As a subject, English is essential to enable students to access the curriculum across the school, but also, fundamentally, it prepares them for the social, cultural and emotional demands of the 21st century.
Through the study of literature, students will have insight into the experiences of others from across different cultures and times, and, through the study of language, they will learn to explore the way our language represents us and how we can use it to shape experiences.
We aim to provide students with a wealth of different text types, from canonical literary texts, to examples of spoken English and media texts. This range will enable them to become critical readers and thinkers, with an appreciation for the way language is manipulated in the modern world.
Through year 7, students follow a programme which builds upon the skills of KS2 and creates a foundation for their future study, developing their understanding of reading, writing and spoken language. Initially, the students explore where our stories and characters come from – how the roots of modern literature are embedded in myths and legends from centuries ago. They analyse the patterns in stories and how typical tropes have emerged. This knowledge is then applied to a focused study of monstrosity in literature, and how ideas re-emerge but also how they are – and must be – re-evaluated.
From there, they begin a language study, understanding where the English Language has come from, and how it has adapted and changed over time, reflecting social and cultural changes.
The final unit encourages them to think about how writers create voices, firstly through the study of poetry and how meaning is created through this form, and secondly through the media, exploring how perspectives and viewpoints can be represented.
As students enter year 8, the level of challenge increases as we start to explore a wider variety of textual styles. They begin by dissecting the elements of narratives, and the characteristics that make up different genres of writing. They then apply this knowledge to analyse the work of Charles Dickens, reading A Christmas Carol. The spring term begins with a unit entitled ‘Double Standards in Literature’ – they consider how texts from different times explore similar ideas to illuminate prejudice and discrimination in society, reading Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, both of which raise profound moral and ethical questions. Finally, we use these ideas to explore a text that confronts the uncomfortable experiences and truths that literature often tackles, through the class novel A Monster Calls – an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of love, loss, healing and, above all, the courage it takes to survive. The year finishes with a unit on poetry, exploring the same difficult ideas and experiences, but in a different form.
Year 9 begins with a ‘Journey through the Darkness’ – exploring the genre of dystopia through a range of short stories, to consider how the genre has evolved to address political inequalities and social divisions in modern life. We then read Animal Farm, Orwell’s seminal modern text, which offers a satirical allegory of a totalitarian society. However, dystopian is also about hope, no matter how faint the glimmer, and we move onto a more hopeful dystopian modern text, Jelly.
To continue the study of literature as social and political comments, the students begin a study of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, considering how the play addresses universal issues that still concern modern society, despite being written many centuries ago. We do a parallel study of these issues using modern non-fiction texts, analysing the arguments and perspectives shaped by language and structural choices. Finally, the year comes to a close with the study of a modern text Purple Hibiscus, considering the power of the voices of change within literature, applying the same ideas to a range of protest poems.