The English curriculum aims to engender a love of English in students by exposing them to a variety of engaging, accessible, diverse and challenging authors, genres and styles. It aims to always focus on improving the key skills of reading, writing and speaking so students can access progressively harder texts and be exposed to new ideas and opportunities. We want students to be able to express themselves confidently and to enjoy engaging with new ideas that come from the texts they read.
Beyond the curriculum, we strive to create a love of reading for pleasure in all students through special library lessons, reading journals, World Book Day celebrations, review competitions, a Drop Everything and Read programme and free books to take home over the holidays. We strongly believe that students who read, not only improve academically across all subjects but become more engaged and sensitive young adults. We run a wide range of trips across the year group and regularly have visiting authors and speakers come in.
At KS4 we really go the extra mile to make sure students achieve academically by offering after school revision clubs, some Saturday and holiday sessions and an extensive range of mock examinations that are all marked accurately and diagnostically.
By exposing students to 19th century writers like Dickens and Conan-Doyle in KS3, we aim to fill gaps in students’ knowledge of Victorian writers and help make the transition into KS4, where they will read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for their GCSE text. The ‘Introduction to Shakespeare’ module in year 7 is designed to make Shakespeare accessible and fun.
By focusing on some of the ‘highlights’ of his work, we aim to raise cultural capital and gaps in students’ knowledge by covering a number of plays and genres. It will also help prepare the students for a more in depth study of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in year 8 which will in turn pave the way for a comprehensive study of Macbeth at GCSE.
Studying Of Mice and Men in year 8 is not only an enjoyable and accessible text, but prepares the students to consider political themes and messages that are present in literature – skills they will need when they study texts at GCSE, in particular An Inspector Calls.
The Persuasive Writing (Dragon’s Den) scheme in year 7 aims to develop writing, speaking and teamwork skills in a way that is engaging and links to other subjects like Business and Design. The Survival Scheme is based on creative writing skills but also included study of poetry.
This combination of literature and language will also be used in year 10 with a creative writing scheme that is linked to the GCSE poetry. The year 8 scheme will help prepare them for this type of intertextual study. Let’s Think in English, a suite of reading and group work lessons designed by King’s College London to raise cognitive ability, also helps with this.
The London Voices module in year 9 is designed to expose students to diverse voices that form part of the rich literary and cultural tapestry of their own home city. As much as possible we want to expose students to writers who look like them and come from where they come from to help give them the confidence to develop their own creative voice. A
View from the Bridge helps prepare students for modern drama study (they will study An Inspector Calls at GCSE) but also helps create a link to the genre of tragedy which they will use not only at GCSE in their study of Macbeth and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but also at A Level where they will study more American texts (The Great Gatsby) and Othello. A View from the Bridge is an accessible text but the way it adapts conventions of Greek Tragedy mean it can really stretch the most able and prepare them for their future studies of the genre.
Frankenstein is also a stretching and challenging novel but also one that is accessible in terms of ideas. Frankenstein also serves as a useful way to introduce more complex knowledge of the Romantic and Gothic genres which not only increases cultural capital but also will help their understanding of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the poetry studied at GCSE, not to mention at A level when knowledge of movements and genres is so important.
Throughout KS3 there is a real emphasis on vocabulary, turning students into critical and evaluative readers who are confident to express their own views. We consistently teach tactics for approaching texts, both studied and unseen through establishing the ‘facts of a text’ and then considering ‘big picture’ and wider themes and messages first before zooming into techniques and vocabulary. We want students to be far more than technique spotters - able to consider the texts they read as constructions of an author with a message and theme which is open to interpretation.
Our other main aim is for students to feel empowered by the texts they read to become confident writers themselves. Throughout KS3 students are encouraged through their schemes of work to use styles and techniques they have picked up from authors.
We aim for students to become writer who can increasingly respond successfully to a brief. By this we mean carefully consider the purpose and audience of a piece and adapt their writing accordingly. From overt teaching of techniques to the reading of a variety of fiction and non-fiction, students will become confident at shifting between descriptive, narrative, persuasive, polemic and argumentative writing.
The GCSE curriculum is, of course, more prescribed by the exam board (AQA in this case) but we have aimed to choose texts which complement and build on the texts we have studied at KS3 and those which help to prepare students for A level. There is also lots of scope to build cultural capital through choosing engaging and stretching texts to practise skills for the language exams.
Students are exposed to a large range of fiction and non-fiction texts including Dickens, Scott’s diaries, Zadie Smith, Touching the Void, Daphne Du Maurier and Henry Mayhew to name just a few. The literary texts studied are also chosen to stretch and complement each other.
All classes are taught the same text meaning we have high expectations of all our students, regardless of ability. An Inspector Calls is the first text studied in year 10 since the language is accessible. The play is also engaging and helps students to understand the importance of context and author’s message when exploring a literary text – skills that will serve them in good stead throughout their GCSE course. Macbeth and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are both challenging texts but are engaging. The elements of the gothic and tragedy in both of them also help to build on
knowledge throughout the two year course. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is also easily linked to Victorian non-fiction texts, meaning Paper 2 language skills can be studied alongside it.
At A Level, we follow the AQA Literature A specification. This involves an historicist approach to studying Literature – in the first year through a lens of love. The module is called Love through the Ages. The texts from various eras that students have studied up to this point will help as the A level students, through looking at a wide range of unseen poetry, are taken on a journey through the literary canon learning the conventions and motivations of various movements and eras.
This focus on unseeen poetry (a key part of the exam) is taught alongside a novel (The Great Gatsby or Atonement) and Othello. Students are taught the skills to approach texts critically, and through the knowledge of context and genre they have been taught, explore how writers use and subvert these conventions. Students are taught to see English literature as a series of reaction and conversations through history – an ever evolving being.
Students are also taught to be confident writers of analytical essays, driven by a developed and personal argument. In the second year, students continue with an approach to Literature based closely on context but zoom more closely into one period – in this case, post-war 20th century writing. Students study A Handmaid’s Tale, A Streetcar Named Desire and the poetry collection, The Feminine Gospels.
Through this study, we aim to introduce more advanced critical lenses for students to view their texts through, namely Feminist, Marxist, Post-colonial and Ec-critical. The coursework aspect of the course will use all of the skills the students have developed throughout their English literature career as they get to independently get to choose the text they compare to Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. They also choose the focus of their analysis.
Competence in literacy is essential if all students are to achieve their full potential in every subject they study. This underpins the school aim of 'Raising Achievement'.
It is the mutual benefit of all students, and all subjects, if literacy skills are explicitly taught as part of the student's experience of learning at our school.
At St. George’s we want to ensure that every pupil is a 'Literate Pupil'. We aim for all pupils to be able to:
- read and write with confidence, fluency and understanding, orchestrating a range of independent strategies to self-monitor and correct.
- have an interest in books and read for enjoyment.
- have an interest in words, their meanings; developing a growing vocabulary in spoken and written forms.
- understand a range of text types and genres; be able to write in a variety of styles and forms appropriate to different situations.
- be developing the powers of imagination, inventiveness and critical awareness.
- have a suitable technical vocabulary to articulate their responses.
This school strongly believes that literacy competence, and thus higher achievement, can only be achieved if all subjects work together to explicitly teach literacy skills.
To support and further the literacy of our pupils, we also provide a broad and rich range of activities and opportunities:
- Drop Everything and Read: KS3 students spend one lesson a week reading a novel aloud with their class.
- Weekly reading in tutor time.
- Weekly debate in tutor time with extended writing prompts.
- Extended intervention for struggling readers.
- Weekly “Drop Everything and Read!” sessions for Years 7 and 8.
- National and internal writing competitions, with prizes awarded.
- The opportunity to write and share their own blog posts in the school newsletter, The Dragon.
- A wide and regularly updated variety of resources at the school library.
Information For Parents To Encourage Reading
At St. George’s, we want to encourage all pupils to improve their literacy through reading. In tutor times, pupils are encouraged to read for enjoyment, however we would also like to inspire pupils to read outside of school as well.
Reading really is a skill for life: books give pleasure, solace, information and opportunity! Yes, opportunity - young people with good reading skills have access to the world of words, access to the whole curriculum and so many more choices as they move into adult life.
How do children get these reading skills? By reading! And the more that children enjoy reading, the more they will want to read. The more they read, the more their minds and imaginations will grow
and their vocabulary develop. Soon they will have the stamina to read the long and sometimes difficult texts they will come across in all areas of life.
Here are some tips for encouraging reading in your home:
- Ensure that your children see you reading. It doesn't matter if it's the newspaper, a cookery book, a romantic novel, a detective mystery, short stories, a computer manual... anything! Encourage children to join in - ask a child to read out a recipe for you as you cook, or the TV listings when you are watching TV.
- Give, and encourage others to give, books and book tokens as presents.
- Encourage children to carry a book at all times - do this yourself too!
- Read with your children - many books are enjoyed by adults and young people alike - the Harry Potter books, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon to mention just a couple. It's great to read books you can all talk about, but make the talk light-hearted, not testing and over-questioning.
- Your child can join your local library for free. You'll also be able to get other reading recommendations for your child as well as advice on how you can help your child read for pleasure.
- Go to libraries or bookshops when authors are visiting. Children love meeting their favourite writers!
- Don't panic if your child reads the same book over and over again – they may spot elements of the novel that they didn’t before!
- However much you want to, don't nag when you don't like the books they choose - all reading is to be celebrated!
- Encourage your children and their friends to swap books with each other. This will encourage them to talk and think about the books they are reading.
The main message is MAKE IT FUN!