English at Key Stage 3
The purpose of English at KS3 is to build on the knowledge and experience attained by our students at primary schools. We aim to help them develop authority and confidence in their written and spoken voices across a range of contexts. We also encourage students to appreciate the value of reading for pleasure and for learning, and support them in making the transition to reading more challenging, complex texts with independence.
In our initial unit, students use the topic of ‘Survival’ in order to learn how to argue a point of view in a formal, academic style. They also undertake a literacy audit to allow teachers to gauge their skills and plan for progression. Alongside this, the scheme is written to provide students with opportunities to develop their identity in the English classroom and for teachers to establish a supportive and challenging working environment. The study of Animal Farm builds on this idea of arguing a point of view. As well as understanding and enjoying the text, students will learn how to construct a basic literary essay. They then focus on developing their creative writing skills in our unit on Gothic writing. Here they will read several Gothic extracts and learn how to use figurative language, adverbials, and noun phrases to write in a Gothic style. This is followed by a unit that returns to the development of the analytical skills they practised in the Animal Farm scheme. This time they will use extracts by Roald Dahl to learn how to analyse a writer’s use of language. These skills are then applied to a different context in our next scheme, a unit on poetry. Finally, students return to creative writing in our final unit on travel writing, which focuses on Bill Bryson.
Year 8 begins with the reading of Of Mice and Men. As well as being an enjoyable text in itself, it gives students the chance to return to the analytical skills they developed in Year 7. In particular, students will focus on embedding language analysis into more formal essay structures. In the second half term, we continue to use Steinbeck’s text, but this time as stimulus for narrative writing. After Christmas, students study Much Ado About Nothing. As well as developing an appreciation of the text, the aim of this unit is to introduce them to aspects of Elizabethan theatre and language that will help them when they come to study Macbeth in Year 9. We then use the text in our next scheme, this time as inspiration for a unit on script writing, the aim of which is to develop students’ understanding of characterisation. In the summer term, students explore opinion pieces. Initially, students explore example articles to analyse the ways writers present their thoughts and feelings through specific language choices. Having studied these opinion pieces, students then have the chance to explore and develop their own points of view through writing.
English at Key Stage 4
The majority of students in Key Stage 4 will follow a GCSE course which is delivered over three years. We currently follow the AQA specifications 8700 GCSE English Language and 8702 GCSE English Literature. This leads students to two separate GCSE qualifications, each of which receives a separate GCSE result.
At KCC, we view Year 9 as a vital starting point for success at GCSE. Although Year 11 may seem distant, the work covered in Year 9 is designed to introduce both the subject content and key skills that students will encounter in their final exams.
In terms of Literature, students will be introduced to some of the texts that feature in their papers (namely Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and four of the poems set in the AQA GCSE Power and Conflict poetry anthology). In Year 9, the main objective is to allow students to engage with plot, characters and themes and ideas, before returning to the texts from a more analytical perspective later in the course. In this way, we hope that students will be inspired by a love of great literature and a chance to engage with wider ideas that transcend time and space.
Alongside this, students explore the skills of discursive and descriptive writing. Students will study a range of examples drawn from real texts in order to stimulate their own creative work. Year 9 also starts with a real focus on the importance of written accuracy, particularly as this now constitutes 20% of the marks for GCSE English Language.
In Year 10, we build on the skills and content which have been introduced in Year 9. For many of the skills and texts covered, Year 10 encompasses the main teaching of the content, and so a high level of attendance is vital.
To continue their Literature course, students will complete their study of An Inspector Calls and Macbeth, along with the analysis of more poems from their anthology. Alongside content, the focus of learning shifts more towards analytical skills and exploring the two big questions of Literature:
- What ideas are being conveyed in a text?
- What methods are being used by the writer to convey these ideas?
Language teaching focuses on using a range of stimulus materials to allow students to explore both creative and discursive texts. Students examine the techniques used by ‘real’ writers to craft engaging texts, and then apply these in the creation of their own texts in a range of forms and styles. We encourage students to make links between their Language and Literature courses. Year 10 ends with students completing their Spoken Language presentation, which is graded separately.
Year 11 starts with the completion of the GCSE Literature curriculum, with students revisiting Jekyll and Hyde with a deeper, analytical focus on themes and concepts. Students will also finish their study of the Power and Conflict anthology, before moving on to revision of these texts in preparation for the exams.
Language teaching focuses on the specific skills and strategies needed to approach the two very demanding exam papers. This includes exploring a range of texts from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, and covers fiction, non-fiction and literary non-fiction.
A small number of students may follow an alternative route through English at Key Stage 4. These students are linked to a main teaching group and teacher, but receive small-group tuition based on the development of more functional literacy skills. The exact course follows depends on the personalised learning needs of the student: currently, students are working towards AQA Silver Step and Gold Step Awards. These courses are designed as stepping stones towards the AQA GCSE course, and so may be used either alongside or instead of the main GCSE qualification. Where appropriate, teaching staff will liaise with outside agencies and other providers (e.g. Bidwell Brook) in order to access information about other relevant courses. In this instance, the SENCO (Miss Blumer) and Assistant SENCO (Mrs Good) are the first points of contact.
English at Key Stage 5
In the Sixth Form, the English Department offers two discrete A Level courses: AQA English Language and Edexcel English Literature