English and English Literature provide the foundation of education and learning in this country and, increasingly, worldwide. The former provides access to easy, efficient and effective communication from the most basic understanding of how a language works to the more subtle expression of sophisticated concepts. Increasingly, English is the common language of the planet. English is not merely a system of signs; it is how we engage with the world, it is how we imagine ourselves, it is the expression of the self. It is flexible, ever-changing and constantly expanding. We like to think that this department, literally and metaphorically, gives our students a voice.
We encourage positive and proactive students: we want them to bring ideas to lessons and to make links with other subjects. English is not merely a subject; it is a medium for learning.
We do not set in the English Department and so all of our students are exposed to a detailed exploration of English Literature. At no point is a student turned away from the subject simply because they have not yet found “their ideal book” - rather, we encourage them to keep looking for it. All subjects demand an understanding of the wider world and the most efficient way to engage with the diverse range of human experience is through reading. Recent research suggests that the process of reading improves cognitive ability in every subject area. Reading is the best exercise for the mind and we want our students to be fit for whatever purpose they choose to pursue beyond the English classroom.
The department encourages staff to teach to their own strengths and tastes whilst complying with a core curriculum. In this way students experience a range of texts and approaches over the course of their English education.
Students in Year 6 of the Senior School follow their own, discrete syllabus which is designed to dovetail with the curriculum of Year 7 and beyond. It allows for an independent response to a range of texts and topics and it encourages a pro-active engagement with the subject with a clear appreciation of how different subject areas interact and complement each other. English is at the core of this cross-curricular approach.
Students have five periods of English per week. There is a core curriculum but teachers are encouraged to pursue their own methods and techniques in the delivery of the subject. A study of a Shakespeare text is central to the year’s teaching as is creative writing, the study of a set novel and the study of poetry with emphasis on the sonnet form. Ample opportunity is given for self-expression orally and on paper but close attention is also paid to the discipline of accurate and efficient expression. Students are assessed as individuals and as participants in paired and group work. Over the year students are given guidance as to how to prepare for exams and how to organise coursework tasks. Students are actively encouraged to use the Library.
All students have five periods of English per week. As in other years, a flexibility of approach to the core curriculum is encouraged. Another Shakespeare text is studied and the skills learnt in Year 7 are built upon with regard to Speaking and Listening, Writing and Reading. Literary analysis and essay construction across a range of genres is developed along with a variety of other prose forms. A range of set texts are studied over the course of the year but students are encouraged to expand their own reading experience by visiting the library regularly. Students are assessed as individuals and as participants in paired and group work. The course is divided into coursework and exam skills and preparation.
All students have at least five periods of English in Year 9 although some students may take a further four periods of Extra English as an option. The latter is selected on the basis of individual need. The year as a whole forms an important preparation for IGCSE and the course is tailored towards the specific skills required at for the public examination as well as expanding the students’ appreciation of literary texts and techniques. As in earlier years, coursework is a significant part of the assessment of the work done over the course of the year and contributes to the terminal mark when added to the students’ exam results.
The students follow the Edexcel IGCSE exam course for English and for English Literature. They should achieve two full IGCSE qualifications at the end of the course. They have five periods of English in Year 10 and six periods in Year 11. The previous years’ curriculums anticipate the tasks and skills required for the coursework and the exam. Students who wish to do well must read beyond the content of the lessons - good grades in English and English Literature are only possible if candidates build on and use the skills supplied during the course. Learning content by rote cannot guarantee success. To this end students are given a good grounding in how to read a range of texts critically and the best students hone their technique as a natural part of their engagement with the world around them.
English Language results: 100% A to C; English Literature results: 98% A to C
As with all Arts and Humanities subjects, students should come to class equipped with an enquiring mind and broad frame of reference with regard to literature and culture.
Lessons involve the lively discussion of texts and the cut and thrust of critical debate. A diverse range of critical opinions is welcomed as long as they are developed into a disciplined and analytical argument.
The A Level course is assessed by coursework and two terminal examinations at the end of the Upper Sixth. UVI students must produce genre-based coursework and, this must be submitted by February half-term. One terminal exam is set on one Shakespeare text and on the comparison between Pre-19th century poetic and dramatic texts from a text list set by the Exam Board. The other paper centres on a genre paper which requires the close study of two texts and the ability to respond to an an unseen text from the students’ chosen genre.
Students are encouraged to read around the course and to be independent in their critical analysis whilst adhering to the practice of close reading and detailed critical reference.
Realistic Expectations of Sixth Form Students taking English Literature:
- To read the set texts according to given deadlines.
- To have detailed notes by the exam for character, theme, and style/structure, based upon lesson notes and supplementary reading
- To be prepared to do some reading around the set texts for LVI (e.g. all supplementary handouts, and at least one critical work per set text), and for UVI (e.g. all supplementary handouts plus at least two critical works per set text, especially for the synoptic paper). Examples of suggested supplementary reading lists are readily available from the relevant members of staff.
- To be willing to participate in class discussion.
- To produce competent analytical essays under timed conditions in LVI, and closely argued analytical essays under timed conditions in UVI.
- To produce suitably analytical pieces for coursework, hitting deadlines as set by the Head of Department and supervisors.
- To structure work around deadlines and to anticipate problems early, and negotiate solutions.
The present Lower Sixth follow the new specification. There is no coursework requirement in the Lower Sixth.
New A level Course (Teaching from September 2016)
The Specification Overview
English Literature A Level (H472)
||% of A Level
- Drama and Poetry pre-1900
Drama and Poetry
2 hours 30 minutes
|40% of total A level
- Close Reading in chosen topic area
- Comparative and contextual study from chosen topic area
Comparative and contextual study
2 hours 30 minutes
|40% of total A level
- Close reading OR re-creative writing piece with commentary
- Comparative essay*
20% of total A level
*Indicates synoptic assessment
Students who are retaking the qualification may carry forward their result for the non-exam assessment component.
Content of A Level in English Literature (H472) The OCR A Level in English Literature qualification will build on the knowledge, understanding and skills established at GCSE, introducing learners to the discipline of advanced literary studies and it requires reading of all the major literary genres of poetry, prose and drama.
Full details of the new specifications may be found on the OCR Website by clicking here
The Department runs occasional lectures on English texts and topics, members of the department publish articles and papers in educational publications and online; the department has hosted students from other schools in outreach sessions and the department regularly participates in DMU’s English in the Workplace module. English Department staff co-ordinate and contribute to the Enrichment Programme.
The Department runs theatre trips, lecture trips to universities (The Department has close links with the English Association based at Leicester University and with the English Department at De Montfort University).
Departmental staff edit and co-ordinate The Leicestrian school magazine (M Higginson) and The Peacock, the school newsletter (R.W.S. Kidd , R.E.Kendall and J.T. Hunt). J.M. Griffin edits The Study Skills booklet (please see below). From time to time the department is involved in the production/direction of school drama productions; the department hosts the biennial Shakespeare Conference and is hosting a series of external speakers including the former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion and Simon Armitage. Several members of the department are or have been external examiners.
Study Skills: Survival Guide