Tel: 01993 823303


English is the cornerstone of learning at Burford. We offer a rigorous and enriched curriculum throughout a student’s time at school. A strong focus on literacy underpins the teaching of literature, from Chaucer and Shakespeare, through time to contemporary writers such as Ian McEwan, Grace Nicholls and Susan Hill.

Staff and facilities 

Mr S Howells leads a team of ten subject specialist teachers and two specialist teaching assistants. The English Department is housed in a dedicated suite of classrooms. We have close links with the Library and are fully involved in Book Week. The recent investment in Accelerated Reader for our Year 7 students encourages individual reading, both in and out of school time.  There is a clear programme to follow, which students enjoy and which allows families to take an active role in supporting their child’s development as autonomous readers.



Welcome to the Literacy area on our school website. We could explain why Literacy is important in terms of improved exam performance and life prospects; that would be both valid and true. But there is so much more to Literacy than that. Being able to read and write well is one of the great life skills; being literate can help individuals achieve their life goals. Without words we cannot express how we are feeling to another person; we cannot explain what we need or want; we cannot communicate our great insights and ideas to others. Words can take us to places and times we have never physically visited; enable us to experience situations we would never normally face in our own lives; allow us to view the world from another person’s perspective. Being literate makes us more capable of realising the potential within us and opens up a world of imagination. So, what’s not to like?

A Literacy Forum is held in the Spring Term for parents of students in Years 8 & 9.  Resources from the most recent include:

Literacy Parent Forum 2020

Reading list for book haters



Challenge yourself with the latest Literacy Puzzle

or sit back and enjoy something from our growing list of stories:


The Beggar by Anton Chekhov

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Tobermory by Saki

A Vendetta by Guy de Maupassant

John Charrington’ s Wedding by Edith Nesbitt

The Hand by Guy de Maupassant



Poetry is a key element of our literacy programme.


An Anthology of Poems for Literacy is a selection of poems for students to enjoy.


Tuesday 23 February is the 200th anniversary of the death of the Romantic poet, John Keats.  Take a look at a recent article in the Guardian newspaper for a selection of planned celebrations.  To hear a selection of Keats’ poems, click here.


Visits and visitors

A love of English is fostered from Year 7 onwards, through theatre visits to Stratford and London, and in-house performances from the Young Shakespeare Company and Katch22. Visits from writers such as former Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion and our reading patrons, Martin Stewart and Ian Johnstone, provide inspiration to our own budding poets and novelists, whilst at A-level, university conferences provide students with a taste of the next stage on their literary journey.

Public Speaking competitions

Further opportunities offered to students at KS3 and KS4 include BBC School News Report and the national competitions aimed at budding lawyers, the Magistrates Mock Trial and the Bar Trial. The Year 9 Debating House Competition and whole school Poetry Competition are always hotly contested.

Additional support

Support for individual students includes Literacy groups at KS3, the twice weekly English Clinic and a full programme of revision lessons, study days and twilights provided at GCSE and ‘A’ level.

Key Stage 3

Year 7

As a core subject, students have seven one hour lessons a fortnight in Year 7 and six in Years 8 and 9. On entry to the school in Year 7, students work on a baseline unit in their first term, moving on to ballads, drama texts such as ‘Black Harvest’ and ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and novels such as ‘Private Peaceful’ and ‘The Graveyard Book.’ An introduction to Shakespeare  focuses either on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ or ‘The Tempest’. Literacy skills are revisited and built upon through creative writing and literacy booklets.

Year 8

As students develop their skills of analysis and interpretation in Year 8, they study a range of texts from other cultures. The importance of context and genre are to the fore. Pupils may learn about slavery in ‘Nightjohn,’ diary writing styles through Samuel Pepys and Anne Frank, gothic storytelling in ‘Dracula’ and Victorian poverty in ‘Oliver Twist’. Opportunities to develop creative flair and journalistic technique can be found in the Dragons Den and BBC School News Report module.

Year 9

Year 9, whilst developing skills for the GCSE years, introduces Victorian Literature and storytelling such as ‘Jekyll and ‘Hyde’ and ‘The Woman in Black.’ Poetry is also from the canon: WW1 or the Victorians; whilst travel writing and formal debates are very much of the modern IMG_4553era. Students build on their Shakespearean knowledge with an assessment of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

Students are taught in mixed ability tutor groups in Years 7 & 8. In Year 9 they are set, to allow for extension and extra support where needed.  A formally assessed piece of work is undertaken each term and a formal exam once a year.

KS3 Resources and Tasks 









Key Stage 4: AQA GCSE English Language

                          AQA GCSE English Literature

We follow the AQA syllabus and all students study both English Language and English Literature. At the end of the two year course assessment is by exam only. Some of the texts that we study include: An Inspector Calls, A Christmas Carol, Macbeth and the Power and Conflict anthology poems. We approach the language units thematically and integrate descriptive, narrative and the unseen fiction and non-fiction tasks alongside our study of the literature texts. Students work in sets at GCSE in order to tailor the course to ability.

There are two exams for English Language:

  • Writers’ Viewpoints and Perspectives
  • Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing

Students study a range of fiction and non-fiction extracts from 19th, 20th and 21st century literature. They develop their exam responses to questions about language and structure and how the writer has tried to influence the reader through their choices. In addition, students compose their own material for different styles and purposes: narrative/descriptive and non-fiction. Students who are informed about the world around them and take an active interest in current affairs are best equipped for this.


Literature assessment is rigorous, with two papers:


  • Shakespeare and the 19th Century Novel


  • Modern Prose or Drama and Poetry.


Students will develop their analysis of language, form and structure through the reading and critiquing of a range of extracts from their set play(s), novel and poems of study, whilst forming an understanding of the contexts in which they were produced.


equipped for this.

Literature assessment is rigorous, with two papers:

  • Shakespeare and the 19th Century Novel
  • Modern Prose or Drama and Poetry.

Students develop their analysis of language, form and structure through the reading and critiquing of a range of extracts from their set play(s), novel and poems of study, whilst forming an understanding of the contexts in which they were produced.

Key Stage 5: AQA A-level English Literature A

 As a facilitating subject English Literature is an A-level in demand from Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. It is a subject that offers opportunity for those who love to read and have analytical minds. Students who study English Literature go into careers in areas such as journalism, law and teaching.

We follow AQA English Literature A specification. Taking a thematic approach to studies, students cover prose, poetry and drama, from a wide range of different writers and times over the two-year course.

The course is made up of three components:

Paper 1: ‘Love Through the Ages’. Written exam: 3 hours, open book in Section C only, 75 marks, 40% of A-level.

Students study three texts: ‘Othello’ by William Shakespeare; plus a novel and a selection of poetry linked to the theme of love. Example texts include ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier or ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan. The written exam also asks students to respond to two unseen poems.

Paper 2: ‘Texts in Shared contexts: Option 2A: World War One and its aftermath’. Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes, open book, 75 marks, 40% of A-level.

The course encourages students to explore how literature depicts key aspects of World War One and its aftermath, looking at aspects such as: life on the front line; responses on the home front; heroism; the political and social aftermath; different and changing attitudes to the conflict.

Students study a range of texts, such as: ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks, ‘My Boy Jack’ by David Haig and Wilfred Owen’s poetry. The written exam includes an unseen extract of WW1 prose.

Non-examined assessment. The remaining 20% of the overall grade is made up of Non-examined assessment, which involved the comparative critical study of two texts across time. Students complete an extended essay of 2500 words, assessed by teachers, moderated by AQA, worth 50 marks and 20% of A-level.


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