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Welcome to the English Department

English is a dynamic and engaging subject, essential for successful communication with others, both at school and in the wider world. It develops key skills relevant in all curriculum areas allowing pupils to become effective learners, whilst providing pupils with tools to be successful during their time in school, employment and society.

The three areas of focus for all pupils are reading, writing and spoken language, including drama. We aim for all pupils to reach and fulfil their true potential, and realise their own unique talents.

Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9)

In KS3, pupils learn to express themselves imaginatively and creatively. Groups are differentiated from form groups where the pace of the lesson, level of work and the topics covered in lessons are adapted to suit their needs. All work is closely linked to the 2014 National Curriculum and covers fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, drama and media. We keep to current trends following modern and popular authors and poets, whilst also linking to work from significant authors and texts from other cultures. Examples of authors studied are: Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, Anne Fine, Jacqueline Wilson, Alfred Tennyson, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and many more.

Key Stage 3 pupils are assessed using reading and writing tests, NEALE reading tests, spelling tests and a school base-line writing test in order to be grouped. Pupils receive three one hour lessons per week where there is a small staff/pupil ratio.

In order for pupils to communicate effectively, key spellings and phonics, word and sentence structures, and conventions of the English language are focused on. Being able to use language in different contexts is a vital skill; pupils have the opportunity to create presentations using computers, sustaining characters in drama and use various linguistic and literary techniques.

The timetable has been structured for pupils to receive four twenty minute reading sessions in which pupils are organised into ability groups with a consensus of building key skills to become confident and successful readers. Resources used may be online reading quizzes, the use of newspapers (paper format and online), group reading, reading board games such as TRUGS and comprehension cards, and reading for pleasure. Pupils take part in ‘World Book Day’ where the power of the written word is celebrated in an exciting and collaborative way, and various year groups are entered into writing competitions; and every year we have a Book Fair to celebrate reading.

Pupils are encouraged to become independent, critical thinkers as they describe, analyse and compare texts linking to AQA assessment objectives. Peer and self-assessment are embedded in all schemes in order for pupils to understand their strengths and areas of development.

Throughout the year, pupils are assessed and monitored. Spelling, reading and comprehension is tested, whilst group assessments allow teachers to moderate against National Curriculum Levels/New levelling systems. It is during this key stage that pupils work towards being entered for an academic examination route.

Key Stage 4 (Years 10-11)

KS4 pupils follow a variety of different modules in which they are engaged in critical and imaginative thinking. They consider the value of text and its influence on the reader, whilst learning the key features of writing fiction or non-fiction. Pupils either follow the Edexcel Functional Skills (Entry 1 – Level 2), AQA Step-Up to English which has a keen focus on language and literature at a functional level, or AQA English Language and/or English Literature. We are both proud and pleased with the efforts of our year 11 and 6th form pupils; 2018 brought high Entry 3 results, grades up to a 3 for English Language and grades up to a 4 for English Literature. You may be aware of the GCSE grading system now being numerical, so a 4 and 5 equate to a traditional grade C.

As of 2017, all English examinations have only one tier meaning that pupils can now have access to achieving a grade above C (now known as a 5). Coursework has also been removed meaning that English Language and Literature are 100% examination, with pupils studying the courses over two years.

Key stage 4 is currently split into two groups. One group is studying Functional Skills and will mostly cover non-fiction. They will look at how English affects every day situations. Another group is studying for both GCSE English Language which is a two year course, while year 10 are able to work towards a ‘Step up to English’ Gold course and gain a qualification in the year. This is a course created by AQA as a stepping stone to GCSE English Language. There is now more of a focus on language analysis and evaluating texts critically, exploring purpose and historical impact, whilst aiming to become critical thinkers, developing and homing in their ideas with justification.

Reflection on the development of pupils’ abilities as speakers in a range of contexts is vital, whilst using talk to summarise, question, hypothesise, solve problems and develop thinking about complex issues and ideas. Spoken Language is part of the GCSE but is not accredited. For Functional Skills, speaking and listening is a key element allowing pupils to practise appropriate talk in every day scenarios.

A range of modern and classic texts are read, including William Shakespeare, Susan Hill, John Townsend, Carol Ann Duffy and Robert Browning. Pupils learn the significance of key texts on society and how contexts may have influenced the way the text was written whilst explaining and evaluating how writers use various features to achieve effects. Writing skills are vital whereby organisation of ideas, sentences structure, punctuation and spelling are approached from angles pupils can relate to.

For both GCSE and Functional Skills, pupils sit regular mock examinations and practise questions. Feedback is given regularly in order for pupils to gain independence and confidently master the complexities of the English language.

Key Stage 5 (Years 12-14)

Having undertaken examinations at the end of year 11, pupils are required to continue to develop the breadth of knowledge in core subjects at key stage 5. This means that pupils acquire skills to self-reflect and evaluate their progress in key areas of the subject, identifying areas of individual need. One group is currently working on improving their Functional Skills level whilst recognising the relevance and importance of English in the wider world. Their course covers the key skills within English in order to enhance their confidence when applying this knowledge in familiar situations. Another group is working towards improving their GCSE grade and overall writing sophistication. They are analysing texts from new angles and developing their writing construction.

The transition from GCSEs to Sixth Form allows for more independence and a time to mature. Pupils are therefore treated so, with a high expectation on work ethic. Original thinking is increasingly valued and there is more time for close analysis. The key areas of development across all English key stage 5 courses are to:

  • Broaden pupils’ vocabulary in order to express themselves articulately for maximum effect in all situations.
  • Work with others to present thoughts and ideas clearly, concisely and confidently.
  • Develop higher thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation.
  • Select information to support ideas and piece together effectively to create a coherent piece of writing.
  • Write in a range of styles suiting the purpose and audience.

British Values: English department

Within the English department, we ensure that pupils’ knowledge, understanding and development of British values is thoroughly demonstrated and promoted. This includes coverage of the school SEAL and SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural) programmes within lessons.

Through a range of topics, themes and texts studied, we are able to promote the rule of law, British democracy, individual choice and respect for multi-faiths within our country. Examples of this are:

  • Respecting the civil and criminal law of England

Pupils look at how and why some laws have been developed (eg the poor law), the need for change and gain a sense of togetherness as cultures and traditions evolve. Pupils study the Elizabethan era and Victorian era by reading classic texts such as Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley and Charles Dickens. This is a great opportunity to discuss social impacts and how citizens can influence decision making and the democratic process.

  • Developing self-confidence and self-esteem
  • An array of teaching and learning methods are used such as self and peer assessment, drama activities and the personal voice within pupils’ writing. Pupils learn about confident characters through the texts that they read.
  • Appreciating that wellbeing and safety is protected by living under the rule of law
  • Pupils study various poems which focus on homelessness, the treatment of women and disengagement from society for example. They look at what legally is in place to help and protect vulnerable people whilst challenging stereotypes.
  • Accepting that other people may have different faiths and beliefs and the importance of combating discrimination

The use of non-fiction articles keeps pupils current with topical issues to debate. Pupils also regularly read BBC News, Newsround and First News where they are encouraged to discuss and debate relevant topics. In addition pupils use role-play and characterisation studies to understand the freedom to choose and hold other faiths, and how this is protected in law. An example of pupils learning about discrimination is the study of ‘Bill’s New Frock’ by Anne Fine in which pupils learn about gender discrimination.