Subject Overview

The number of pupils studying Spanish in the UK and globally is consistently on the rise and it is fairly easy to see why. Spanish is the world’s second most spoken language by native speakers, with more than 400 million Spanish speakers in no less than 21 countries. The Spanish language and Hispanic cultures also continue to be increasingly dominant as a first or second language in the USA and for fellow English-speaking nations much closer to home. Spanish has emerged as ‘the most important language for the UK’ in an analysis made by the British Council. Additionally, certain aspects of Spanish make it easier to learn at the early stages, thanks to its similarities to other Romance languages and the fact that its pronunciation is relatively straightforward.  

Spanish has an ever-increasing presence in the global market. Emerging economies in Latin America mean that the scope for work and business opportunities arising from any knowledge of Spanish is rapidly increasing. Business and commerce aside, the vast range of countries where Spanish is spoken make an understanding of the language extremely useful for those who want to travel and experience other parts of the world. The idea that “everyone abroad speaks English” is a myth and if you really want to know a country and its people, you have to at least try to speak like them. 

The Hispanic World has of course produced many of the world’s most renowned artists, such as Francisco Goya, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo. Meanwhile, writers such as Cervantes, Vargas, Lorca and García Márquez continue to be praised and studied across the world. And of course, Spain and Latin America have and continue to produce many of the world’s greatest athletes and sports stars; from five time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, to Olympic swimming gold medallist, Mireia Belmonte, to the winner of seventeen grand slam tennis titles, Rafa Nadal, there is no certainly no shortage of successful Hispanic role-models. Similarly, in music and broader popular culture, international stars, hits and trends continue to emerge from all places Spanish-speaking; whether you are a pop fan of artists like Shakira and J-LO, a reggaeton enthusiast or just love the tradition of flamenco, there is a whole world of Spanish music for you.  

The real question is, why wouldn’t you study Spanish? 


Key Stage 3 (Year 9)

Key Stage 3 is studied in Figures & Rudiments (years 7 & 8 at Stonyhurst St Mary's Hall), and continues into Lower Grammar (year 9 - Stonyhurst College)

Pupils follow a combination of plans and resources for the three years of work in KS3. Each year group attends one to two periods of Spanish a week, in addition to lessons in other languages.  

All resources and activities are clearly linked to the Modern Foreign Language framework in order for pupils to achieve the following outcomes: 

  • Linguistic competence 
  • Knowledge about language 
  • Creativity 
  • Intercultural understanding 

Pupils follow the Spanish course, Mira, which puts a strong emphasis on the practical use of language. Pupils are encouraged to develop confidence in speech and writing through regular formative and summative assessment, which ranges from vocabulary tests, to end of unit exams, to speaking games and quizzes. Differentiation is paramount and all students are encouraged and guided to reach their own full potential. All units have a variety of activities and challenges, including extension activities for the quickest finishers and most able linguists.

We use online programmes, such as thisislanguage, Linguascope and mflgames to help make language learning as fun and interactive as possible. Students are regularly praised in Spanish and a maximum amount of target-language use in lessons is encouraged. In addition, pupils can obtain stickers, stamps, postcards and other awards based on effort and achievement.

Finally, pupils benefit from presentations, games and cultural activities led by the Spanish Assistant, who this year happens to be a flamenco dancer! 


GCSE (Years 10 & 11)

Grammar (year 10) and Syntax (year 11) 

The specification followed at GCSE Spanish is AQA. View the specification here.

In Grammar, pupils are introduced to the AQA Spanish text book and online Kerboodle learning platform. During this year, Theme 1 (Identity and Culture) is studied in detail and pupils are introduced the various assessment requirements on the GCSE course. The core grammar topics of major tenses, pronouns and prepositions are also covered.  

In Syntax, pupils move on to cover Theme 2 (Local, national, international and global areas of interest) and Theme 3 (Current and future study and employment). In addition to covering the core grammar topics of modal verbs, more complex tenses and the subjunctive, there is an increased focus on preparation for the four different assessments. Pupils will either be entered for Foundation or Higher in all four of the assessments:  

Paper 1: Listening - 35 minutes (Foundation)/45 minutes (Higher) - 25% 

Paper 2: Speaking - 7-9 minutes (Foundation)/10-12 minutes (Higher) - 25% 

Paper 3: Reading - 45 minutes (Foundation)/1 hour (Higher) - 25% 

Paper 4: Writing - 1 hour (Foundation)/1 hour 15 minutes (Higher) - 25% 

All pupils in Syntax and often in Grammar have weekly speaking practice with the Spanish Assistant who is always a native speaker.  

It is intended that each year, GCSE Spanish pupils will have the opportunity to visit a Spanish-speaking country on a Stonyhurst educational visit. Recently, GCSE pupils spent time in Andalusia and this year pupils have the chance to go to Cuba!  


A Level (sixth form)

The specification followed at A Level is AQA Spanish.

Studying any language at higher level is not only highly stimulating and enjoyable, but it gives pupils access to a much wider range of university courses at top universities. Spanish is offered through various courses in Higher Line.

At Stonyhurst we offer a two year A level course which aims primarily to create fluent communicators of Spanish who gain a strong appreciation and understanding of the various cultures and identities within the Hispanic world. The course is rigorous and demanding, although our highly specialised teachers make the best possible use of the most up to date and practical resources to complement their own significant experience and expertise. Similar to GCSE, the A level course enhances pupils’ skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing, although there is an increased emphasis on grammatical sophistication and there are the additional challenges of film and literature analysis. Pupils tend to find the study of cultural texts, such as film and literature, a welcome and hugely interesting challenge and an apt preparation for the demands of any languages-related course at university.  

The cultural texts currently taught and studied in detail are Guillermo del Toro’s El laberinto del fauno (2006) and Laura Esquivel’s Como agua para chocolate (1989). Reference is however made to several other films, novels and other cultural texts, as appropriate.  

The assessment for A level is as follows:  

Paper 1: Listening, Reading and Writing. 2 hour and 30 minute examination worth 50% of the total A Level. The core themes include: Aspects of Hispanic society; Artistic culture in the Hispanic world; Multiculturalism in Hispanic society; Aspects of political life in Hispanic society. 

Paper 2: Writing. 2 hour examination worth 20% of the total A Level. This includes either one text and one film or two texts from the lists set in the specification (currently the film and novel noted above). 

Paper 3: Speaking. 21-23 minutes (including 5 minutes preparation time). Examination worth 30% of the total A Level. 

The second year of the course in particular encourages the development of skills in researching, analysing and discussing current affairs and contemporary preoccupations within the Hispanic world. Pupils are regularly tested on vocabulary and grammar, but also in their skills in essay writing and translation. Each A level pupil has their own weekly session with the Spanish Assistant to work on their speaking.  

Finally, all Spanish students in Higher Line are encouraged to attend study days at local universities and trips abroad whenever possible. For example, this year, Spanish A level students will attend an essay writing workshop focused on El laberinto del fauno at Manchester Metropolitan University and several of our Higher Line pupils will be joining us in Cuba! 

IB Diploma (sixth form)

The IB Diploma can be studied at Standard Level or Higher Level. Spanish IB is a subject that requires strong independent study skills and a high level of interest and aptitude for language learning. 

IB Spanish A  
This course is for mother-tongue speakers of Spanish who wish to study several works of Spanish literature as well as other works translated into Spanish. HL and SL students study a variety of texts over two years. Pupils are examined in their ability to analyse, judge and evaluate literary works in both spoken and written exams. 

IB Spanish B 
This course caters for second-language Hispanists who ideally will have achieved a good grade at GCSE. Topics studied include Media and Communication, Cultural diversity and Science and technology. Pupils on this course are tested in their ability to speak, read and write Spanish in a personalised and creative way.  

IB ab initio Spanish 
Students on this course will not have studied Spanish before but are required to reach a standard on a par with AS level in 2 years. The three main themes are: Individual and Society, Leisure and Work and the Urban/Rural Environment. The themes require an integrated approach and are tested using a wide variety of different stimulus styles. 

For further information related to any of the above IB courses, please visit the International Baccalaureate website

Finally, all Spanish students in Higher Line are encouraged to attend study days at local universities and trips abroad whenever possible. For example, this year, Spanish A level students will attend an essay writing workshop focused on El laberinto del fauno at Manchester Metropolitan University and several of our Higher Line pupils will be joining us in Cuba!