Clear communication is an essential and transferrable life skill, so the main emphasis of our teaching is always the development of our students’ facility with language. We explore ideas through reading and listening, then communicating ideas through writing and speaking with clarity. We believe that Literature enhances our lives and allows us to empathise with people different than ourselves; to develop our imaginations, and become more creative, productive citizens.
The Year 7 and 8 English curriculum begins by exploring the stories from the very dawn of civilisation. Pupils learn how the ideas within ancient myths, legends and traditional tales resonate throughout history and up to the present day. The curriculum outlines how the English language developed, by way of the Oral Tradition, and the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare.
Pupils consider why stories are important to all human cultures and how they arise, whether to make sense of difficult philosophical questions, or to entertain and delight.
Students will learn about a range of ‘big ideas’ in English such as; the presentation of fantastical elements; ‘love’ in all its many forms; the power of metaphor and allusion for creating new meanings and/or unlocking implicit information from texts of all forms.
All students take part in two ‘challenges’ within their English curriculum:
The Reading Challenge: Students are expected to read regularly across a range of texts. The ‘Reading Challenge’ provides a structure with recommended reads and the chance to share your reading with peers. Students have regular access to the School Library through English lessons. Reading and recommendations are shared in these Library lessons.
The Writing Challenge: Each term students are engaged in a creative writing challenge. Different topics and stimulus materials are shared, explored and developed. As with the Reading Challenge, sharing this writing with peers is a key element.
In Year 9 students look at language and literature from a modern viewpoint, drawing on earlier learning. Students will explore how writers have described their experiences, and how we make sense of these texts. Students will learn about conflicting interpretations and manipulations of texts. As in Years 7 and 8 students will work with a range of challenging texts including novels, plays, poems and non-fiction writing.
In Years 10 and 11, students explore a broad variety of texts, ranging from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to poetry written in the twenty first century. Students develop their critical readings skills, their creative writing skills and their confidence to discuss the big ideas which shape our world. We look closely at the writer’s craft, thinking about how meanings are created, and how those meanings can help us to understand the world as it used to be, as well as helping us to make sense of today. Students are encouraged to consider writers’ viewpoints and perspectives, and are taught to pick up on the many varied nuances and tones in a text; an increasingly valuable skill in today’s world.
We value discussion as a means to shape and articulate ideas, and students are given plenty of opportunities to talk and explore the themes covered in our chosen texts before they begin to put their ideas in writing. The poetry studied in particular allows for discussions of race, gender, history, and our place in the natural world; students benefit greatly from considering these themes and learning to think critically about them.
Our curriculum has been organised so that students are taught new material gradually, and taught texts are interleaved with new material to aid retention of knowledge. Giving students the opportunity to revisit taught texts throughout the course means that by the end of year 11 they can make links between the different texts and writers they have studied: they are able to reflect on the ideas in different texts; to discuss and write about their own experiences.
In the Sixth Form students can choose from two disciplines within the English curriculum:
Those studying English Language & Literature, focus on the question of style in literature (the field of stylistics), and consider, for example, how poets create a “voice” within a poem, and how novelists and playwrights create vivid characters and distinct viewpoints using language techniques. The big ideas of the subject are genre, narrative, point of view, register, representation, and literariness. Students will explore the difference between everyday language and ‘literature’; developing their ability to understand and communicate in different ‘modes’ of English.
Students following the English Literature curriculum study a range of texts created over the last 500 years. Teaching focuses on the ‘historicist’ approach: considering how writers influence each other, and also how events and social changes are reflected in novels, poetry and plays. Students will consider literary themes across time as well as how a specific historical moment has influenced the literature of the day. English Literature is full of ‘Big Ideas’, encouraging students to consider themes and issues that extend beyond the pages of a book and into contemporary life.
Both disciplines include an individual critical essay element. This challenges students to read, analyse and write about text of their own choice from a particular academic viewpoint.