St Michael’s English department helps pupils to grow in body, mind and spirit by developing pupils’ abilities to read, write and speak and by fostering a life-long love of literature and learning. Our ethos is to nurture creativity and provide the platform for pupils to embrace this ever-changing, fascinating and crucial subject. Underpinning the English Curriculum are key, threshold concepts such as competency, creativity, critical understanding (eg author’s craft, texts as a construct), contextual understanding and, of course, cultural capital
We strive, through a balanced, broad and engaging curriculum, to not only to deliver the skills and content outlined in the National Curriculum so that they become ‘the best that they can be’ in terms of reading, writing and oracy, but also, to foster enjoyment and a passion for English that goes beyond their secondary school experience and one that is relevant to young people in the 21st Century.
English in Year 7
When pupils join us at St Michael’s, we ensure a smooth transition from KS2 to KS3 and therefore pupils are encouraged to develop their skills in the three main areas of the curriculum: reading, writing and speaking and listening. Our schemes of learning all centre on a core text, linked thematically to subsidiary texts, to ensure pupils’ study of English is broad, balanced and challenging.
In the first term, pupils study ‘Heroism’ and how it has changed in literature over time, from Hercules, through to Beowulf, through to real-life, modern-day heroes such as Marie Curie and Captain Tom Moore. From 2022 onwards, Year 7 pupils will also study My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, a poignant and beautifully written novel by Annabel Pitcher, which complements our thematic study of Heroism.
During the Lent term, pupils read A Midsummer Night’s Dream- one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. Whilst fairies and love triangles are interesting to examine, the concept of ‘Injustice’- particularly facing female characters- is one of our core foci in this unit. Complementing this text, pupils explore poetry about women, exploring how the ideas of patriarchy and feminism underpin texts over time.
Finally, pupils study Ghost Boys in our unit on ‘Bearing Witness.’ This moving text, written in 2018, examines the ongoing issues with racial discrimination in America. With the death of George Floyd just two years later, this prescient novel highlights the need for discrimination to be obliterated in society. By studying the contexts of slavery, Civil Rights and current issues around race, pupils will see the power of literary context and how the pen is, certainly, mightier than the sword.
Spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary are interleaved throughout the Year 7 curriculum, with a unit at the beginning of the year to establish that crucial basics are in place. Pupils also enjoy a timetabled ‘Reading’ lesson throughout the duration of Year 7 which centres on the importance of reading for pleasure and firmly establishes core reading skills.
English in Year 8
The curriculum in Year 8 continues to develop the breadth and depth of pupils’ understanding of English, this time centred on texts through time.
Pupils begin their Year 8 studies with the genre of comedy, chiefly Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and they examine how this problematic play presents injustice towards the Jewish race, resulting in pupils producing empathetic and critical essay responses about the treatment of Shylock. To further enhance their understanding of women battling the patriarchy, pupils also explore how Portia, an inspirational Shakespearean heroine, both defies and rebels against the conventions placed upon her and her sex.
Following this, in the Lent term, pupils study the Gothic genre of literature, with particular focus on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Phillip Pullman’s adaptation The Play of Frankenstein. Pupils explore what it means to be human; the duality of man and how a fascination with science and invention can lead to disastrous and Icarus-like consequences.
Finally, in the Trinity term, we explore the genre of ‘Dystopian Fiction’, with pupils aiming to ‘emulate the greats’ in their own dystopian narrative, which they produce after studying literary prodigies like Orwell, Wells and Atwood. Alongside extracts, pupils study Animal Farm, examining core threshold concepts such as application of context, writer’s craft and character transformation.
Spelling, punctuation and grammar are omnipresent in all units and pupils in Year 8 continue to enjoy some visits to the Armstrong Centre to foster their love of reading.
English in Year 9
This crucial, final year of KS3 English is focused on developing pupils’ analytical skills as well as fine-tuning their abilities to write more extensively and more critically about a range of texts.
In the first half term, pupils study a unit thematically linked to the school’s vision: ‘Body, Mind and Spirit.’ This study of non-fiction texts develops pupils’ abilities to debate recent and relevant issues in society; pupils become strong communicators and advocates for causes that are essential to the modern world, such as diets, addiction to gaming, the impact of social media and challenges posed to the human spirit. Pupils develop their ability to communicate their own views both in written and verbal form.
Following this, pupils study John Steinbeck’s classic novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ and, alongside this, a range of poems and non-fiction texts linked to diversity. Pupils hone their ability to write thematic essays linked to whole texts whilst also developing their scholarly understanding of literature, seeing that texts continue to be a part of a ‘conversation’ between authors through time.
During the Lent term, pupils study Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. This play, that has stood the test of time as one of Britain’s most loved productions since its inaugural performance in the 1980s, explores core concepts and barriers that underpin society as we still know it today such as class divide, gender roles and nature vs nurture.
Finally, in the Trinity term, pupils study a range of war poetry, written by some of the most celebrated poets from the last two-hundred years of the literary canon. Pupils write empathetically about the experiences of soldiers and they develop their ability to write about poetic forms, language and structure. In the final half term, as pupils enter the GCSE years, they study the five war poems from the GCSE Anthology.
Summative Assessment in Years 7, 8 and 9
Throughout Years 7, 8 and 9 pupils are closely monitored through a combination of in-class feedback, whole class marked work/feedback and with four summative assessments. This allows accurate judgements to be made about pupils’ strengths and areas in which they may need more support.
English in Years 10 and 11
At Key Stage 4 pupils follow the EDUQAS syllabi in English Language and English Literature. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most important subjects pupils will undertake and can open the door to a range of careers and opportunities in life.
In Year 10, pupils focus on the component parts of each GCSE syllabus with half-termly and sometimes termly units on the various aspects of both GCSE courses. In the Michaelmas Term, pupils study English Language Component 1, which comprises of fiction comprehension and narrative writing. Pupils study a range of extracts from fiction texts and then develop their ability to discern meaning and write with precision. Pupils hone their creative writing skills further by drafting and redrafting narratives so that they understand how to craft, edit and refine their work. After this, pupils study A Christmas Carol for their English Literature GCSE- a timeless, British classic by Charles Dickens. Pupils develop their procedural ability to craft literature essays and they develop their understanding of author’s craft and the importance of textual context.
In the Lent term, pupils study Component 2 of the English Language GCSE which comprises of non-fiction comprehension and transactional writing. Pupils develop their ability to write a range of text types for different audiences and purposes, as well as their comprehension skills, this time pertaining to non-fiction analysis. Following this, pupils study the remaining texts from the Poetry Anthology and they hone their abilities to write about Unseen Poetry texts.
Finally, in the Trinity term, pupils study An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley- another timeless classic, this time of theatrical mastery. Year 10 concludes with the pupils delivering their NEA talk- the Spoken Language element of the course. Pupils are required to deliver a talk on a topic of their choice, receiving a grade of pass, merit or distinction for their efforts.
In Year 11, we are lucky to be able to revisit each of our set texts and the components of the English Language GCSE, this time with a focus on revision, fine-tuning skills and, of course, erudition. Pupils receive more timed practises of assessment units so that they are fully prepared for the final examinations, in the May/June series. The sequence of these revision units can be found on our curriculum plans.
If you want to find out more about the courses at GCSE visit www.eduqas.co.uk
And there’s more…
Pupils may want to get involved in some of the extra-curricular activities we offer in the department including clubs for reading, creative writing and debating. The Armstrong Centre is our library and chapel- a truly inspirational setting where your child can escape into thousands of books, minds and worlds.
English Learning Schemes