The idea of an association that would promote language learning and support language teachers in the independent sector was born during a train journey shared by Daphne West , Head of Languages at Sherborne Girls and Peter Sutch Head of Languages at Sherborne School in the early nineties. Networking led to a working party which held its inaugural morning conference at Dulwich and included Peter Hamilton, then Head of Modern Languages at Westminster, Anthony Earl and Peter Kino, the then Head of Languages at Sevenoaks. They are regarded as ISMLA’s founding members.

The reasons for wanting to set up such an organization at the time were:

  1. A.L.L. represented above all the concerns of state school colleagues, and that dictated the emphases in conferences and publications
  2. many small independent schools needed a forum to learn from each other , have ideas, and be bolstered up 
  3. increasingly, independent schools were providing the nation ‘s linguists, and that, unfortunately remains true; over 60% of university single language undergraduates come from “public” schools. 
  4. these schools have unashamed cultural and literary interests which state schools cannot always provide. Some staff have a toe in university-type research.

The association developed quickly, producing a bulletin, (now a fully-fledged newsletter) and an annual conference; and some sporadic area meetings. Excellent and successful conferences were held at independent schools all over the country, the first one at Dulwich College, on 18 September 1993 and the best attended always being the London based ones. The Committee always held the view that conferences away from London were highly desirable every other year, even if attendance was thereby reduced.


The association now has a national profile, and is consulted by government bodies. The onus to do our national duty is even stronger. It is accepted that we form a trio with the language conferences run at Oxford (Sir Richard Taylor) and at Cambridge (Oliver Prior). The finances are in glowing shape.

We have a superb enthusiastic and unfailing hardworking and loyal committee and an impressive list of Patrons, such as Heads who are linguists and can lend their support.

Latest Updates

German Essay Prize for Sixth-Formers, A German Classic: Goethe’s Faust, part I

The Oxford German Network announce the launch of a new essay prize competition: ‘A German Classic’ aimed at students with a GCSE or equivalent in German and currently in Year 12.

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Modern Languages and the Road Ahead - 4th July 2017

Hosted by City Heights at Dulwich College, 4th July 2017, with keynote speaker Dr Rachel Hawkes.

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Ofqual announce changes to grade standards in A level MFL

Ofqual announces it will take action this summer to ensure standards are set appropriately in A level French, German and Spanish.

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