English across all key stages involves the development of students’ reading, writing and speaking and listening skills. Lessons are interactive and use varied methods of ensuring students are actively engaged in learning. IT facilities are well utilised. Resources used are up to date and selected to appeal to boys and their interests. Opportunities to involve students in off-site visits are offered wherever relevant to the boys’ learning.
Pupils study a wide range of modules at KS3, all of which help to teach boys important reading, writing and spoken language skills. They start the course in Year 7 with a transition unit on ‘School and Growing Up’, which draws on their own experiences of starting school as well as a number of different well known authors (such as J.K.Rowling and Roald Dahl) and their experience and ideas of school. The jump from Year 6 to Year 7 is a challenging one as we focus our teaching from the start on the skills needed for the new GCSE English Language syllabus.
In Year 8, pupils study a War unit looking at a variety of poems and texts set during the First and Second World Wars. They also study a Shakespeare play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Merchant of Venice) in the Summer term. Pupils complete a Literary Non-Fiction unit and a Current Issues and Debates unit, which allows them to consolidate their non-fiction and persuasive writing skills. All units are aimed at teaching them the skills needed for their GCSE Language Paper 1 and Paper 2 exam.
In Year 9, pupils begin the year with a unit entitled ‘Issues in Our Society’ which requires them to grasp difficult, often controversial ideas from a selection of texts aimed at teens. After Christmas, they start preparing for their English Literature GCSE by studying Macbeth. From Easter onwards, Year 9 continue to prepare for their Language GCSE by refining their Paper 1 and Paper 2 skills, and the year culminates in their Spoken Language assessment which is a compulsory element of the new GCSE syllabus.
In KS4 boys are set into one of 4 ability groups and have five hundred minutes of English per fortnight. We study the AQA specifications for GCSE English Language (8700) and GCSE English Literature (8702). All boys study for both qualifications. There are no tiers of entry: the syllabus and examinations are the same for all. Both qualifications are assessed by 100% examination and all examinations will be taken at the end of Year 11. The English Language paper has a spoken language endorsement which is certified separately and the result of which does not affect the GCSE result.
In order to be fully prepared for both GCSEs, it is absolutely vital that boys read a wide range of both quality fiction and nonfiction regularly for pleasure, including pre-C20th texts.
‘Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status (OECD, 2002).’
The following information is taken from the AQA specifications and outlines the skills students will develop during the course:
This GCSE specification in English Language will require students to study the following content:
Critical reading and comprehension
• critical reading and comprehension: identifying and interpreting themes, ideas and information in a range of literature and other high-quality writing; reading in different ways for different purposes, and comparing and evaluating the usefulness, relevance and presentation of content for these purposes; drawing inferences and justifying these with evidence; supporting a point of view by referring to evidence within the text; identifying bias and misuse of evidence, including distinguishing between statements that are supported by evidence and those that are not; reflecting critically and evaluatively on text, using the context of the text and drawing on knowledge and skills gained from wider reading; recognising the possibility of different responses to a text
• summary and synthesis: identifying the main theme or themes; summarising ideas and information from a single text; synthesising from more than one text evaluation of a writer’s choice of vocabulary, form, grammatical and structural features: explaining and illustrating how vocabulary and grammar contribute to effectiveness and impact, using linguistic and literary terminology accurately to do so and paying attention to detail; analysing and evaluating how form and structure contribute to the effectiveness and impact of a text
• comparing texts: comparing two or more texts critically
• producing clear and coherent text: writing effectively for different purposes and audiences: to describe, narrate, explain, instruct, give and respond to information, and argue; selecting vocabulary, grammar, form, and structural and organisational features judiciously to reflect audience, purpose and context; using language imaginatively and creatively; using information provided by others to write in different forms; maintaining a consistent point of view; maintaining coherence and consistency across a text
• writing for impact: selecting, organising and emphasising facts, ideas and key points; citing evidence and quotation effectively and pertinently to support views; creating emotional impact; using language creatively, imaginatively and persuasively, including rhetorical devices (such as rhetorical questions, antithesis, parenthesis).
The set texts we have chosen for English Literature are:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley and the ‘Power and Conflict’ cluster from the AQA Anthology: Poems Past and Present.
In studying the set texts students should have the opportunity to develop the following skills.
Reading comprehension and reading critically
• literal and inferential comprehension: understanding a word, phrase or sentence in context; exploring aspects of plot, characterisation, events and settings; distinguishing between what is stated explicitly and what is implied; explaining motivation, sequence of events, and the relationship between actions or events
• critical reading: identifying the theme and distinguishing between themes; supporting a point of view by referring to evidence in the text; recognising the possibility of and evaluating different responses to a text; using understanding of writers’ social, historical and cultural contexts to inform evaluation; making an informed personal response that derives from analysis and evaluation of the text
• evaluation of a writer’s choice of vocabulary, grammatical and structural features: analysing and evaluating how language, structure, form and presentation contribute to quality and impact; using linguistic and literary terminology for such evaluation
• comparing texts: comparing and contrasting texts studied, referring where relevant to theme, characterisation, context (where known), style and literary quality; comparing two texts critically with respect to the above
• producing clear and coherent text: writing effectively about literature for a range of purposes such as: to describe, explain, summarise, argue, analyse and evaluate; discussing and maintaining a point of view; selecting and emphasising key points; using relevant quotation and using detailed textual references
• accurate Standard English: accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.
The department offers opportunities to study both English Language and English Literature at AS and A2.
English Literature (Edexcel) involves close analytical study of modern poetry and prose as well as respected texts from the literary canon.
English Language (AQA) involves study of many aspects of language development and usage. These include language acquisition and language change and variation.