistakes are celebrated as opportunities to enhance learning, and all students can grow in confidence and not feel intimidated to contribute.
  • implementing a range of strategies, such as group talk, think-pair-share, role plays to create a classroom culture where contributions from all learners are expected and learning from others is valued.
  • clearly differentiating lesson objectives, activities, and home learning tasks.
  • signposting resources, such as sentence builders and vocabulary lists, for further support with the use of the school’s “Lend and Hand” symbol.
  • prioritising SEND and Pupil Premium students when marking books, questioning in class, and planning interventions.
  • frequently giving tailored feedback and opportunities to reflect on learning to improve previous work and define the next steps.


Our curriculum is taught to be securely learnt. The Modern Languages content maps are designed so that all four skills (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening) and key grammar concepts are covered in every unit of work. Prior linguistic and grammatical knowledge is revisited and applied to new contexts and topics, as the teaching of new knowledge is sequenced to build on prior learning. Retrieval starters and quizzes are embedded into lessons to activate prior knowledge, and assessments test prior learning across a range of units of work. All through Key Stage 3 students are supported with revision skills and are provided with knowledge organisers to revise the key knowledge for each unit.


Assessments are designed to reflect the high expectations of student progress at KS3.

Students are assessed twice in each unit of work: half way through and at the end. Over the course of each unit of work students will be assessed in all skills: listening, reading, speaking, writing and translation. Therefore, they will be assessed at various points over the course of a year.

Assessments will cover the topic content of each unit of work to give students the opportunity to retrieve and apply key knowledge from the unit they have been learning. They will also refer to some of the content of previous units of work, to activate prior learning. Assessments show progression as the tasks grow in complexity with regards grammatical and linguistic structures, and in depth with regards to content. However the structure of the assessments allows every student to access them and to experience success.

In Listening and Reading assessments are given a numerical mark and a percentage. In Speaking and Writing feedback is given using pre-defined success criteria and the school’s “Two stars and a wish” stickers. Students are given time to correct their mistakes and improve their work, reflect on their progress and set themselves targets. Teachers offer guidance as to how these targets can be achieved.

Students also undertake weekly low stakes testing of vocabulary and grammar, either as a translation quiz or as a dictation.

Contact details:

Mrs Valérie Morris, Head of Modern Languages        

Miss Clare Saunders, Head of Spanish, Joint Second in Department

Mrs Lucy Wicks, Head of Chinese, Joint Second in Department 

GCSE Modern Foreign Languages


A GCSE course in Modern Languages allows students to develop a wide range of skills that are highly sought after in the workplace such as team working, problem solving, presentation and organisational skills. 

It will also provide a framework for students to

  • refine their communication skills as they learn to express thoughts and ideas with increased spontaneity and fluency.
  • develop their ability to communicate confidently and coherently with native speakers in speech and writing. 
  • deepen their understanding of the language through a rigorous application of grammar and enrichment of their vocabulary.
  • use the language for a range of purpose with increased independence.
  • gain greater knowledge of the culture of the countries where the language is spoken and develop empathy.

Course outline

The course builds on the topics and language, grammar and skills studied at Key Stage 3. Students study a variety of culturally relevant and engaging topics which focus on the development of linguistic skills:

  • Family, friends and relationships
  • Free time and sport
  • Social media and technology
  • Customs and festivals
  • Social Issues
  • The environment
  • Travel and tourism
  • Education, careers and future plans

How it’s assessed

Assessment and Progression

Examination Board:  

Our GCSE courses follow the specification set by Edexcel for first examination in 2018.  

Grading system:

1-9 (9 is the highest grade)


Students are assessed by tiered examinations at the end Year 11. They will be entered for the same tier across all skills, either Foundation or Higher. The Foundation Tier is for Grades 1 to 5, and the Higher Tier grades 4 to 9.

Each skill (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing) represents 25% of the final overall grade. 

The Speaking examination will comprise of 3 components:  

- A role play 

- A short discussion about a picture with five prompts 

- A conversation made up of 1 compulsory topic and 1 topic chosen by the candidate  

Students will have 12 minutes to prepare for the role-play and the picture discussion. 

The Writing examination will require students to translate sentences or short paragraphs, from English into French, as well as to write any of the following: formal and informal letters or emails, short articles or a picture description. 

The Listening and Reading examinations will include a range of comprehension questions, some with short non-verbal answers and others with short verbal answers. In the Reading exam students will also translate sentences or short paragraphs, from French into English. 

Progression to Post-16:

Students who take a GCSE course in Modern Languages are ambitious and want a wide range of opportunities when they leave school.  They may go on to study a language A-Level course in the Sixth Form. A Language A-Level is a USP which will allow you entry into varied and exciting University courses. Universities offer language degrees with related modules in linguistics, drama, film and media, politics, history, literature. There are also many university courses integrating the study of a language with other subjects such as European Studies, International Studies, Business Studies, Leisure and Tourism and much more. It is increasingly popular to take a joint degree and combine a language with another discipline such as computer science, law and STEM subjects.

Future career links:

Language skills are becoming more attractive than ever to British employers from all sectors. 75% of employers in the United Kingdom want language skills. The ability to communicate in more than one language also enables you to market yourself internationally. Languages can lead to careers in industry, government and international organisations because linguists have a range of transferable skills and have first-hand experience of other cultures. Language graduates enjoy success in many fulfilling careers, including in journalism, business, law, science, medicine, engineering, teaching and translation.


Mrs Valérie Morris, Head of Modern Languages          

Mrs Lucy Wicks, Head of Chinese

Mrs Sandra Cohen, Head of German

Ms Clare Webb, Head of Spanish

Mandarin Excellence Programme

The government-backed ‘MEP’ programme pledges to offer more than 10,000 UK students the chance to reach enhanced fluency in Mandarin within five years by means of “8 hours tuition a week, of which 4 should be taught lessons”. Didcot Girls’ School have been a part of the programme since 2017 and have witnessed many examples of rapid student progress from total beginners in Year 7 to students who chose to continue learning Chinese at A-level and beyond, and even to a few who have been able to move to China to complete Sixth form and/or University study. Click here for more information on the programme nationally.

Please see the grid below for an overview of curriculum time and extra-curricular opportunities available at each stage of the MEP 5-year programme.

Please note that in order to provide all required Mandarin lessons, students in Years 7 and 8 will have fewer technology lessons and will not have Dance lessons.

Please refer to the FAQs below and if you have any further questions, email the Head of Mandarin, Lucy Wicks on

Year group

Taught hours

Homework expectations

Extra-curricular opportunities



6 hours per fortnight Mandarin


(+ 2 hours of Spanish for Y7 only)

2-3 hours per week made up of:

  • Character-writing practice
  • Research of cultural topics
  • Teach a parent/sibling


Mandarin club, eg, singing club, library corner by Chinese assistant teacher


Possible day-trip of interest to Chinese culture or in-house event (could be virtual)

End of year “hurdle” tests in Term 5 in Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing


7 hours per fortnight on the timetable + 1 Student Guidance slot per week (30 mins) = 8 hours

3-4 hours per week made up of:

  • Character and sentence writing practice
  • Vocab learning and retrieval
  • “Just for fun” listening and reading to extend vocabulary

Mandarin club, eg, singing club, library corner by Chinese assistant teacher


Possible day-trip of interest to Chinese culture or in-house event (could be virtual)

End of year “hurdle” tests in Term 5 in Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing


6 hours per fortnight on the timetable PLUS

2 SGT slots per week = 8 hours


3-4 hours per week made up of:

  • Reading online TCB (The Chairman’s Bao website)
  • Listening – to songs, videos, TV shows as recommended
  • Vocab learning and teaching!

Summer trip to China (heavily subsidised by MEP organisers, British Council and Hanban)


Opportunities to engage with Chinese assistant in and out of class

End of year “hurdle” tests in Term 5 in, Listening, Reading and Writing (no speaking)


4 hours per fortnight on timetable


One twilight -after-school lesson (Thursdays) per week



2 SGT slots per week

= 8 hours


3-4 hours per week made up of:

-Review of vocabulary

- Exam-style practice in Listening/Reading

-Prepare to answer questions about your life in spoken Chinese

- Prepare to write short essays about your life

- Complete a section of an Online course to develop skills for HSK 3 exam

Possible day-trip of interest to Chinese culture or in-house event (could be virtual)


Off-timetable event in July – tourism project with day-trip to Oxford Brookes University to present findings

HSK 3 (external qualification but sat at DGS) exam in May-June.  Tests Listening, Reading, Writing (no speaking)



5 hours per fortnight on the timetable


1 SGT per week (compulsory) plus one intervention (invitation-only) SGT

= 6-7 hours


2-3 hours per week made up of:

-Review of vocabulary

- Exam-style practice in Listening/Reading

-Prepare to answer questions about your life in spoken Chinese

- Prepare to write short essays about your life

- Additional “just for fun” reading and listening on cultural topics

Opportunities to engage with Chinese assistant in and out of class


No off-timetable events

GCSE exam in Summer (May-June), papers in all 4 skills of Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing.


Currently Edexcel is the exam board.


  1. Is my child committed to the Mandarin Excellence Programme for the full 5-year programme?

No, however we hope that a successful start in Year 7 will allow the girls to experience success and want to persevere to take the GCSE in Year 11.In the event that your child is feeling unhappy about their learning, we ask that they/you speak to the teacher, or contact them by email so that issues can be discussed and support put in place.“Dropping” a subject should be a last resort and will only be actioned with full support of parents/guardians, teacher and Head of Year in the best interests of the student and with a suitable alternative being available (usually only at the end of an academic year).

  1. Do they have to take part in the SGT (during tutor time) and twilight (after school -Y10 only) sessions?

Yes, where these are a part of their timetabled lessons.Only very rare/special circumstances may result in the SGT lessons being cancelled (eg. First Give events) or students able to miss them (eg. To attend celebration events).Students should not miss them to attend music sessions.

Twilight lessons will only be cancelled in the event of the school being closed or the teacher being absent.In the latter case, parents will be notified via email and students may go to S1 to self-study if alternative arrangements cannot be made.

  1. What happens if they miss a lesson?

We ask students to be proactive when they miss a whole or part of a lesson.In many cases the teacher will email the absent students the resources.In other lessons they may need to chat to classmates or the teacher to find out what was covered.Students should attempt all homework, even if they miss lessons.They are able to contact teachers by email to arrange times to seek additional help if necessary.

  1. Do they have to go on the trip to China in Year 9 or take part in the Year 10 off-timetable event?

These are key components of the MEP course that add to the taught hours (for example, the trip counts as 40 hours towards the total).Therefore, missing out on them may disadvantage them relative to their classmates.Request for exemptions will be considered on a case by case basis.Please contact the Head of Mandarin with details.Most day trips and the longer trip is subsidised and further financial support is available for pupil premium students.

  1. How can I support them in their learning outside of school if I cannot speak Mandarin?!

We understand that many parents cannot help with the learning.However, you can support your daughter by talking through homework tasks with them to ensure they understand what is expected.In addition, monitor their work and in the case of unease, please encourage them to contact the teacher with questions or for help.Where teachers can see effort has been made to complete a task, there will be no penalty to the student for non-completion, aside from the offer of extra help where needed.

  1. My child is a heritage Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) speaker. May they take part in the MEP?

In the case of children of Mandarin or Cantonese speaking parents, it may not be appropriate for them to join the classes of non-native beginner students.The work will be too straightforward and students may lose interest in this case.However, where students already have some Chinese, they will be supported to take the GCSE qualification (in Mandarin or Cantonese) alongside another Modern Language, as this gives them the best suite of qualifications overall.There may be exceptions to the above rule, so please email the Head of Mandarin if you are unsure.

Click here for more information and to watch videos about how the Mandarin Excellence Programme is delivered in schools nationally.



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