“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”
“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.”
As a result of learning in our department, students will:
- Be creative, articulate, imaginative learners, who are confident and secure in their opinions and thoughts;
- Be adaptable and flexible communicators in spoken and written word;
- Be unafraid to challenge complex ideas and material.
Our students will develop these dispositions and habits:
- Having a critical eye, so that they do not blindly accept things;
- They will openly welcome feedback, criticism and differing views and interpretations and not feel threatened by these;
- They will be skilled in planning, showing evidence of deep thinking;
- They will take risks, knowing that the learning they will experience is more valuable than the fear of failure;
- They will actively listen to and reason with the ideas and expertise of others;
- They will construct meaningful arguments, supporting their ideas with confidence and conviction.
They will experience learning activities that:
- Have pace, choice and challenge;
- Provide a healthy combination of independent and collaborative work;
- Give them ample opportunity to speak in front of others;
- Give them the time and space to write independently;
- Offer the choice and autonomy to self-select activities that best challenge their thinking and ability;
- Are well-planned by the teacher/ department, where activities have clear direction and purpose;
- Enable them to build a sophisticated vocabulary, consistently.
- Are academically rigorous and personally challenging.
Curriculum and Assessment Maps
- Miss T Goodyear (Head of Department)
- Mrs L Mckee (Second in Department)
- Miss J Glendenning (Assistant Headteacher)
- Miss M McDonnell
- Miss D Plante-Bekenn
- Ms E Gallagher
- Mrs T Whybrow
The English department is forward-thinking and innovative in its practice and is constantly striving to enable students to reach their full academic potential in the subject. English is popular amongst students, who enjoy the lessons, the styles of teaching and relish the challenges they are faced with.
The subject is a popular option for Sixth Form students and many have gone on to study English at undergraduate level at universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.
How to improve
- Read, read, read….
- Use the resources of the library; it contains a plethora of texts, whether for background reading/ research purposes or the sheer joy of reading. Mrs Harris can help you with any queries you have.
- Read around the subject, especially if you are GCSE and A level students. The more awareness you have of the context, genre, and literary tradition of the texts you are studying, the greater your understanding of the issues/perspectives of the writers will be. This is also becoming significantly important as the future GCSE in development focuses on a much wider range of texts.
- Write down and learn corrected spellings after each piece of work
- Ask for grammar, spelling or punctuation worksheets for additional support. The department has a lot of resources that are readily available to all students. Please learn how to use apostrophes correctly. From 2015, 20% of the GCSEs will be awarded for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.
- Be proactive. If you are told that you need to update notes/character profiles/theme grids/plot summaries/tension graphs, etc. make sure you do this on an ongoing basis. All this information will be vital to your success; both in an end of unit assessment but also in order for you to understand texts being studied.
The English Department works closely with an external Literacy Support teacher, Mr Waggott. Mr Waggott supports students with EAL difficulties. If you feel any of these members of staff can provide you with additional support, please discuss it with your subject teacher. Likewise, if your subject teacher has recommended you have support from these members of staff make the most of this opportunity. It is not something to feel embarrassed about; they are all here to maximise your enjoyment and understanding of the subject (and indeed all your written subjects).
How can parents help?
Studies and statistics show that reading is the most beneficial activity to support learning and development across the curriculum. A study by the OECD found that learners that read for up to 30 minutes per day perform significantly beyond their age group, compared with those learners who do not read at all [OECD (2002) Reading for Change: Performance and engagement across countries p.16-17].
The correlation between reading and learning in English is marked, hence why we believe it should be a top priority for students. There are many ways you can support this at home to support:
- Be seen to be reading regularly (this can be any texts: newspapers, articles, novels, journals, plays, poetry);
- Discuss your reading with your children (what have you enjoyed? What have you not enjoyed so much? What other novels/ texts does it remind you of?);
- Take an interest in their reading material- all students are expected to take part in the school’s Reading Challenges, ask them to describe characters, plot, events to you;
- Encourage your daughter to take an interest in current affairs- use this as a stimulus for conversation ( you could use the ‘Agree, Build, Challenge’ mantra which is a good way to engage in a conversation/ debate (there’s a useful Blog post on this style of questioning here: https://www.theconfidentteacher.com/2013/12/disciplined-discussion-easy-abc/)
- Keep a reading journal of your own, model effective behaviours to your child.
- Help them learn complex spellings- you may keep a spelling book at home or test them during a long journey.
If your daughter feels as though she is struggling, there is help available outside of her English lessons. She can book a 121 appointment with her English teacher or seek support from our trained student ambassadors. Here, your daughter can bring her work or anything she is having difficulty with and have one-to-one support with an English teacher or a trained English Assistant.
English is a versatile subject that is marketable in the majority of career areas. English graduates often go on to careers where communication and effective written English are valued; the subject does offer a plethora of possible career paths. With a qualification in English, you could pursue careers in writing, journalism, publishing, law, teaching, advertising, business, accounting, finance… the list goes on!
Opportunities out of lessons
English opportunities out of lessons
All department members contribute actively and energetically to the life of the school, for example organising “The Beacon” the school magazine published at the end of the academic year and Junior and Senior Debating societies. The department also runs a Creative Writing Club and IntoFilm Club.
As well as these ongoing activities, we also encourage students to enter external competitions, including the Birmingham Young Poet Laureate and the annual Speak Out competition. Any competitions are advertised on the notice boards in the playroom and Sixth Form Common Room and students are notified by email.
We endeavour to organise evening trips to the theatre when possible and arrange other extra curricular opportunities when they arise.
English opportunities parents can provide
- Theatre trips: this does not necessarily have to be texts we are studying. As we study a range of plays, the experience of seeing any production on stage will be beneficial.
- Adaptations of novels/plays are often televised and can be worth watching. The BBC often has ‘seasons’ on a particular writer, which would also be useful to provide context for your daughter. Examples in the past are Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Mary Shelley.
- Encouraging your daughter to use the school library as well as a local library.
- Encouraging your daughter to read newspapers and a range of non-fiction texts will be beneficial to enhance their reading/writing skills. It will also make them aware of what is happening around them and the topics that they may need to explore in an examination situation.
- Encouraging your daughter to take part in activities being run in school and to speak to their subject teacher if they have concerns.
- Discussing the texts your daughter is studying with them. It will help your daughter consolidate her knowledge and give her the opportunity to express her opinions on a range of different issues.