‘Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they’ll go through anything.’ (Aldous Huxley)
The English Department is the hub of literacy and progress in the Senior School. All pupils need to be able to use English, both verbally and electronically, for academic study and to achieve their goals in life. We are passionate about developing students’ reading and writing skills to prepare them for whatever the future holds; all pupils are encouraged to read a range of texts actively, including blogs, novels, poems and newspaper articles. We aim to get every pupil able to represent him or herself using the written word for a range of purposes, from an email to a prospective employer to a strong argument for a speech.
As an innovative Department, the English team regularly feeds our Twitter account: @LinglishDept. Students are encouraged to follow @LinglishDept in order to stay up to date with current language and literature news; we use Twitter to follow a range of linguistic and literary sites in addition to publicising our daily lesson highlights, theatre trips, visits, competition wins and individual successes.
Pupils teach me the latest innovations in English. I teach because although I know where a semi-colon or an apostrophe should go, I love hearing their individual interpretations of a text, be it a poem or an online editorial. The latest neologism or youth sociolect phrase can only be learnt from a teenager. As a linguist, the organic nature of the English language means that it is ever expanding, mutating and hurtling into the future. As a Department, we aim to keep up with this amorphous phenomenon which is the English Language.Ms Sweetlove, Head of English
We work closely with the Library to encourage pupils to read for pleasure as well as for academic purposes. Every English teacher is pioneering the use of iPads as a tool for individual, group and whole class learning. They are often utilised in conjunction with the interactive whiteboard or Smart TV too. Our reading resources are constantly updated with the latest class novels; we also have the most current digital resources on the iPads including eBooks for A Level Literature and several educational apps. Accelerated Reader is a programme which allows the pupils to be given recommended books that will optimise the improvement of their reading ability; in conjunction with the SENDCO, Sue Sevier, and Shelley Fallows, our Librarian, we are able to track pupils’ reading activity and progress in order to provide intervention, support or extension as necessary.
One crucial mission of the English Department is to lift words off the page and bring them to life. Therefore, the Department runs many trips to the theatre and we organise productions to visit the school too. Poets and authors are often invited to speak to particular year groups and to deliver active writing workshops. Year 8 were treated to a performance by a theatre company called Box Clever - who literally keep all of their props and set in a box (albeit a big one) – where three actors performed the whole of Macbeth ‘in the round’ in the School Auditorium. As part of our scheme of work, we will welcome the company back in November to bring some magic and sparkle to the Year 7s with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Year 9s pupils had their Travel Writing Unit enhanced when acclaimed adventurer Matt Dickinson thrilled the children with tales of his adventures climbing Mt Everest and then used his journalism experience to lead them in a creative writing activity. Annually, Year 10 pupils attend the Poetry Live conference and gain first-hand insight into the poems in the GCSE anthology via lectures from the poets themselves.
At the top of the School, English Literature A Level groups visited Bath Abbey and the Jane Austen Centre, to complement their study of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, as well as Stratford Upon Avon to see performances of their Shakespeare play. English Language pupils attended Suzie Dent’s lecture on The Secret Life of Words and were thrilled to attend a conference with legendary linguist David Crystal. The appeal of such trips is just one of the reasons why the uptake for both English Literature and English Language at A Level is high.
In house, the varied knowledge and interests of the staff in the English Department permit us to offer a range of clubs and extracurricular activities. We have produced our third writing anthology this year, which includes poems and prose from pupils and staff. Key stage 4 pupils have the opportunity to take part in the ‘Youth Speaks’ public speaking competition; we have had much success in the past, even winning the regional finals in 2013.
We also run a Model United Nations Club where pupils roleplay delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. Three Year 13s attended a conference in London this year and one of our speakers was awarded the coveted ‘Best Delegate’ award. Model United Nations Club pupils also invited the Prep School scholars over for a conference and debated the question ‘Should Paddington Bear be considered an illegal immigrant?’ Ms E Bowling runs a Literary Society for the whole of the Sixth Form as well as any avid readers in the staff body. Additionally, Mrs S Hudson runs a Creative Writing Club for all ages with a view to entering competitions and collating another anthology next year.
Ultimately, the Department prides itself on enabling students to achieve or exceed their targets in both English Language and English Literature at IGCSE and A Level. Without the grounding of excellent teaching from Year 7 onwards, this would not be possible.