English is a core subject that students will study throughout their learning journey. In year 10 and 11, students will be studying two GCSE subjects: English Language and English Literature. The skills required for both subjects are taught in Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.
Reason for sequencing the curriculum for every year group in the way it is, and the subject specific/pedagogical approach taken:
Stradbroke’s English curriculum offers a five year progression of the key skills that are required at GCSE level.
The key skills required at the end of Key Stage 4 are:
- Comparing 19th, 20th and 21st Century fiction and non-fiction
- Evaluating the writers’ perspectives
- Identifying and evaluating a writer’s structural and linguistic choices
- Creative writing
- Spoken language
- Identifying inference
- Demonstrating varied and accurate spellings, punctuation and grammar
- Broadening their cultural experiences and considering the context of a text
The English Key Stage 3 curriculum is sequenced in accordance to a particular theme that we wish to address.
Year 7 – Outsiders (social outcast)
Year 8 – The role of women (gender inequality)
Year 9 – Conflict (war and class)
The long term plan for year 8 students is centred on the concept: ‘The role of women’. The concept derives from our understanding of some of central themes that are relevant in the set texts that we offer at GCSE level. We, therefore, designed a long term plan that offers our students with numerous opportunities to discuss and write about the ‘role of women’ according to the text or short story that they are studying. An example of this would be asking the students to research 1940’s adverts about house work, as an introductory homework task, that could form the basis of a class discussion about ‘the role of women’ and what society expected women to do or behave like before they study the short story: ‘The Lamb to the Slaughter’ where the students are asked to reflect on how and why the writer created the female character in that way.
In year 9, we have decided to use term one to scaffold the skills of: evaluation and comparison with a former GCSE set text ‘The Lord of the Flies’ as well as suitably challenging non-fiction that has up-to date links to our modern society. An example of this is our decision to approach the comparative skill by comparing WW1 and Afghanistan images and non-fiction articles in November given the fact that we have just had Remembrance Sunday. This was an opportunity to make cross-curricular links to history as well as modelling the concept of ‘respect’ as many of our students have family members that are either currently serving in a war or did in former wars.
In year 9, term two and three, we have developed a curriculum that collates some of the core skills that they have been practising in Key Stage 3: characterisation, evaluation of writer’s perspective, identification and analysis of a writer’s use of literary craft.
We are aware that the GCSE exam offers the increased challenge of a 19th Century set texts such as ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde’. As we take great pride in the fact that we teach mixed ability students, we felt that it is of paramount importance that we give our students the sufficient time that they need to read, discuss and process the challenging social contexts that are hidden within the text so that they can use the two remaining years of their GCSEs develop their written expression and maturity so that they can confidently explore context. Our decision to introduce a set text in year 9 has been carefully considered so that we can satisfy that we have catered for the wide variety of students that we teach as we are a school which prides itself on inclusion and pupil progress.
In Key Stage 4, we have separated the cluster of fifteen ‘Power and Conflict’ poems into themes to allow our students to see visible connections between the poems and to revisit poems that they have already studied according to a different theme. The very nature of grouping poems relates to our sequencing approach in Key Stage 3 as we try to provide a clear rationale behind the purposes of studying the texts that we do or why we focus on a particular skill. Our rationale behind the thematic approach stems from student interviews as we received verbal confirmation which supports our theory that our students know why they are learning each topic.
How we build on prior learning:
The English curriculum offers a five year progression of the key skills that are required at GCSE level.
We use Key Stage 2 SATs scores as a starting point to understand the level students are working at as well as benchmarking students’ writing at the start of year 7 and 8 to gauge what skills need to be improved.
We provide opportunities for our students to address each key skill from year 7 onwards; we create tailored activities that are suitably challenging for the mixed ability students that we have in our classes.
The key skill is often accompanied by a carefully selected short story, piece of non-fiction or complete novel to allow our students to learn about how to approach a key skill and how to write about it as we offer countless opportunities for our students to demonstrate their understanding of the particular skill that we are addressing that term.
Throughout the five year process our students are taught key approaches to their analysis or creative writing which is taught consistently throughout each class; our students are then provided with secure foundations to build upon as their levels of maturity and understanding of the culture, that surrounds each activity, increases.
As our students progress through their five year curriculum we select more challenging texts and add more challenging subject terminology into their learning with a higher expectation for them to expand on their initial ideas so that they then produce a more detailed analysis or piece of creative writing that reflects the beginnings of a perceptive and confident learner.
We also try to offer our students with more opportunities to be independent learners; this can be seen through the types of homework tasks that we give our students.
How we prepare students for the future:
The five year English curriculum offers students a wealth of opportunities to discuss and increase their cultural experiences. Each set text, that we study, has a host of contextual factors that we regularly discuss and encourage them to write about when exploring a writer’s perspective.
We look at historical context, ranging from WW1, WW2 ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’, modern warfare, The Great Depression and racial inequality ‘Of Mice and Men’.
We explore the social context within texts such as depression, learning disability and gender inequality within texts such as ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘The Curious Incident’
We also explore the political context within texts such as ‘An Inspector Calls’ and ‘Macbeth’.
We make wider curriculum links to other subjects that are studying key ideas at the same time as us e.g. year 7 (autumn one) are taught about symbols in literature as well as Art.
All of our texts are taught with a great emphasis on class discussion and group work as it provides our students with a ‘safe learning environment’ for them to discuss their views with the guidance of their class teacher to enable them to appreciate who we all are and how our country, and others, have been shaped by society.
Our subject allows our students to exercise their written and verbal expression which are essential skills for their future employment. By teaching our students about the great range of texts that we offer we are broadening their views about society whilst modelling the skill of being a thoughtful individual that appreciates that others are different but still humans that deserve heightened respect.
Additional provision to support learning:
The English department offers a range of trips throughout the five year curriculum.
Every year group gets the opportunity to go to a live theatre production so that they can experience live theatre and see actors/actresses exercising their creativity.
The English department have organised a trip for a small number of high prior attaining (HPA) students to visit Wymondham College so that they can work with some A Level students to gain experience about life beyond high school and GCSE English.
The English department has asked guest speakers to come in and do poetry workshops with small groups of students to allow them further opportunities to exercise their creative skills with the watchful eye of an expert supporting them and modelling their most recent collection.