Senior School (First to Third Forms)
During their first three years in the school, pupils are prepared to embark upon the GCSE courses. They come to us with a very wide range of skills and abilities, and some need much more help than others. Throughout the school, the English Department liaises very closely with the Learning Support Unit. We aim to extend the pupils' skills in all four main areas of the subject – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. This is mainly achieved through the medium of Literature, and we are very interested in what our pupils are reading. They are expected to carry a book of their own choice with them at all times, and lessons are sometimes devoted to private reading.
The School Library has a particularly good selection of novels suitable for teenagers, and we encourage pupils to make full use of this. There is a further selection of both modern and classic novels in each of the three English classrooms, and pupils are always welcome to borrow them. Newspapers are usually available in the Department, and in the Library. During the Christmas and Summer terms, each teacher will choose a prose text to read in class. During the Easter Term, each junior form studies a play by Shakespeare, again chosen by their teacher. Currently, the First Form choice is “A Midsummer Night's Dream”, the Second Form reads “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Romeo and Juliet” is read in the Third Form, though the selection may well change from time to time, according to personal tastes and the interests of the pupils. (Above Right: Mr. J Evans, Head of English)
Written work is set regularly, and it is always marked with great care, a feature of the Department which was noted in the school's recent Inspection report. We aim both to correct and to encourage, and Commendations are awarded for outstanding work.
Our pupils tend to be naturally talkative, though encouraging them to listen sometimes presents rather more of a problem! As well as creating opportunities in the classroom, pupils are urged to take part in debates and plays. We take them to see local productions whenever the opportunity arises. Each English classroom is equipped with a combination TV/VCR/DVD player, and films and television programmes are studied as a matter of routine. They provide effective stimuli to discussion.
Senior School (Fourth and Fifth Forms)
During their next two years in the school, pupils follow the GCSE Specifications provided by OCR. These will be first taught in September, 2010. There are two main options. Pupils will study either English or a combination of English Language and English Literature. Each subject contains four assessed units. English Language and English Literature must be taken together, and form one subject.
In English, these are “Reading Literary Texts”, in which pupils study three texts, one each from a list of Prose, Literary Non-Fiction and Poetry, “Imaginative Writing”, “Speaking and Listening” and “Information and Ideas”. The first three units are assessed internally, while the fourth is an externally-set Examination on non-fiction and media pieces.
English Language is designed to be taken alongside English Literature. It is not a freestanding qualification, although there is a deal of overlap with English, particularly in the first two units, so that pupils may change courses, if necessary. It consists of three units, “Extended Literary Text and Imaginative Writing”, in which one text is studied, “Speaking, Listening and Spoken Language” and “Information and Ideas”. Again, only the last unit is externally examined.
English Literature consists of four units, “Literary Heritage Linked Texts”, in which pupils study a Shakespeare play alongside its film or audio version, and a poet from a choice of six, “Modern Drama”, which requires the study of one play, “Prose from Different Cultures”, also requiring the study of one text, and “Literary Heritage Prose and Contemporary Poetry”, in which they study one text from each genre. Here, only the first unit is internally assessed: the other three are examined.
At the moment, these Specifications are only at Draft stage, but we do not anticipate any major changes. We have chosen them because we like them, and we are looking forward to exploring them with our pupils. We will, of course, continue to enrich the pupils' experience of English with theatre trips (including our annual visit to Stratford), visits and invited poets and lecturers.
Public Speaking and Debating.
Our pupils have plenty of opportunities in these areas. We enter the various competitions organised by the ESU every year, and the teams are coached by the Head, with some success. We have been to a seminar laid on by the Oxford Union, and took part in the Young Debaters Competition at Durham.
One of the highlights of the school year is the Junior Debating Competition, in which teams from the first five years of the school do battle. The final takes place in front of the whole school, on the last day of the Easter Term.