Overview of our English Department
Twelve dedicated and talented teachers make up our English department. They hail from a variety of backgrounds and interests, and will gladly tell you how rewarding and exciting it is to work with the students at Dame Alice Owen’s.
Moreover, students will freely tell any visitors to the school how much they enjoy their English lessons and respect their teachers. The teachers bring passion and energy to the subject, and the English office will often be a place of lively debate about literature and the arts.
Our department is lucky enough to have co-ordinators of Key Stage 3, Key Stages 4 and Key Stage 5, but the team works collaboratively to share ideas, contemporary material and dynamic teaching methods.
So what is English?
In English we strive to make English relevant, creative and challenging. We aim to foster students’ personal growth by equipping them with the ability to understand and use language to communicate effectively. Through exposure to our cultural heritage and providing the tools to analyse, evaluate and explore language and literature, we want to cultivate a love of learning and appreciation of the world around them.
Relevant: In English, learning is about real life and real experiences; it is about the media and the digital world; and it is about skills that people use every day. It allows pupils to explore and to debate things that matter directly to them. Pupils also have real purposes and real audiences for what they produce.
Creative: In English, pupils are continually being creative. They write, talk, act and perform. They put words together in unique ways, to express ideas and experiences. They respond to texts by writing and talking about them, analytically and imaginatively. They are always making something new and original, even when answering questions in an exam.
Challenging: In English, there are always difficult questions to answer, concepts to understand, skills to learn and problems to solve. There are always more challenging texts to read and there are always more effective or more sophisticated ways to write and to speak. English is a journey into new knowledge, with constant opportunities for investigation, discovery, analysis and deconstruction. There are always things to find out, workings to reveal and puzzles to solve.
Key Stage 3
The first year at Owen’s is exciting, enjoyable and varied, which is much like the English curriculum. Pupils are taught English 3 periods a week. At least one lesson per fortnight is spent at the library where they carry out a variety of different activities (such as research, presentations, private reading, shared reading). Pupils will study a number of different units throughout the year such as autobiography, myths and legends, a novel, poetry anthology and Much Ado About Nothing.
The second year at Owen’s will be just as exciting, enjoyable and varied as Year 7. Pupils will develop and expand upon the skills they have already started to learn. They will study a number of different units throughout the year designed to encourage an appreciation of both the English Language and the wealth of literature available. The main units of study are: detective fiction, Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet and non-fiction reading and writing.
Pupils will now develop and expand upon the skills they require in preparation for GCSE. Students will begin to develop some of the key skills required for GCSE and experience challenging and interesting texts. They study a number of different units throughout the year. The main units of study are: Gothic genre, Macbeth, A Christmas Carol and poetry themed around relationships.
Key Stage 4
English is one of the most important subjects and it is more than a means to an end. English can broaden your outlook and introduce you to many new areas, not just in literature, but in public speaking and presentation. English is about creative thinking and then being able to articulate successfully and translate those ideas into an understandable form.
In Years 10 and 11 pupils embark on two GCSEs: GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature. The examination board we use is OCR. The Literature course is designed to foster a love of reading and to develop analytical and evaluative skills. The course is assessed by final examination. We study a range of interesting set texts, including: “The Merchant of Venice”, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, “An Inspector Calls”, and “Conflict Poetry”. The Language course helps pupils to develop their communication skills in writing and speaking and to enhance reading and listening skills in preparation for entering further education or the world of work. The course is assessed by final examination. We study two units: “Communicating Information and Ideas” and “Exploring Effects and Impacts”.
Key Stage 5
We offer two courses at A Level: A Level English Literature and A Level English Language and Literature.
A Level English Literature is a popular subject choice at A Level. We follow the OCR English Literature specification which offers the pupils a broad, engaging and challenging passage through the study of English Literature. We explore American Literature through “The Great Gatsby” and “The Age of Innocence”, poetry and plays through “The Merchant’s Tale” and “The Duchess of Malfi”, Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus”, and a range of texts for coursework including “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Americanah”, and Ted Hughes’ “Birthday Letters”.
A Level English Language and Literature is a new choice at A Level. We follow the OCR English Language and Literature specification which offers pupils the opportunity to explore a range of engaging fiction and non-fiction texts. We apply both literary and linguistic methodology in our exploration of “The Great Gatsby”, Carol Ann Duffy’s “Rapture”, and Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Pupils also study an anthology of 20 non-fiction texts (both written and spoken) and, for coursework, two autobiographical texts by Jeanette Winterson. The course also provides the students with the opportunity to hone their personal writing through the ‘Writing as a Reader’ unit and the non-fiction writing coursework.
On both courses, pupils are encouraged to read widely and independently throughout the two years.
The courses are rigorous and challenging; pupils will be expected to write essays or reports every week. Pupils are expected to tackle the course with enthusiasm and dedication. A passion for reading, debate and discussion is vital.
Mr A Jones (Head of English)