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Modern Languages

The Department’s main languages are Spanish, Mandarin, French, German and Russian. Other languages may be available by arrangement.

The learning of languages can open up future professional, sporting or life opportunities. The significance of language skills to our economy and public life is consistently upheld by the Russell Group of Universities and the CBI, among others. We hope that Merchiston boys will discover many interconnections with their other subjects and interests as they move forward in their learning and as they improve their communicative skills.

A varied programme of events, activities in school, nearby or abroad aims to support learners in their enjoyment of their language studies. Staff also offer regular clinics for focussed revision, practice or guidance.


Clare Flanagan

Clare Flanagan

Head of Department

Dr Flanagan graduated from the University of Glasgow in French and German, and wrote her doctorate in German cultural history at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. She has a wide range of experience in both higher and secondary education, teaching and examining in both languages.

Jenny Chang-Robertson

Jenny Chang-Robertson

Teacher of Mandarin

Mrs Chang-Robertson did her PGDE at the University of Edinburgh. She taught at Hillhead High School, then at Bannerman High School before joining Merchiston.

Stephen Horrocks

Stephen Horrocks

Teacher of French, Spanish and EAL

Mr Horrocks teaches both French and Spanish. He coaches rugby and cricket in the Senior School, and has organised many overseas tours with rugby teams. He tutors in Rogerson, and was a Sixth Form Housemaster for many years.

Fernando Martin

Fernando Martin

Teacher of Spanish

Mr Calvo Martin comes from Salamanca, and also studied at the University of Salamanca. He taught at George Heriot's for two years before joining Merchiston.

Joanna Nicol

Teacher of Spanish

Mrs Nicol graduated from the University of Aberdeen in French and Spanish. She went on to work in restaurants and hotels before deciding to become a teacher. She did her PGDE at the University of Edinburgh and she taught at Port Glasgow High School. In 2018, she was appointed Second in Department. She tutors in Chalmers West.

Daniel Rowlands

Daniel Rowlands

Teacher of French, Housemaster of Laidlaw North

Mr Rowlands taught at King's School Canterbury for five years before joining Merchiston. He is a rowing and rugby coach.


The Department has four spacious classrooms dedicated to each of the four main languages offered (French, German, Mandarin and Spanish), as well as two smaller classrooms used for Russian and VI Form teaching and for speaking practice. 


J4 and J5: an introduction to languages, based on activities and games, ranges across a variety of languages - Japanese, Italian, Russian and Spanish, for example.

I & II Form: Pupils take a foundation course in Spanish

III Form: Pupils do a block in each of four languages: Spanish, French, Mandarin and German.

IV Form: Pupils choose two languages. For 2019-20, these are chosen from French, Mandarin and Spanish.

Shell and V Form: Pupils continue with one or two languages from IV Form.

LVI and UVI: In the Sixth Form, French, German, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish are offered at A-Level, as well as Higher and Advanced Higher, depending on circumstances, language and year group.

In any year group, and particularly in upper Forms, additional languages may be available by arrangement. Pupils should approach the Head of Department with any such requests.


As well as trips toSpain, France, Germany and China, there is a variety of cultural, social, and learning events, including, for example:

  • Film trips; tapas evenings; competitions
  • Chinese New Year Dinner with our partner schools, St George’s and Kilgraston
  • Speakers, e.g. Language Ambassadors
  • Six-school days for VI Form in French, German and Spanish (with Fettes, Glenalmond, Loretto, Stewart’s Melville and Strathallan)
  • French LVI Workshop with Stewart’s Melville

Academic News

Our student-led Medical Society provides opportunities for prospective medics to collaboratively apply their scientific knowledge in a medical context. On average, 7% of our Year 13 students have applied for Medicine at university over the last three years.


Through our close links with the Roslin Institute, IGCSE and A Level pupils also get to experience advanced genetics techniques as well as a wide range of the usual practical work offered within schools. Being able to use the Roslin labs has enabled the department to deliver hands on experiments on subject matter elsewhere only able to be taught theoretically.

Ms Williams Head of Biology

Coming from a state school, science was taught very theoretically. Here at Merchiston, we do so many practicals to reinforce our knowledge. This has given me a totally different view on school in general: every day I wake up and I look forward to my lessons

Vincent B Year 11 (S4)