The study of Russian is an enjoyable and increasingly rare experience, and Bolton School is one of the few places in England which still offers Russian at both GCSE and A-Level. To take Russian to GCSE is to gain a qualification which would stand out on any university application form. It offers pupils the chance not only to learn about one of the leading Eastern European languages, but also to discover more about the culture of one of the most fascinating nations in the world. This is the nation, after all, that was described by Sir Winston Churchill as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” We endeavour here, at the biggest Russian department in the country, to help the boys unravel some of the mysteries of Russia and the Russian language.
Boys commence their study of Russian in Year 8 and invariably have little difficulty in mastering the Cyrillic alphabet. Aided by enthusiastic teachers, excellent resources and some fascinating realia, the subject is brought very much to life and, before long, boys are able to engage in simple conversational Russian and to comprehend all manner of articles, signs and texts. Needless to say, this is expanded upon immeasurably in Year 9 as greater oral fluency and mastery of more complex grammatical concepts begin to take hold.
The subsequent two-year course to GCSE builds upon much of the work already studied in Years 8 and 9. Pupils will be expected to speak and write about a variety of topics, including themselves, their family and friends, their home, leisure interests, sporting events and the like. During this period, pupils can expect a variety of lessons, ranging from timetabled oral examination preparation through to the development of independent study skills. The vast majority of candidates in recent years have attained A*-B grades and the Russian department’s public examination results constitute some of the best in the School. Class sizes tend to be small and pupils benefit immensely from the sessions with our native Russian speaker, who prepares them for their oral examination, usually in groups of five or six.
Very few boys drop Russian at the end of Year 9 and such is the love that they develop for the subject, a good number choose to continue studying it in the sixth form. Our success at AS and at A2 has been recognised nationally on several occasions when we have featured in the Good Schools’ Guide as the best Russian department in the country. At GCSE and at A-Level, we follow the Edexcel Pearson specifications and a boy studying Russian in the sixth form can expect to cover a broad range of topics from the Environment through to Social Issues and International Affairs, with a little bit of literature and cultural analysis thrown in for good measure.
The department organises a biennial trip to Russia, usually to Moscow and St Petersburg, which has proven to be immensely enjoyable for all concerned, offering great educational insight and unforgettable memories for those who are fortunate enough to experience it. In addition to providing boys with the chance to witness the enchanting nature of Russia first-hand, the visit includes, amongst other things, trips to the Kremlin, Red Square, the Hermitage and St Basil’s Cathedral. It also paves the way for the boys to meet their Russian penfriends when we call in at our link school in Moscow – School 1224.
During the Easter break, each year in Year 13, A-Level students travel to the Pushkin Institute in Moscow for a seven-day stay, during which they hone their Russian skills prior to the crucial A-Level examinations. There the boys attend classes, usually conducted exclusively in Russian, gain further experience of daily life in Russia and return to England in an excellent position to do well in the examinations that follow.
In addition to the above, there are innumerable activities that the School offers to enrich all who may be interested in Russia and the Russian language. There is a Russian Club, which meets every Friday lunchtime. Here, the boys gain an insight into many different aspects of Russia and Russian to supplement the learning that they do in class. While there are discussion on the history and geography of the country, boys also learn about everything from traditional Russian games through to recipes for authentic Russian dishes. Furthermore, the department is at the heart of the Year 11 MFL day that takes place annually and provides students with a chance to do activities that go beyond the examination specifications. All in all, if you wish to unravel the enigma that is Russia, then you can expect to do just that in this thriving department.
Head of Department
P G Davidson, BA
Members of the Department
Mrs J L Cotton, BA
R J Lees, BA
Mrs V Tymchyshyn, BA
N R W Wyatt, BA