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Plenty to chew on;Secondary;Books;Modern languages

ESSOR. By Dani le Bourdais, Teresa Huntley, Malcolm Hope, Clive Thorpe. Oxford University Press Student's book pound;13.50. Teacher's book pound;30. Set of 4 cassettes pound;60 + VAT. Video pound;40 + VAT

Essor is OUP's latest A-level course, following its 14-16 course for high attainers, Envol. It makes a few nods to recent requirements, such as suggestions for the use of IT, but the course has a familiar feel.

Its 15 units cover topics such as animal rights, pollution and terrorism with increasingly difficult language and ideas. The material is varied and up-to-date, and attractively presented in full colour.

The course assumes fairly high-level reading and listening skills. The backbone consists of reading and listening exercises, which are generally well devised and well sequenced, moving from structured work on language and content to more open-ended tasks.

In contrast, the occasional literary extracts have no exploitation and seem to get lost. The most imaginative activities are in the Competences sections. These tackle the language skills needed at A-level thoroughly, with especially useful work on essay-planning and note-taking.

The inclusion of exercises on pronunciation continues one of Envol's innovative features, as does the integration of video material. But the poor sound quality of the video makes its uncompromisingly difficult material even less accessible.

The audio cassettes have some good unscripted interviews, and some stilted and lengthy re-recordings. Grammar points are treated briefly in French, with a grammar summary in English at the back, and key points are revised after every three units.

The teacher's book contains transcripts, suggested approaches to the material and some additional students' exercises, including English to French translations. This is a solid and carefully planned course well suited to able linguists, but some of the material is likely to be beyond average A-level students.

Kathy Wicksteed

Kathy Wicksteed is director of the International Centre at Campion School, Northampton

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