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 immersed 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.
A Literacy Forum is held in the Spring Term for parents of students in Years 8 & 9. Resources from the most recent include:
Challenge yourself with the latest Literacy Puzzle.
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 the 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 allow students a taste of the next stage on their literary journey.
Public Speaking competitions
Other 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.
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
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 will focus either on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ or ‘The Tempest’. Literacy skills are revisited and built upon through Creative Writing and Literacy booklets.
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, 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 era. Students build on their Shakespearean knowledge with an assessment on ‘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
At GCSE we follow the AQA syllabus. All students study both English Language and English Literature. Formal assessment is by exam only at the end of the two year course. Students are set 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 are required to analyse a range of unseen literary and non-fiction extracts, as well as compose their own material. Students who are informed about the world around them and take an 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.
At the end of each topic, students have an in-house assessment to prepare them for external exams.
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.
From September 2020 we will follow AQA English Literature A specification. Taking a thematic approach to your studies, over the two-year course you will cover prose, poetry and drama, from a wide range of different writers and times.
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 will 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 will also ask 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 will encourage 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 will 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 will include 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 will complete an extended essay of 2500 words, assessed by teachers, moderated by AQA, worth 50 marks and 20% of A-level.