Head of Faculty - Mr T Dearmer
Curriculum Intent, Implementation and Impact in English
Introduction to subject
In order to deliver our curriculum intentions for English at St Martin’s, students will study a wide range of literary, non-literary and media texts of increasing complexity and challenge over the 5 years of main school. The texts we study will develop skills of comprehension, analysis and criticism and develop our students’ sense of cultural capital and literary heritage while creating opportunities to explore British values. By employing an interactive, dramatic and celebratory approach to literature, language and media texts, we hope to instil an appreciation and enjoyment of all aspects of our subject, particularly reading. Our intention is that this will last for life and, in some, encourage further study at Key Stage 5 and beyond. Students will be taught to write for different purposes - creative, analytical, discursive and transactional - and to write with technical accuracy and flair for imagined and real audiences. Speaking and listening skills will be taught through the range of strategies adopted in the classroom and in tasks aimed at developing the ability to speak with confidence and clarity using Standard English as appropriate. Our formative and summative methods of assessment will prepare students for the requirements of external examinations at the end of Key Stage 4.
Why is the study of English important?
It is important that we develop our skills in English and our knowledge of the English language and its literature because these will play a hugely significant role in every aspect of our lives at school and as adults in the workplace and beyond. Practical literacy is essential in accessing the opportunities available to us as we go through our lives and, at a higher level, skills of literacy, critical reading and thinking and communication enable us to live culturally fulfilled, well-informed and economically active, successful lives. English is a world language and proficiency in its grammar and vocabulary prepares us all for the roles we may take up in the world beyond the UK. Studying the literature of English from a range of historical, social and regional/cultural contexts provides us with the cultural capital to understand our own place in the world and to empathise with the experiences of others. At its most accomplished, the study of our finest literature challenges us with its complexity and ambiguities and, in doing so, enables us to explore universal human concerns as others have before us. It is an art form which can put us in touch with our emotional, spiritual and moral selves, inspiring us to be creative, thoughtful and independent of mind in our own lives and interactions.
How does the study of English develop your skills, knowledge and understanding?
In English students will develop the ability to write accurately and effectively for a range of contexts and purposes: transactional, discursive and creative. They will learn how to read straightforward and complex texts which are literary, non-literary or multi-media in order to develop skills of retrieval, inference, comparison, evaluation and critical analysis. Students will learn a literary and linguistic vocabulary to enable them to understand and analyse writers’ methods and how texts work. The reading and study of accomplished writers from a range of contexts and cultures will strengthen students’ own writing and broaden their vocabulary for use in other contexts. They will develop cultural capital and understanding of their own and others’ heritages. Students will learn how to communicate orally in a range of contexts and to listen effectively and respond in formal and informal situations. They will learn skills of scholarship and close, well-informed reading and study. An accomplished knowledge of the English language, and the skills to use it effectively, builds confidence, creativity and independence.
How are students assessed in English?
Assessment of pupil understanding and progress in English is an ongoing process, informal and formal. Students’ understanding in lessons will be monitored by questioning for understanding, monitoring of talk, written work and plenary activities. Analysis of longer pieces of written classwork and homework will also build to an overall assessment of an individual’s progress across Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. We are concerned to prepare students effectively for the requirements of external examinations and our more formal methods of internal assessment are closely related to external examination requirements from an early age. In year 7 a baseline assessment is undertaken in the first weeks of the Autumn term by all students against which future progress can be monitored. Subsequently in Key Stage 3 core assessments are undertaken on an approximately half-termly basis. These will be conducted with preparation and scaffolding to ensure students can fully access what will be, to them, unfamiliar modes of assessment. In years 9, 10 and 11 core assessments are sat half-termly and will usually be completed under examination conditions, using authentic examination materials of developing complexity. Formal “end-of-year” examinations in English are taken by all year groups which provide a summative assessment of yearly progress. Student progress throughout both key stages is recorded in terms of equivalent GCSE grades from “working towards” grade 1 through to grade 9. Students who require specific examination arrangements as indicated in individual SEN plans will receive this support in all formal internal assessments.
What does the curriculum plan for English look like?
Our curriculum is structured across the five years of main school (Key Stages 3 and 4) to ensure the National Curriculum requirements of content, both literary and non-literary, and development of skills in knowledge about language, reading, writing and speaking and listening are covered thoroughly. Key strands of learning and content (for example Shakespeare’s plays, pre-twentieth century literature, poetry, non-fiction reading and writing, different forms of creative writing and knowledge about writers’ and speakers’ methods) are returned to and developed at increasingly complex levels year-on-year as appropriate. We have thought carefully about the sequencing of our units of study with this notion of a “spiral” curriculum in mind. We offer equality of experience and opportunity with students largely covering the same materials, texts and skills. Differentiation takes place within the classroom on a group and individual level. In Key Stage 4, all students follow a course which leads to certification in both AQA GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature. AQA GCSE Media Studies is also offered as an option at Key Stage 4. For students to develop their work and interest in English beyond Key Stage 4, we offer Edexcel A-level English Literature, Edexcel A-level English Language and AQA A-level Media Studies.
How does English support learning in other areas of the curriculum?
Reading and writing skills developed in English lessons are essential in enabling students to gain access to, and succeed in, all other areas of the curriculum. Expressing knowledge, ideas and understanding in a structured, accurate and clear manner in writing is required in all subjects. A broad general vocabulary and versatility with sentence structure is central to effective communication in all subjects. Reading comprehension and critical reading form an integral part of the learning and assessment strategies employed across the curriculum. Further to these generic benefits, the topics studied in the English curriculum are highly supportive of many other specific areas of the curriculum, notably art, drama, history, geography, PSHE, religious studies and modern foreign languages.
How can students extend and deepen their knowledge in English?
Wider, independent reading of all kinds of texts with a view to developing challenge and breadth will always be integral to students’ learning of the higher skills in writing, reading and oral communication. Through wider reading, students can gain a broad and elastic vocabulary, technical accuracy, verbal and syntactical dexterity, informed critical and evaluative skills and creativity. The school encourages DEAR time in all year groups partly to this end but a student’s own independent reading outside of school is just as important. Active reading of all texts, from the most complex to the seemingly straightforward – including literary, non-literary, transactional and media texts - will help students improve the breadth and quality of their own writing. Research into the socio-cultural contexts of literature, reading critical works – ie. “books about books” - and reading parallel texts will deepen students’ understanding of the texts we study in class. Independent use of freely available online materials for support of our English syllabuses will always be useful in supporting students’ learning and progress and development of a broad critical-technical vocabulary will help students achieve excellence in description and analysis of texts and also in their own compositions. As well as this, in writing, careful planning, drafting, re-drafting and editing of written pieces with a focus on writing as a conscious craft at word, sentence and text level will enable students to achieve at the highest levels. Taking a full and reflective part in class activities, including discussion and presentation, builds students’ confidence and the ability to communicate complex abstract ideas orally.
How does English link to the world of work?
Good skills in English are required in most areas of the world of work, whether it be in communicating with the public, working and communicating as part of a team, writing accurately and appropriately for transactional purposes, using retrieval and inference in order to synthesise, summarise and present important information or employing creativity and inventiveness in leading change and innovation. High levels of achievement in English are widely sought-after in the world of work generally as marks of creativity, accuracy, intellect and flair, and further qualifications (at Key Stage 5 or degree level) in English Literature, English Language or Media Studies are universally respected indications of academic achievement by the professional world. Often young people who have succeeded in English and English related studies go on to find success in fields such as law, education, banking, accountancy, the media (including journalism), advertising and public relations, human resources and administration.
How does English link to the three strands of our core values?
Learning for the Future
Outstanding Personal Achievement
- By providing opportunities to revisit, amend and improve work and a focus on knowledge about language, technical accuracy and presentation
- Through close exploration of our literary and socio-cultural heritage in the study of works from the canon of English literature and by developing students’ cultural capital.
- By using materials which relate to students’ own lives in the twenty-first century
- Through development of creativity and flair and writing for real audiences with real purpose
- By employing oral and written tasks and group, pair and individual methods of working
- Through exploration of modern media communication
- Through creative as well as analytical responses to reading
- By developing independence, versatility, resilience, team-work and empathy through the range of learning strategies employed; the level of challenge offered; and by exploring the human, moral issues at play in the materials we use.
- By offering all students access to similarly challenging materials and through high expectations of academic endeavour in both English literature and English language
- By preparing students rigorously and consistently for external examinations
- By promoting scholarship and interest through exploration of complex, intriguing, challenging material and individual research and enquiry
- By allowing space for individual, independent, reading and personal choice
- By offering academic and practical options for further study beyond Key Stage 4 and encouraging take-up of English related courses and training in higher education and the wider adult world.
Shared learning intentions in English
The learning intentions for each module in English are planned sequentially in order to build upon prior learning and to return to important areas across Key Stages 3 and 4, developing greater challenge, complexity and depth over time. These learning intentions are shared with students and parents for each unit in our published “curriculum journeys” for each year and term. Learning intentions for each lesson are established at the beginning of each session and reviewed as part of plenary activities at key points in a lesson or at the end. The learning intentions may focus on development and practice of core skills in reading, writing or speaking and listening, or focus on building knowledge and understanding of aspects of literary or non-literary texts, contexts or writers’ methods.
Retrieval practice in English
Our curriculum journey in English across Key Stages 3 and 4 is planned so that prior learning is returned to and built upon as appropriate. Retrieval practice is an important part of this. For example, aspects of Shakespeare’s language and drama dealt with in the year 7 Tempest unit will be returned to and reinforced when looking at Romeo and Juliet in year 8. In year 9 our study of Macbeth will include looking at ideas about the presentation of women in Jacobean drama and society and this topic will be explored again in the study of The Merchant of Venice in year 10 and in looking at gender roles in A Christmas Carol and An Inspector Calls. In year 11 work on persuasive speaking and writing in the Autumn term for GCSE English Language Paper 2 will be returned to in the Spring term when preparing for the Spoken Language external assessment. Both of these units will require retrieval of prior knowledge and skills developed in the year 7 and year 8 non-fiction units.
Retrieval practice in class will be explicitly named and will take the form of starter and plenary activities such as short quizzes and tests, quote-finding, text-skimming tasks, revision units, homework and informal or formal exam-style assessments. Typically, retrieval practice in English may focus on knowledge of writers’ methods and subject terminology, elements of spelling, punctuation and grammar, aspects of texts and contexts and recall of textual evidence, or it will look to reinforce skills learnt in writing for different purposes. Retrieval practice will focus on what has been learned last lesson, last week, last month and in previous years in order to firmly embed short, medium and long-term learning over the course of our curriculum journey in English.
Formal and informal assessments of student's work will include a comment covering what aspects of the work have been completed successfully (“What Went Well”) and what can be done to improve the work in terms of generic or graded achievement (“Even Better If”). These will be related to core assessment objectives for each piece. Targets will be set which are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic. Where appropriate, correction of elements of spelling, punctuation and/or grammar may be set, regardless of the main focus of the piece of work in question. In response to targets set, students will be required to add to, amend and improve assessments, usually employing green pen to do so. These improvements, in turn, can be expected to be checked by the class teacher.
In order to enable consistent recording of and responses to targets set in formal English assessments, a standardised proforma is employed which is used primarily when assessments are retained by the class teacher for evidential purposes.
Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time
DIRT in English will involve consideration of targets set on classwork, homework and assessments (as above), reflection on means to improve individual pieces of work and adding to or amending work in green pen as part of the feedback loop. Additionally, students are encouraged to go over previous work, organise materials in their exercise books and improve presentation, and SPaG as part of regular Love My Book sections of lesson time – usually once a fortnight or so.
One-to one interviews with class teachers and individual time for consideration of overall targets for development and progress in English will also be undertaken in the calendared Self-Reflection Fortnight for each year group.
British Values: The study of literary, non-literary and media texts in English lessons at St Martin’s will be undertaken with a view to developing an understanding of the evolution and reasoning behind core British values and approaching our material and work in a spirit which embodies those values and cherishes and nurtures them in all students.
This will include:
- The study of the effects of religious, racial or cultural intolerance in texts such as The Merchant of Venice, Of Mice and Men, In the Sea there are Crocodiles, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and a range poetry from diverse cultures.
- Empathising with characters in texts who are victims of prejudice, racism, stereotyping and recognising the forms such intolerance and prejudice takes in the fictional and real world.
- Reading and listening to the opinions of others in non-fiction texts, responding in a respectful manner to views of our peers and forming and communicating our own views in respecting and expressing individual liberty.
- Exploring ideas about how individual liberties can be curtailed or what happens when democracies fail and intolerance reigns in our own society by studying presentation of fictional dystopian worlds in literature and the media in year 9.
- Exploring the emergence of democratic ideas and a sense of community in texts such as An Inspector Calls and A Christmas Carol.
- Looking at the corruption of utopian worlds in The Tempest and Of Mice and Men.
- Discussing aspects of law, mercy and justice in The Merchant of Venice and of individual morality in Treasure Island, The Black Book of Secrets and DNA.
- Looking at what happens when individual aspiration and desire go beyond the constraints of law and natural justice in The Tempest, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet.
- Studying the presentation of the struggle for individuals to find a voice in poems such as The Emigree and Checking Out Me History and in Of Mice and Men.
- Exploring the impact of untrammelled undemocratic power in texts such as My Last Duchess, Ozymandias, Macbeth and The Tempest.
- Linking what we study in fictional, literary/media worlds to students’ own lives and experiences and what is happening in society today.
By the end of year 9, all students will have covered the core areas of the National Curriculum for English and been prepared for the courses, materials and examination requirements at GCSE in both English Language and English Literature.
At Key Stage 4, all students study GCSE qualifications in both English Language and English Literature and performance in these qualifications is consistently well above the national average. Some aspects of student study in English at Key Stage 3 involve a media element and GCSE Media Studies is a popular and successful option choice, usually running at least two classes at Key Stage 4. Transferable skills developed at this level in English and Media Studies help support students' progress across a number of other subjects in the curriculum.
English-related options remain popular choices at Key Stage 5. The faculty offers Advanced Level courses in English Literature, English Language and Media Studies and usually runs 4 or 5 groups in these subjects in each of years 12 and 13. Progress in these subjects is consistently in line with or above national targets.
Many students go on to take English-related academic or professional, career-centred qualifications in higher education, studying degrees in literature, linguistics, film and media studies, journalism and linguistics in education at a wide range of institutions, including Russell Group and Oxbridge universities.
Perhaps an even greater indicator of the positive impact and success of the English faculty here lies in the fact that many ex-pupils go on to teach English at primary and secondary level and a significant number return to teach the subject at St Martin's itself.