The central focus of teaching in the English Department is the individual student, with loosely mixed-ability setting and a supported low-ability group in each year. We aim to foster a love of literature, a passion for creativity and a critical eye for both analysis and the finer detail of writing, through differentiated tasks with an emphasis on independent learning.
Students are encouraged to refine their basic literacy skills, as well as being taught the more technical skills required for studying English Language and Literature within the three disciplines of Reading, Writing and Speaking and Listening - the areas for regular, formal assessment each term.
Reflecting recent changes to the assessment of English, we have adjusted our curriculum to ensure we have a comprehensive programme of study from Year 7 through to Year 11, which not only prepares every student for the wider world beyond school and education but also has a heavy emphasis on perfecting the skills required for the new GCSE English and English Literature examinations. Students are taught and encouraged to:
- communicate accurately and effectively in a range of real-life speaking and listening scenarios
- read with a specific focus - to identify, explain, summarise and/or analyse both obvious and implied meaning, while evaluating writers’ chosen methods to achieve their desired effects
- write for a range of audiences and purposes, employing appropriate techniques for specific effects, while being reminded of the importance of accurate spelling, punctuation, grammar and handwriting
Outside of the classroom, we offer a range of extracurricular opportunities for students to further their interest in English with a writers’ club, ‘Write Now!’, and a reading group shadowing the national Carnegie Award. We also run an annual 500 Words writing competition in parallel with the BBC Radio 2 version.
At KS3 students are introduced to a wide range of text types produced for a variety of purposes and audiences. In each year the course is divided into six half-termly units, with one focussed on reading skills and one on writing skills in each school term. For groups split evenly between two teachers, each teacher takes a unit each and spends the whole term on this unit. Speaking and listening skills are interwoven into all these units with students regularly expected to participate in small group discussion, give presentations on research or a prepared topic and, where appropriate, devise and present dramatic role-play performances. <link>
The teaching of these skills builds on the KS1 and KS2 Literacy curriculum to increase students’ working knowledge and application of literacy while introducing them to the greater demands and knowledge required for their GCSE studies.
Over the three years students will read and study at least two whole novels; two whole plays, including extracts from a range and at least one whole Shakespeare play; two themed collections of poetry (including modern and pre-1914 texts) and a collection of pre-1914 and modern Gothic-themed short stories. Students will also study and learn to apply in their own writing the techniques of creative writing as well as a large range of non-fiction texts, including autobiography/biography, travel writing, newspapers, magazine articles, advice/persuasive leaflets, etc.
In Years 7 and 8 students all have one timetabled, structured Library Lesson per fortnight to encourage independent reading and Year 7 also have one dedicated Grammar Lesson per fortnight to consolidate the basic and technical grammar skills learnt under the new Primary curriculum, including spelling rules and punctuation.
As well as ongoing Assessments for Learning, students will sit a formal end of unit, in-class, timed assessment each half term (or two per term for shared groups) which are structured in the same format and applying the specific skills required of the new terminal GCSE Language and Literature exam papers. This will ensure students grow used to the expectations of the exams and increase their resilience for tackling the requirements.
At KS4 the Department follows the new AQA GCSE courses in both English Language and English Literature with a total of four terminal examinations at the end of Year 11 (two exams per subject).
The two GCSE courses are taught in tandem with one another, overlapping and embedding the skills required for each qualification.
English Language GCSE
The aim of the course is to enable students to develop the skills they need to read, understand and analyse a wide range of different fiction and non-fiction texts from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries as well as to write clearly, coherently and accurately using a range of vocabulary and sentence structures.
Students sit two examinations, each with a reading and a writing section:
Paper 1 - Fiction
- Section A: 4 questions based on one previously unseen extract from a fiction text
- Section B: Creative or Descriptive Writing
Paper 2 - Non-Fiction
- Section A: 4 questions based on two previously unseen extracts from two non-fiction texts written in different centuries
- Section B: Writing to express a viewpoint in students’ chosen style (argue, persuade or advise)
English Literature GCSE
The aim of the course is to develop an understanding of literary styles and writers’ methods in a ‘skills-based approach’ to analysing the ways writers present characters, themes and ideas and their use of language and structure.
Students sit two examinations and both are ‘closed book’ (meaning texts cannot be taken into the exam room). Extracts from the texts will be provided on the question papers as a starting point for all the texts, with exception of the modern text.
Over the two years, students will study:
- one modern text (such as Lord of the Flies or An Inspector Calls)
- one pre-1900 novel (currently The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)
- one Shakespeare play (Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet)
- a collection of 15 poems under the theme of Conflict and Power a variety of unseen poems