ENGLISH LANGUAGE & LITERATURE CURRICULUM STATEMENT
As practitioners, we wholeheartedly believe that English is a subject of vital importance, as it underpins the entirety of a pupil’s school journey. English Language is a powerful tool to express oneself; English Literature is a window on the world and into the past, allowing us to explore the entirety of the human experience. We want pupils to have philosophical discussions about humanity and how to be a social being, appreciating the way in which Literature can be used to reflect the human experience and critique aspects of society. By reading a range of diverse texts, from different genres, cultures and eras, pupils will have the opportunity to empathise with others’ experiences and use these to enhance their understanding of the world. Through this, they will develop their imaginations and become critical thinkers in lessons which are thought-provoking, challenging and memorable. Our ethos as a department is that there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ answer; any student should feel empowered to express their ideas, as long as they are carefully considered and supported with reasoning and evidence.
In approaching texts as a reader, the analysis of how language shapes meaning develops vocabulary and forms techniques to be characteristic of written style. Therefore, the inter-relational balance of reading and writing is a source of skill, supportively using the enjoyment of reading as a medium to empower the shift towards individual creativity and imagination. Our overarching aim is to send pupils on a journey where they become more socially empathic, express themselves accurately and are proud to have a unique voice.
Our curriculum is designed so that, as they progress through the school, students have the chance to encounter texts, genres and ideas and acquire the knowledge that they need to succeed; this is then enhanced and developed as the same concepts, methods and linked content are revisited at sporadic points along the way. For example, students first encounter extracts from 19th Century texts as part of their study of Science Fiction in Year 7. This is then developed and enhanced by their study of a whole 19th Century novel in Year 8, and by their genre study of Gothic in Year 9, so that, by the time they reach Year 11 and their study of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, they have a sound understanding of the key preoccupations and popular genre features of that century.
The aim of the KS3 curriculum is to provide a rich and varied experience for students, to introduce them to a range of texts including those which underpin our literary heritage (such as Shakespeare and Dickens) as well as those which are representative of modern Britain and its concerns, hopefully helping students to gain an understanding of how historical events and cultural influences inform literature, and where techniques and concerns from older texts can still be seen to be woven through modern works. Students will have the chance to read and explore extracts from longer texts as well as whole plays, novels and poems, giving them the opportunity to experience both breadth and depth. In studying and analysing these texts, and becoming accomplished readers, students will develop their confidence and ability as writers, producing a range of texts including short stories, descriptive pieces, poetry and scripts, as well as transactional writing such as letters, diaries and speeches.
The curriculum is deliberately sequenced so that students gradually build and develop their knowledge of key concepts, context and techniques that they will need as they go through the school. Extract-based schemes at the start of Years 7 and 8 allow for breadth when introducing students to genre (Year 7 Science Fiction) and context (Year 8 19th Century settings), but these are balanced by whole-text explorations later in each year, which give more depth to students’ knowledge. Year 9 begins with a more challenging ‘Texts in Context’ unit which allows students to study a more ambitious text in more depth, and culminates in a longer written response where they can show their developing knowledge and skills. By the end of Year 9, students have covered a range of texts and topics which effectively give them the knowledge they need to start Year 10 confidently; they will have studied a text and its context (ready for any of the Literature texts they will study), a Shakespeare play (ready for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at KS4), and a collection of poems (in preparation for the Anthology at GCSE). They will have experienced, and be practised in, creating a wide range of text types and forms for a variety of audiences. Consistency (the focus and aims of each unit) is balanced with flexibility (several units offer a choice of texts) to ensure that the students’ experience of English at KS3 is not prescriptive or narrow.
As teachers, we relish learning about our students at KS3, gaining an understanding of their interests, strengths and areas for development, so that we are able to effectively support them through the rest of their journey at King’s, including GCSE and potentially A-Level study. The classroom curriculum is effectively supported and enriched by a range of extra-curricular opportunities for students, including competitions for writing and speaking, as well as theatre trips and experiences, as well as close links with the Library and the enrichment opportunities they offer. We see high levels of student participation in these.
We provide for the full range of ability at King’s, stretching and challenging the most able, as well as adapting and scaffolding our curriculum to enable access for all students. Students’ learning and progress is gauged and monitored through a range of assessments which are designed to effectively prepare them for the demands of GCSE and potentially A-Level whilst maintaining an element of creativity and breadth. Effective liaison with the SEN and PP departments ensures that additional provision supports and enhances what is being done in the English classroom, while in turn, we listen and learn from the information which is provided about individual students, using it to develop and improve our practice so that all students benefit from the best educational experience possible. The Mentor scheme, involving the Sixth Form, is also an invaluable asset to our department, creating a family environment where older students can pass on their knowledge and experience to younger ones in a supportive atmosphere.
At GCSE, we follow the AQA specification for both Language and Literature, supporting our learners on the next stage of their journey at King’s and developing their ability to read with sensitivity and write with confidence. The toolkit students have developed over the course of their KS3 experience will hopefully serve them well in increasing their writing stamina and skill as they attempt a range of fiction and non-fiction writing tasks in preparation for formal examinations. An important part of teaching written expression at this level is the emphasis on writing as a life skill; if students are able to express themselves successfully on paper, this will serve as a passport to take them on their life journey.
Pupils have been well-prepared for the literature texts in the specification through their encounters with traditional and modern texts at KS3; they will have developed the cultural capital required to tackle Shakespeare, Priestley or Agard (amongst others) with confidence. Their awareness of how literature can enhance, explore and critique the human experience will powerfully inform their responses to these texts. A focus at KS3 on students’ ability to develop and express their own ‘big ideas’ in response to texts will ensure that they are able to plan, structure and produce insightful essays.
We begin the course with a focus on the Modern Text, but we make sure that Language Paper skills are included and interleaved throughout. For example, a Language Paper 2 Question 5 opinion piece, linked thematically to the Modern Text, is completed whilst studying the text. We then move onto studying the Poetry Anthology, also from Literature Paper 2, so that students are able to sit this paper at the end of Year 10, in addition to Language Paper 1. Preparation for the arguably more challenging Literature Paper 1 begins at the end of Year 10, as students study ‘Romeo and Juliet’; by this point they have developed their knowledge of context and content and are able to apply this to these more ambitious texts. Year 11 begins with the Spoken Language Endorsement, as by this stage we feel students are sufficiently mature and confident to attempt this task. This links effectively to the preparation for Language Paper 2, which revolves around writers’ viewpoints and perspectives. The final Literature text studied is ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, elements of which will be familiar to students from their study of 19th Century settings and the Gothic at KS3.
We are a team of proficient and confident practitioners, with a range of examining and teaching experience which we use to inform our practice and ensure that the feedback we give to students is robust and constructive, as well as supportive and encouraging. Regular and consistent assessment points are present throughout the whole two-year course to ensure that all students are effectively prepared for formal examinations, with key assessments being moderated across the department. Again, as with KS3, effective liaison with SEN and PP staff, as well as Academic Heads of Year, ensures that all students are supported and encouraged. A KS4 clinic is provided weekly, organised by our KS4 Lead, and supported by Sixth Formers, to ensure that Year 11 students have advice not just from staff but also from others who have already been through the GCSE process.
English Literature encourages learners to develop their enjoyment of literature through reading widely and independently, engaging in independent study as part of their NEA. Students will develop their analytical and evaluative skills when engaging critically with a range of genres and forms. Literature students will explore the significance of the contexts of the texts (when written and received) that they are studying, and will be encouraged to explore different interpretations, both their own and those of others, as well as performed versions where appropriate.
We follow the OCR specification, covering the material for Paper 1 (Pre-1900 Drama and Poetry) in Year 12, and teaching the texts for Paper 2 (Comparative and Contextual Study) in Year 13. This enables students to sit a full Paper 1 at the end of Year 12, and both papers by the Spring Term of Year 13, which allows them to get a sense of the papers as individual units with specific concerns and requirements.
We begin Year 12 with both teachers focusing on poetry (Teacher 1 teaching Rossetti for Paper 1 Part B and Teacher 2 teaching Carol Ann Duffy for the first part of the NEA), as we feel that this more effectively reinforces students’ ability to analyse individual poems and perceive common themes across a collection. Subsequently, for Paper 1, Part A, students are taught either ‘Richard III’ or ‘Twelfth Night’, a study which is underpinned effectively by the knowledge of context, genre and technique which they have developed from exploring a range of Shakespeare plays across Key Stages 3 and 4. For Part B of Paper 1, students begin their study of either ‘A Doll’s House’ or ‘An Ideal Husband’ to contrast with Rossetti; again, students have acquired a sound grasp of 19th Century literature, its ideas, preoccupations and contexts, during their study of English lower down the school, so they are well-equipped to discuss, explore and compare these texts with confidence at KS5. Studying two drama texts simultaneously helps to reinforce their understanding of dramatic conventions and how they are used to convey meaning.
In Year 13, students complete the second part of their NEA, the comparative essay, where they are required to develop their own titles and to research, plan and write a 2,000-word essay on the texts they have studied. This encourages independent study skills, preparing them for study beyond King’s, although they still benefit from the support, expertise and encouragement of their teachers whilst completing this work. In addition, they are taught for Paper 2, the Comparative and Contextual Study: we look at American Literature, 1880 to 1940, focusing on ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, exploring the contexts of these novels, and critical interpretations, so that students can develop a sense of the key features and preoccupations of American Literature which will enable them to tackle the Unseen element of the paper confidently.
Teaching is predominantly teacher-led, with opportunities for collaborative pair and group work where necessary, as well as independent study tasks such as research projects and presentations, for example when focusing on contextual background. We seek to develop good study habits by providing a range of materials to support independent learning. The school also benefits from subscriptions to resources such as ClickView, Massolit and JSTOR which facilitate this. Students have regular opportunities to complete practice essay tasks, whether timed and in class, or independently at home, and positive and constructive feedback is given, in line with exam board guidance and the relevant Assessment Objectives for that part of the course. The emphasis is on using feedback to improve future performance; teacher-modelled plans and sample answers are also useful here.
KS5 Language and Literature
The Language & Literature A-Level offered at The King’s School builds on our KS3 & KS4 study of fiction novels, plays and short stories, non-fiction travel writing, diaries, articles, letters, autobiography and reportage. It builds on KS3&4 by introducing the elements of comparison of whole texts across genres, introducing the non-fiction genres of Biography, Interview, Radio Drama, Screenplay, Review and Speeches, and introducing the element of coursework where candidates have the opportunity to write two creative pieces alongside a commentary exploring their own work. Candidates are given free choice of stimulus texts for the coursework unit, which requires independent, wide ranging further reading.
We begin our studies with both the fiction and non-fiction material of Unit 1 of the course: the modern play (A Streetcar Named Desire), and the ten non-fiction genres with one example extract of each in Year 12. Underpinned by the study of linguistic approaches and literary theory, these are all studied with a view to exploring how attitudes and values are created by the writer. By the Easter of Year 12, we move on to introducing the fiction material for Unit 2: Shakespeare play (Hamlet), with the focus of exploring how encounters of various types change attitudes and values and how the writer depicts this. We begin investigations into the Unit 3 coursework element towards the end of Year 12, continuing this to its completion by the May of Year 13. In Year 13, Hamlet is continued alongside the study of the novel (A Room with A View), the comparison for Unit 2 fiction, a further 10 examples of non-fiction for Unit 1 and numerous and varied examples of non-fiction for Unit 2.
Across the two years, most of the teaching is teacher-led, with note-taking guided by handouts, class discussion of ideas and concepts, group work to investigate unseen texts, and presentations by students to demonstrate understanding. Assessment ranges from low tariff self-marked quizzes, independent & group research, group presentation of research and essay sections on single texts / aspects of a text, to full group essays then individual essays, gradually building from single text to comparison where one side is supplied by the teacher, to full comparison of two texts essays. There is a scarcity of published material available for teachers/students to access, hence the production of teaching materials, particularly for the Shakespeare/Forster comparison.
Results at the end of KS3 are typically very good, reflecting the vibrant curriculum and expert teaching students experience in the department. There is excellent uptake for the range of competitions and outings arranged by the department, such as the Oundle Balloon Debate, and we use Accelerated Reader (in close partnership with the Learning Support department and the Library) to monitor students’ progress in their reading, focusing on both their reading ability (through regular Star Testing) and reading engagement (through students being encouraged to participate in regular quizzes both at school and at home).
In addition, our English Sixth Form Prefects act as role models for all students, sharing their enthusiasm for the subject (for example, through the Literature Society, which is open to KS4 and 5 and runs weekly) and helping to contribute to a thriving culture in the department, something which is also evidenced by the literature-inspired artwork which we are proud to display on our walls. Uptake of A-Level English subjects is also very good, indicating the high regard in which the department is held.
At King’s, we are very proud of the independence and engagement of our students at A-Level. Uptake for the subject is very good, with two teaching groups in each year, and with a good number of students choosing to study English or related subjects beyond A-Level, some applying successfully to high-ranking universities. Results are also pleasing, with positive residuals achieved across the cohort. Student-led enrichment activities are also a strong point of the department, such as the Literary Society, and there are regular opportunities to go to the theatre or to engage with visiting writers or essay competitions.
KS5 Language & Literature
It has been very positive to offer this A-Level in addition to Literature, for those students who want to explore how language works in all its many guises and, indeed, how they can use it for various purposes, especially for non-fiction / everyday life writing. It also offers the opportunity for creative students to explore their abilities with writing. The cohort always produces positive residuals, with students going on to study English Literature, Engineering, Marketing and Management, Radiotherapy, Psychology and Law (to name but a few), as well as entering the world of work in, for instance, journalism at the BBC. Universities and tutors have commented favourably on the challenges posed by combining a literary and linguistic framework when analysing texts and how this fosters a broad and discerning understanding of both fiction and non-fiction texts.
We were delighted to be the first department to reintroduce a theatre trip post-Covid last year and the excitement this generated in our cohort is evident in the Petriburgian and Speech Day photographic record of the event.
Further Opportunities within English
- Theatre Trips
- Visiting Poets
- Visiting Writers
- Visiting Theatre Companies
- Literary Competitions
- Literature Club (KS5)
- Book Club (KS3)
- Creative Writing Club
- Contributions to the School Magazine
- English Wiki
Mrs Alix Rhodes (AMR): Head of English Department and KS4/KS5 Coordinator
Mrs Joanne Jones (JNJ): Teacher of English and KS3 Coordinator
Mr Charlie Armstrong (CJA): Teacher of English and Assistant Headteacher
Mr Jason Hill (JEH): Teacher of English
Ms Jane Rutherford (AJR): Teacher of English
Ms Sarah Vaughan (SCV): Teacher of English
Mrs Mandy Warner-Bradshaw (MWB): Teacher of English and Academic Head of Year 11