English and Media
Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8, 9)
In Years 7, 8 and 9, students explore a wide range of engaging and stimulating fiction and non-fiction texts across the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, with the purpose developing their reading, writing and speaking and listening skills. We value independent learning, and we place great emphasis on students taking personal ownership of their strengths and areas for development in English. We want students to feel empowered to improve their skills as they move through the school. What makes English different from other subjects is that the skills required for effective writing or analytical reading are the same whether you are in Year 7 or Year 11. This means that we teach a spiral curriculum, whereby key skills are consistently re-visited over the 5 years, but students are asked to apply them with growing independence, confidence, insight and sophistication to an increasingly more challenging range of texts.
In Year 7, the curriculum is focused on fiction, creative writing and students immersing themselves in our literary heritage. In the first Literary Monsters scheme of work, we read extracts from Beowulf, Greek myths, Frankenstein and modern writers like Darren Shan as inspiration for our own creative writing around the theme of monsters. These reading skills are then honed and developed through the reading of a modern novel aimed at Year 7 students (e.g. ‘Trash’, ‘Coraline’, ‘Private Peaceful’ or ‘Skellig’). It is at this point that we introduce students to a key analytical reading tool which they will take with them right through to GCSE and beyond – the use of Point-Evidence-Explain-Analyse (P-E-E+) to structure their ideas about a text and how a writer has crafted it. The third Literary Heritage unit of work gives a fun and engaging overview of the history of English literature, from Old English, to Chaucer, through to Shakespeare before resting on extracts from a range of Victorian (and especially Gothic genre) writers, including Charles Dickens, Conan Doyle and Emily Bronte. We teach students the skill of evaluating a text by giving their own personal and critical responses to characters and events, and working out HOW a writer has shaped their responses. Finally, at the end of the year, we have a lot of fun taking a drama-centred approach to the teaching of a whole Shakespeare play – depending on the teacher, it could be ‘The Tempest’, ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ or ‘Twelfth Night’.
In Year 8, the curriculum shifts focus to more non-fiction, and to a wider variety of text types. In the Literary Non-Fiction unit of work, we explore a range of exciting non-fiction extracts and media sources around the theme of mountaineering and survival, developing reading skills of comprehension, vocabulary, inference, summary and language analysis, before using these rich texts as a springboard into students creating their own imagined non-fiction recount of an ascent of Mount Everest. We also read a modern novel as a class (either ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, ‘Holes’ or ‘Double Moon’), and use it as a springboard into non-fiction letter writing. In terms of literature, there is a unit of work on poetry from other cultures, which includes in it the opportunity for students to read and analyse poetry from around the world, and then reflect on their own identity/ culture and how they might reflect this through imaginative writing. Finally, students study a modern play (‘Lord of the Flies’ or ‘The Tulip Touch’), with a focus on developing their essay-writing skills of exploring a key theme across a whole text.
We treat Year 9 as a broad-ranging pre-GCSE year, highlighting and building up all the skills they will need to succeed in English Language and English Literature at the end of Year 11. The year starts with the class reading of John Steinbeck’s 20th century novel ‘Of Mice and Men’. The focus then shifts to creative writing inspired by visual media and film. Next, is the ‘Big Issue’ viewpoint and argument in non fictions texts scheme of work, which starts by analyzing a wide range of texts putting forward a strong point of view – including the artist Banksy, Martin Luther King and Jeremy Clarkson – and ends with students writing their own magazine article persuasively articulating their opinions on something in the modern world that they are strongly for or against. The focus then shifts back to literature with the study of a whole Shakespeare play (either ‘Macbeth’ or ‘Much Ado About Nothing’) and a range of engaging short stories exploring themes and issues with which Year 9 students can identify. Finally, in term 6, we begin the GCSE course by preparing students for the English Language Paper 1 exam skills through a range of stimulating fiction extracts, including ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allen Poe, ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley, and ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. This culminates in all Year 9 students sitting an age-appropriate version of the GCSE exam in July. The targets and feedback from this exam are then shared with the student’s Year 10 teacher, so that there is a real sense of students embarking on a learning journey and actively working on targets to improve their skills and achieve their best over time.
In line with the school’s assessment policy, we use the mid and end-of-year summative assessment points in the school calendar for formal assessments which generate a percentage and a quintile. In addition to this, there is continuous formative assessment of students’ work through the school year which forms the cornerstone of how we as a department help students to make their best progress.
In Year 7, students are issued with a ‘best’ Feedback, Assessment and Progress Book, which is where our main summative and formative marking and feedback, and students’ active response to targets throughout Key Stage 3, takes place. Our philosophy is that every assessment should be seen as part of a student’s 5-year learning journey in English where skills are constantly re-visited and improved in the spiral curriculum from Year 7 to Year 11. This book helps students to track and reflect on that learning journey over time.
To help students make progress, the design of our assessments:
- Ensures that students know the targets they are working on from previous feedback, and encourages them to actively work on these personalised targets in each new assessed piece.
- Develops independence and ownership of learning through self-assessment by students highlighting their own work to demonstrate where particular skills and targets have been met.
- Flags up in marking whether, or to what extent, targets have been achieved, so that progress is measured through targets being met, re-set, or adjusted.
- Flags up a student’s current areas of strength and improvement using a red-amber-green system against the different reading and writing skills for English.
- Gives students opportunities to respond to marking and practise the targets being set, by re-writing and improving paragraphs/ sections or work, or applying the targets in a different context for mastery of those skills, using our ‘purple pens of progress’.
- Makes feedback, assessment and progress part of a shared dialogue between parents, teachers and students by sending the ‘best’ books about once a term for parents to read, comment on and sign, so that a student is fully supported to reflect on their progress and targets moving forward.
This ‘deep’ formative assessment, which happens roughly every 6 weeks in the ‘best’ Feedback, Assessment and Progress book is a very powerful way to see how well students can apply skills independently and over time, and to help all students develop their skills and move forward in English. As a result, the class book is used more as a drafting book for collating ideas and practising skills in whole-class contexts, with teacher support and guidance. This work is usually checked through whole-class feedback of answers, teacher circulation and checking of work and verbal feedback during lessons. While these class exercise books may be marked at key moments as deemed appropriate by the class teacher, as a department our policy is that the ‘best’ Feedback, Assessment and Progress book is the place where our core Key Stage 3 marking happens.
Summative mid and end-of-year assessment
The two mid and end-of-year summative assessments reported on your child’s progress check and progress report follow the formative assessment design detailed above, and, in addition, are ALSO marked using GCSE mark schemes for either writing, reading or Literature, so that we can generate a percentage and quintile in line with the school’s assessment policy. Because English has a skills (rather than content) curriculum, the GCSE mark schemes can be applied to Year 7, but, as one would expect, a Year 7 would achieve in the lower bands of a GCSE mark scheme, and incrementally move up the bands as they move towards Year 11. Please do not, therefore, be alarmed to see a low percentage on your child’s progress check, especially relative to other subjects which do not all use the same style of assessment as we do in English. The percentage is also likely to fluctuate depending on whether the reading, writing or Literature mark scheme is being used, and possibly to dip as we introduce new English skills at key points (e.g. P-E-E+ language analysis skills in Year 7, summary skills in Year 8, and evaluation skills in Year 9). Moreover, the quintiles generated from each assessment are a useful broad measure for us to ensure that students are on track to achieve their potential, but they need contextualisation to understand the full picture: the first summative assessment may be a writing one, and the next a reading one, which will be asking students to demonstrate a very different set of skills, in which they may well have different strengths. Equally, the quintiles are generated from one piece of work, and do not reflect the full body of work a student will have covered over the year. We would emphasise, therefore, that engaging with your child and teacher through the ‘big’ Feedback, Assessment and Progress book is the most fruitful way to facilitate the joint discussion about how your child is progressing in English. Please do not hesitate to contact your child’s class teacher or the Head of Department if you require any further clarification on assessment in English.
Key Stage 4 (Years 10, 11)
English Language and English Literature are compulsory subjects at Key Stage 4, and, as we believe that literature texts can be enjoyed and appreciated by all students, our aim is enter every student for two GCSEs. You will be aware that there has been significant national curriculum change in English over the past two years. This means that there are no longer any tiers of entry, there is no longer any coursework or controlled assessment in the subject at KS4, and all assessment is done by four examinations at the end of Year 11.
In Years 10 and 11, students are working towards the following qualifications:
- English Language (GCSE)
Specification: AQA GCSE in English Language (8700)
- English Literature (GCSE)
Specification: AQA GCSE in English Literature (8702)
Throughout the course, we integrate English Language and English Literature to provide a richer experience where the skills of one qualification can be used to enrich work in the other.
In Year 10, we cover:
- English Literature Paper 1 19th century novel: ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde’
- English Literature Paper 2 20th century play: ‘DNA’
- English Language Paper 2 skills: writers’ viewpoints and perspectives in non-fiction texts
- English Literature Paper 2 poetry: power and conflict cluster
In Year 11, we cover:
- English Literature Paper 2 poetry: power and conflict cluster and unseen poetry
- English Language Paper 1 skills: explorations in creative reading and writing
- English Literature Paper 1: Shakespeare (either ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘The Tempest’)
- Revision and revision skills
Key Stage 5 (Sixth Form)
We enter students for the A level in English Literature, English Language and Literature or Media Studies at the end of Year 13.
- English Language and Literature
Examination board: AQA (B)
- English Literature
Examination board: AQA (B)
- Media Studies
Examination board: AQA
Other opportunities at KS5 in English
- King Prize for Creative Writing
- Reading Buddy Scheme – Citizenship Award
- English classroom support scheme - Citizenship Award
- Author visits
- Sixth Form Book Club
- Oxford University English Days
- An introduction to what studying English at Oxford is really like and insider knowledge about how to gain a place.
- Theatre trips and visits organised to support the key texts throughout the two years.
|Ms K Mathiesen (Head of Department)|
|Miss C Lingwood (Deputy Head of Department, Key Stage 3 co-ordinator)|
|Mrs N Banks (Key Stage 4 co-ordinator)|
|Ms N Batten|
|Miss E Bromley|
|Mrs C Cutter|
|Mrs E Frank|
|Mrs M Gosnell|
|Mrs E Harris|
|Mrs R Harrison|
|Mr C Hart|
|Mr J Pelling|
|Miss H Vickers|