In English we strive to develop a life-long love of reading, writing and language. Our aim is to ensure that all students enjoy English and achieve the best qualifications they can. We want them to read with enthusiasm and understanding and write with confidence and style. They should also be able to listen to others with respect and attention and talk with confidence in formal and informal situations. To underpin this, by the time our students leave Stanborough, we want our students to achieve confidence in and mastery of writing.
Head of department: Mr P O’Connor
What will students study?
Each term we study one significant literary text, e.g. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare in Year 7, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in Year 8. Using the text as a springboard, students work on a range of tasks to develop their reading and writing skills. They also have opportunities to develop their skills by taking part in at least one formal presentation each term.
In Year 9 students begin to prepare more explicitly for their final GCSE exams in Year 11. They study three significant literary texts – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Knife that Killed Me by Anthony McGowan and Macbeth by William Shakespeare. We use each of these texts as the basis for a wide range of reading and writing and speaking and listening activities.
In Years 10 and 11, students study a range of classic texts – Animal Farm by George Orwell, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R. L. Stevenson and Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. There is also an anthology of poetry from 1789 to the present day, linked by the theme of “conflict” which we explore in preparation for the students’ final Year 11 examinations in GCSE English Literature. To achieve their spoken language qualification, students are required to make a formal presentation to a small audience of other students which is filmed and submitted to the exam board for checking. The GCSE English Language examination is based on the analysis of unseen extracts from literary and non-literary texts written in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. To prepare for this examination we study a wide range of texts so that students can develop greater confidence about responding to texts independently. Students also use these texts as stimulus for their own writing. Students follow the OCR course for both English literature and English language.
There are two possible A-Level courses that students of English can follow: AQA ‘A’ A-Level English Language or AQA ‘B’ A-Level English Literature.
In English language there are no set texts as students are learning how to apply a wide range of theories and ideas about language to unseen texts as well as creating their own texts and commenting on their own choices of language and structure. The coursework involves creative writing and an opportunity to investigate an aspect of language of their own choice in negotiation with their teacher.
In A-level Literature students will study either crime writing or political writing by studying one post-2000 prose text and two others, including one poetry text and one pre-1900 text. Texts studied may include The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake and A Handmaid’s Tail by Margaret Atwood. Students will also be expected to analyse an unseen text in the exam. Students will also study a range of texts within the genre of tragedy or comedy. Texts studied may include Othello by William Shakespeare, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Brighton Rock by Graham Greene and Atonement by Ian McEwan. Students have a freer choice about which texts to study for their coursework but must link their ideas to an anthology of critical writing supplied by the exam board. Their responses to the texts in their coursework can be both critical and creative.
How can I support my child in this subject?
The best way to support your child in their study of this subject is to be a reading partner and a critical friend. It is helpful for you to read the books that your child is studying in school so that you can discuss them with them. If they are studying plays, it is useful for you to take them to see the play in performance, especially if they are studying Shakespeare. Be a critical friend by reading their written work and complimenting them on the good features of their writing while also pointing out sections that could be expressed more clearly or written more accurately.
What equipment does my child need in this subject?
It is important to make sure that your child has several black pens and at least one red pen and a pencil. The red pens are used when students are assessing their own work or the work written by a classmate. Rulers are essential, not only to underline headings but also to draw the charts and graphs we often use in our written work. A good pencil (and a sharpener and a rubber) will help your child take part successfully in activities that require them to visualise what they have read with quick sketches and diagrams. Make sure that they have a pack of four highlighters too because we can use them to mark significant parts of the text which they might want to quote in their response to a text. You should also give them a good school dictionary to help them understand what they are reading and a thesaurus to support their attempts to use a wider range of vocabulary.
Celebrating successes in this subject
Teachers use reward points every lesson to recognise the effort, attainment and presentation of students. Each term subject prizes are given to students whose work has gone above and beyond what we might have expected. The very best students in each year group are also recognised when they are given the subject prizes in the celebration of achievements evening. Some of the highlights of the year are special house competitions and events such as the Summer Reading Project in which all students give a book report to their class about a book they have enjoyed over the summer.
Extra-Curricular Activities and Visits
We take students on theatre trips, usually to see stage versions of the texts we are studying for the exam. Most recently we went to see an adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in Stevenage and a performance of the Woman in Black in London. Students also take part in the annual Festival of Words.