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English is:

  • The medium through which we express and understand ourselves, and make sense of the world
  • The world language of commerce, learning, science, and industry
  • Vital for success in all other subjects;

The Department aims to equip its pupils for all these inspiring and challenging aspects of our subject; in their time studying English, our pupils learn to understand, analyse, and question different types of text- from newspaper articles, film extracts, to classic poems and novels.

Our pupils are able, by the end of their English studies, to make greater sense of their place in the world, and to apply their skills of communication, analysis, understanding and evaluation to other contexts; they also have a far deeper appreciation of the beauty of language, and literature, in conveying human experience.

Key Stage 3

Each child will study writing skills, a modern text, a Shakespeare text, poetry, a playscript, a non-fiction unit and reading skills in their first year. We also focus on teaching the students to apply spelling, punctuation, grammar and speed reading skills to their writing in order to ensure basic standards in writing and reading are maintained and improved. As well as reading novels and reading and writing poetry, the course offers dramatic interpretations of texts, moving image analysis so the students learn how to read ‘media’ texts as well as books and lots of chances to develop their writing style in different genres.

We offer a range of traditional and contemporary texts to inspire and challenge the students, including Animal Farm by George Orwell, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. We also run a book club for Key Stage 3 in which students have the opportunity to enter local and national competitions, judge books for National Projects, including the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize and share their love of a range of books.

In Year 7, students are assessed after three weeks so that the department can ascertain their baseline grade, from which their target grades are calculated. In Years 7 and 8, students are assessed through 10 formal pieces produced over the year, so that the students know exactly how they are progressing in their writing and reading. In addition, in Year 7, the department also teaches a ‘Let’s Think’ lesson once a fortnight in which students’ higher order thinking and understanding is challenged and stretched through a range of exciting texts, questioning and discussion. These lessons are extremely popular with all students as they are given the opportunity to discuss independently and feel real ownership over their learning.

We also have a library lesson a fortnight for Year 7, where students are encouraged to bring the books they are reading at home to school to promote a positive reading environment.

As a department we feel reading for pleasure is central to every student's ability in English. We also target speaking and listening, through drama, group work and presentations. This lays a foundation for skills needed at GCSE as well as boosting confidence and communication skills.

Key Stage 4

At Key Stage 4, we continue to develop the skills and interests acquired in Key Stage 3. Students are introduced to modern and more traditional poetry, playwrights and novelists from England and other cultures and more focused essay-writing and speaking and listening skills. All pupils take AQA GCSE English Literature as well as English Language.

Both GCSEs are assessed solely through examination. There are two papers for English Language, one with a literary focus, the other with a non-fiction one. Both comprise five questions - four that test candidates’ reading skills and one written task. English Literature sees students study a range of poetry, prose and drama, the set texts being A Christmas Carol, An Inspector Calls, an Anthology of poetry from a variety of time periods entitled ‘Power and Conflict’, and the Shakespeare play Macbeth. Most years we are able to take students to see at least one live performance of these, or invite travelling companies to come to BGS to bring them alive.

The Speaking and Listening component is separate to the GCSEs. It is a brief individual presentation on a topic of the students’ choice, and they are awarded a Pass, Merit or Distinction.

Key Stage 5

Every IB student takes English Literature at Higher or Standard Level. The IB course consists of oral and written assessment. In the Higher level, 13 texts are studied across 4 genres, 3 time periods and 3 different places. The focus is on breadth, giving the student an overview of literature they may enjoy and engage with and an understanding of playwrights from Shakespeare to Ibsen; texts from other cultures also make up the syllabus, which could be a selection of African, Irish or French texts; a wide variety of poetry and non-fiction are also studied. Students are then assessed on these texts in a assortment of ways varying from conventional exams and coursework to oral presentations. The Standard English IB course is similar, offering the same exciting breadth and variety of assessment just with slightly fewer texts to study across the two years.

There is also a regular Book Club for Sixth Form, visiting lecturers and many trips to the theatre, opera, cinema through the Sixth Form ‘Culture Club’, led by Ms Hanington and Ms Stoddard, both member sof the English Department.