The English Department seeks to fire the imaginations of pupils through our exciting exploration of a wide range of texts, from classics such as A Christmas Carol, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Tuck Everlasting to more contemporary works of fiction, journalism and cinematography.
Learning is as kinaesthetic as possible: pupils often take to their feet in a bid to truly understand new concepts, demonstrate their learning in different ways, teach each other, develop teamwork skills, examine issues from a different perspective and build confidence. Our regular drama improvisations, debates on contemporary issues, persuasive presentations and class discussions all combine to strengthen powers of articulation and critical thinking. Form 6 students further benefit from the experience of preparing for a Public Speaking exam under the wing of a skilled LAMDA teacher, and the whole school gathers to enjoy our Annual Forms 6 & 7 Poetry Competition in the spring term.
Turning to the area of written work, we are firm proponents of the Big Writing philosophy, whereby children experiment with more sophisticated language and sentencing through fun, interactive tasks; there is a key focus on ‘up-levelling’ writing through such introductory challenges, detailed planning and concentrated proof-reading. Indeed, all students from Form 5 upwards are entrusted with an “emerald sword” (also known more prosaically as a green pen!) with which they must “vanquish verbal demons” on the page as they revisit what they have written. Chromebooks are also used, where we feel it is appropriate to do so, to strengthen research skills, increase typing speed and accuracy, and to give children experience of both creating and editing collaborative documents.
Communication between staff at all levels of the schools is strong, ensuring continuity and progression for each individual in the areas of comprehension, handwriting, spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading. Reading is promoted not only through English lessons and regular visits to our newly renovated library, but also through World Book Day, reading passports, book fairs, theatre trips, authors’ talks, in-house workshops and visits, pupil librarians who recommend titles to the younger children (as well as each other) and various competitions throughout the year.
Moreover, our focus on critical analysis not only deepens pupils’ reading skills and prepares them for senior school entrance / scholarship assessments, but also sharpens the mind and allows our young people to view the culture in which we live through a different lens (for example, our critical study of advertising techniques in Form 8 allows children to look at the means by which consumer culture may persuade us not only to ‘buy into’ certain brands, but also certain ideologies /stereotypes).
Our aim, ultimately, is to teach children to actively think and to get involved - to examine and explore, to question and challenge, to experiment and evaluate, to voice their own opinions and empathise with others – with a great deal of laughter along the way!