In the first three years we aim to develop:
- knowledge about how language works and is correctly employed
- responses to literature of all genres and at an increasing level of sophistication
- language skills in a variety of ways: to express feelings and experience; to persuade; discuss and analyse
- formal and informal oral communication skills
Staff and facilities
The department has a staff of seven full-time teachers and four part-time teachers.
We occupy eight rooms in the Woodsmoor Building. We make extensive use of the Library and the ICT suites for teaching.
Subject time per 10-day cycle
Lower School – six lessons with one hour of homework
IGCSE English and English literature (compulsory) – seven lessons with two hours of homework
A-level – 10 lessons with additional individual study, moving to 11 lessons in the Upper Sixth
English in the Lower School
Pupils read a selection of challenging and award-winning texts which bridge the gap between canonical classics and cutting-edge contemporary.
Outside of class, pupils can attend creative writing workshops and will have the opportunity to have their work published in ‘Like, Literary’, the School’s literary magazine, and to submit entries to the prestigious W.S. Johnston Creative Writing Prize.
Many young wordsmiths relish putting their public speaking skills into practice at the Mini Model United Nations, or in the Lower School Debating Society, whilst others enjoy bringing their favourite poems to life in the Poetry By Heart competition. Those who enjoy puzzles and gathering news contribute to the First Year library magazine ‘On the Same Page’ and the Harry Potter Club meets weekly to discuss the finer details of potions and patronuses.
Work is taught in such a way that several aims are covered at a time. For example the close reading and study of a text can encourage creativity through the production of writing in a variety of forms.
Presentation and oral communication skills are developed through discussion or dramatic role play and, as an integral part, specific technical skills such as spelling and grammar are learnt.
Specific attention is paid to the development of personal reading through the ‘Book Buzz’ scheme in the First and Second Year. We also organise theatre trips and have visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour to experience the world of Harry Potter. The librarians organise events such as the dark and atmospheric ‘Forest Library’ Campfire reading, complete with torchlit stories and the creation of reading ‘leaves.’
English further up the school
At IGCSE we concentrate on preparing pupils for the compulsory English and English Literature examinations, which are based on non-literary and media texts as well as the study of the study of plays, poetry and novels, including a diverse array of voices. Pupils are given the opportunity to respond analytically, personally and imaginatively to texts which are studied in class. There are performances of set texts by visiting theatre companies, and we take the whole year group to the theatre when the opportunity arises.
At A-level pupils will study a range of prose, poetry and drama texts in depth, including at least one of Shakespeare’s plays and a post-2000 work. They will also respond to ‘unseen’ material and will be asked to make connections between texts.
Our main aim is to encourage and recognise each individual’s ability to delve deeply into novels, plays and poems. A-level English Literature students will engage in active debate about the texts’ literary, historical, philosophical or theatrical significance through a consideration of different critical perspectives and possible layers of meaning. We encourage each class member to read widely so that they can express and develop creative and independent opinions about the texts they are studying and the ‘unseen’ material they encounter. Reading a wide range of imaginative works enables students to gain skills and aptitudes which can be transferred to future employment contexts and will help them to reflect on their life experiences.
Sixth Form pupils enjoy regular theatre visits and a residential trip, with an annual visit to Warwick University to hear lectures by University Professors and guest such as the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, followed by a journey to Stratford-upon-Avon to experience the Royal Shakespeare Company’s outstanding productions.
For those who enjoy lively discussions there is a weekly Debating Society. Pupils can also demonstrate their public speaking skills by participating in the ‘Poetry by Heart’ competition. In addition, Lower School pupils meet at lunchtime to generate their own creative pieces. The English and Drama Departments joined to write poetry for the Robert F Kennedy Foundation for Human Rights and Curious Minds, which culminated in a ‘Poetic Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ for Greater Manchester.
There is an extension reading group for Middle School and Sixth Formers. Recent pupils’ choices have included ‘The Midnight Library’ ‘The Color Purple’, ‘Never Let Me Go’, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Fight Club’.
Guest authors and speakers
The department regularly team up with the library to invite a wide range of well-known and up-and-coming authors, poets, writers and speakers to introduce their work and talk about their inspirations, and to take workshops with our pupils.
Recent visitors have included film-maker and writer Matt Dickinson, Darkmouth author Shane Hegarty, best-selling Scottish crime writer Val McDermid, controversial young adult novelist M A Bennett and award-winning fiction writer Kim Slater. Zadie Smith, author of ‘White Teeth’ and ‘On Beauty’ recently hosted a webinar during which she addressed the questions students had submitted about literature, messages and meanings. The Welsh poet Owen Sheers also visits the School each year to answer pupils’ questions and to read from his 2005 collection ‘Skirrid Hill’, which the Sixth Form pupils study for their A-level examination.
In the news
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- New magazine showcases exceptional literary potential