Head of English:
English is a very important subject here at Bishop Stopford’s School. As you will appreciate, a good knowledge of English is vital to the success of all our students in other areas of the curriculum.
Welcome to English. What have you read today?
Our syllabus places significant emphasis on the formal skills of reading, writing and spelling. We complement this by studying a range of materials during Key Stage 3. At Key Stage 4, students follow the Edexcel specifications and build on these skills to support them in preparation of their GCSE. Students will be entered for two English GCSEs – one for English Language and another for English Literature.
Parents/guardians can help by ensuring that their child reads for half an hour at least three times a week. We encourage each student to join the local library in order to have access to a wide range of reading materials.
There are qualified and experienced teachers in the English department. There are additional Teaching Assistants (TA) attached to the department to support this work, primarily targeting lower ability students. The staff work very well together as a strong cohesive team and regularly share and exchange teaching resources with each other. We systematically monitor students’ work to ensure that the highest standards are maintained throughout the department.
Key Stage 3 English
In the English Department at Key Stage 3, Students cover an extensive range of reading, writing and speaking and listening skills, equipping them for entry into the GCSE component of the course (KS4). Progress is measured by a series of summative and formative assessments and work completed at home and in class. Reports are regularly sent home to keep parents updated about progress.
Students who require extra resources are supported by in-class teaching assistants and some students in KS3 who are not meeting their minimum target grade (MTG) are given individual support by members of the department in one to one sessions.
At the start of Year 9, students begin to prepare for GCSE, practising the relevant skills and reading some of the set texts that they will cover at KS4. The department recommends that students read independently of school to improve their understanding of writers’ craft and to gain a wider range of vocabulary.
Key Stage 4 English Language and Literature
GCSE students follow the Edexcel specification in English Language and English Literature. There are four exams, two for Language and two for Literature There is no longer a coursework folder to be completed, although students will complete one speaking and listening task that is assessed separately to the English GCSEs.
In year 10, students will focus on English Literature, covering texts such as Macbeth, An Inspector Calls, A Christmas Carol and a range of poetry, both seen and unseen. In year 11, the focus will be on English Language for the first term, before moving on to the revision of each section of the GCSE courses.
Students are assessed frequently and given clear feedback that focuses on their understanding of content and the skills that need to be developed in order to succeed at GCSE.
Key Stage 5 – A Level English Literature
English Literature is a popular A Level choice. It is highly thought of by universities because it teaches the skills of close reading, analysis, comparison, comprehension, criticism and evaluation, as well as the capacity to understand the subtext of what is said and written. These are skills which are highly valued in careers like law, journalism, business, politics and many other professions where academic rigour is important. Students who study A Level also develop their written English through their study of the writing of others.
We follow the AQA course (Specification A) which aims for students to develop an interest in and enjoyment of literature, building on the work they have done at GCSE. Students are assessed at the end of year 13 through two examinations and one coursework assignment.
The course is very open and students are encouraged to follow their own interest in their wider reading which allows them quite a lot of freedom. Obviously, a love of reading and good basic English are needed. Those who study A Level English have to be able to manage their time and be prepared to work independently to develop what they do in class. A lot of the teaching is done through group and class discussion which develops confidence and presentation skills; to get the best out of this, students need t be prepared to share their ideas and listen carefully to others. The debate can get very lively at times as students try to persuade others that their reading of the text is the most accurate one; this year’s Year 13 have spent a lot of time laughing as they have considered the kinds of behaviour and language which is displayed by people in love, as well as learning a great deal about human attitudes and feelings as expressed through literature.
In summary, if you enjoy reading, like to talk about what you think and like to debate meaning and how it is expressed then you will enjoy the opportunities provided by A Level English. At the same time, you will know that you are acquiring the ability to express yourself with greater fluency as well as acquiring a qualification which is recognised everywhere.