Skip to main content

Retirement day!

Well, since it is a pretty momentous day for me, I might as well record the fact that today was my last day of teaching French.

After graduating from Reading with a degree in French and Linguistics and doing a PGCE at the West London Institute, I began teaching at Tiffin School in Kingston-upon-Thames. After four years I moved on to Hampton School, an independent school for boys which had formerly been a grammar school. During my time at Hampton I did an MA at the Institute of Education, for which I wrote a dissertation on second language learning and acquisition, with a particular focus on the work of Stephen Krashen, who still holds considerable influence. I have always had a particular interest in second language learning theory and methodology.

After four years at Hampton teaching French and a little German I moved to Ripon Grammar School to be a Head of Department. At that stage my only future career plan was to possibly move into teacher education at some point, but opportunties in that field became rare, and, in any case, I continued to enjoy teaching above all else. Being a HoD also provided opportunities to mentor other teachers, either younger colleagues or PGCE students doing their placements with us at Ripon. Above all else I have always found the classroom a stimulating, challenging and enjoyable place to be. So I stayed at Ripon from 1988 to this day, supplementing my teaching with cricket and rugby coaching for a while, all the while running trips to France and a long-running exchange which, I am pleased to say, is going to continue.

I have always been extremely lucky to work alongside very talented colleagues, both in my departement and in others. Ripon GS is an excellent school which recently got the Ofsted "outstanding". In some ways conditions for teachers have improved. There is less cover and less admin to do, but performance management, targets and accountability have added other pressures. Overall the job has got harder as greater pressure is placed upon you to achieve the best results and as the expectation to produce enjoyable lessons has grown. We have always had to teach too many lessons for them all to be excellent.

So now it's a bit of a relief to shed some responsibility and focus on other areas of life. I shall have more time to keep refining and building up the site, which I began in 2002, after learning to do some simple HTML language. So look out for a relative frenzy of new resources in the months to come!


  1. Congratulations! I hope you will enjoy a bit of a breather, and some time for yourself!

    Tammy @ Teaching FSL


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Preparing for GCSE speaking: building a repertoire

As your Y11 classes start their final year of GCSE, one potential danger of moving from Controlled Assessment to terminal assessment of speaking is to believe that in this new regime there will be little place for the rote learning or memorisation of language. While it is true that the amount of learning by heart is likely to go down and that greater use of unrehearsed (spontaneous) should be encouraged, there are undoubtedly some good techniques to help your pupils perform well on the day.

I clearly recall, when I marked speaking tests for AQA 15-20 years ago, that schools whose candidates performed the best were often those who had prepared their students with ready-made short paragraphs of language. Candidates who didn't sound particularly like "natural linguists" (e.g. displaying poor accents) nevertheless got high marks. As far as an examiner is concerned is doesn't matter if every single candidate says that last weekend they went to the cinema, saw a James Bond…

Worried about the new GCSEs?

Twitter and MFL Facebook groups are replete with posts expressing concerns about the new GCSEs and, in particular, the difficulty of the exam, grades and tiers. I can only comment from a distance since I am no longer in the classroom, but I have been through a number of sea changes in assessment over the years so may have something useful to say.

Firstly, as far as general difficulty of papers is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that the new assessment is harder (not necessarily in terms of grades though). This is particularly evident in the writing tasks and speaking test. Although it will still be possible to work in some memorised material in these parts of the exam, there is no doubt that weaker candidates will have more problems coping with the greater requirement for unrehearsed language. Past experience working with average to very able students tells me some, even those with reasonable attainment, will flounder on the written questions in the heat of the moment. Others will…

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:

Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sport…