The English Department
We believe that the cornerstone of success in English is the ability to think, and to express one’s interesting ideas effectively. These skills are most successfully developed, at every age, through the opportunity to engage in discussion, read challenging texts, and respond to quality writing and feedback on one’s own work. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are taught as a means to convincing communication. We work in close conjunction with our excellent Librarian to give girls the opportunity and inspiration to read widely and frequently.
We teach lessons in which ideas can be shared, enthusiasm is as standard and progress is tangible. Consequently, our students are enthusiastic about the subject and achieve outstanding results.
The Department prides itself on organising regular trips to enrich students’ appreciation of English. Recent outings have included The Tempest, King Lear, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Romeo and Juliet, as well as trips to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Wimbledon Literary Festival. Girls also benefit from taking English Speaking Board examinations in Form IV and the opportunity to engage in debating in class, at whole school level and in wider competitions.
In Remove, the focus is on the development of English, beginning with Beowulf, the earliest known text in English; we move chronologically up to a twentieth-century novel, The Sword in the Stone, enjoying its anachronisms. Our Shakespeare play is an abridged version of The Tempest.
Girls study fiction and its contexts through Animal Farm, and become increasingly confident in responding to Shakespeare in performance and analysis through the study of Twelfth Night. Gothic short stories, a range of classic poetry and an exciting cross-curricular unit with a changing theme each year are also greatly enjoyed.
The highlight of IVth Form is the preparation for the exciting English Speaking Board examinations in which the girls have a great deal of autonomy. i8However, it is always a delight to see how thrilled the girls are to be studying Romeo and Juliet: a love of Shakespeare is endemic here. A very different portrayal of youth comes towards the end of the year with Lord of the Flies. We also begin to develop the skills needed for GCSE through non-fiction and media work.
We follow the Cambridge IGCSE syllabus: girls take qualifications in both English Language and English Literature. The syllabus in both subjects is rigorous: challenging but enjoyable. Both GCSEs are assessed by coursework and examination, with the emphasis being more on coursework in Language and examination in Literature.
The current Literature examination texts are Jane Eyre, The Crucible and a selection from an excellent poetry anthology. Other texts depend on the teacher’s assessment of the class’s needs but will include a Shakespeare play and a novel such as The Great Gatsby. Recent texts have included the poetry of Christina Rossetti and Enduring Love, Ian McEwan’s modern classic.
Language assessment includes the opportunity to write for a range of audiences and purposes, including creative writing. The examination assesses analytical reading skills and is demanding. We benefit, however, from having an experienced examiner in the department.
We follow the Edexcel English Literature syllabus at A Level. In the first year, students study A Streetcar Named Desire, comparative novels and a collection of contemporary and unseen poetry. In the second year, we introduce Shakespearean tragedy, nineteenth-century poetry and a free-choice coursework assignment. We are proud to have achieved excellent results last year, in the first year of assessment of this specification. Again, we benefit from the experience of an examiner on the team.