Spotlight on…English

Published 25 May 2022

What we love most in English is the questions that the subject allows us to ask and answer.  Literature, in particular, is about what it means to be human: to love, laugh, cry, hate.  Language is about the power of words and how they can be used to inform, control, distort, entertain and play – among many other things.

Recently, year 7 students have been studying Romantic and Nature poetry.

They have been understanding how the Romantic poets celebrated the natural world and their love for a bucolic version of England which – in their view – was changing; threatened by increasing industrialisation.

Meanwhile, Year 8 have been focusing on stories from Greek mythology, considering how they present typical – and atypical – views of gender.  They will shortly be producing their own non-fiction piece of writing where they focus on argument, persuasion, or opinion to present a point of view, drawing on the ideas and themes they have studied in the stories and myths of the Ancient Greeks.  In Year 9, the focus has been on one of two novels by George Orwell – either Animal Farm or Nineteen Eight-Four.  The former being possibly the most important allegorical fairy story, while the latter imagines a frightening totalitarian state where the truth can change in an instant and acceptance of Party doctrine is a requirement.  In the coming weeks students will complete their GCSE Spoken Language Presentations, some having already begun to prepare for it.

Meanwhile, our GCSE students in Year 11 have just begun their examinations.  They have worked incredibly hard over two very challenging years and are ready to show what they can do.  They know that teachers are always here for them, and many have attended revision sessions as part of their revision programme.  Year 10 students have recently been reading and studying the ‘Modern Text’ for their English Literature Course – either An Inspector Calls or Lord of the Flies. Again, while reading these texts in lessons, the focus is on what questions these writers are posing and what possible answers they are suggesting.  An Inspector Calls has lots to say on the theme of social responsibility, while Lord of the Flies focuses on where evil comes from – whether civilisation creates our propensity to do cruel and nasty things or constrains our natural desires.

One thing we really value as a subject is reading – whether for information or enjoyment.  Year 7 students participate in the Reading Challenge – where they must read an increasing amount to move through the different levels.  It’s so wonderful to see them wearing their badges with pride as they move through Bronze, Silver, Gold and beyond.  At the time of writing, 66% of students in the year have completed Bronze, which is the minimum we expect by the end of Year 7.  A massive congratulations to Alexa Brown (7C3), Emily Starkey (7C3) Alex Cattanach (7P1), Katie Gibbons (7E1) and Henry Wilson (7E1) who have completed Platinum and therefore have read at least 33 books each this year so far.  A summary of each tutor group can be seen below.

We are also hugely grateful to Mr Evans and Mrs Hewetson who are fundamental in running the Carnegie shadowing this year.  The eight shortlisted books are selected by librarians across the country and reflect a range of challenging and diverse books written for children and young adults.  This year’s shortlist seems particularly strong, with approximately 20 students from across the school meeting in groups weekly to discuss the books with each other – while being careful not to give away any spoilers!

Beyond the classroom, over the course of the year the English Faculty has organised theatre trips to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Year 7), A Christmas Carol (Year 8) and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Year 10).  We will shortly be taking a group of Year 8 students to The Story Museum in Oxford, and we are very much looking forward to taking Year 9 to Stratford-upon-Avon on the Curriculum Days – the first time this trip has been possible since 2019.  We already have some trips in the pipeline for next academic year