Key Stage 3
In English, we aim to nurture creativity and introduce students to a range of challenging and stimulating texts across a variety of genres. We aim to foster confidence in responding to texts sensitively and analytically both orally and in writing. Students study narrative techniques and build on their creative writing exploring a range of short stories. They are expected to give a presentation on their own choice of a ‘Challenging Read’, and to read widely throughout the year. In studying ‘Animal Farm’, they develop an understanding of the importance of contextual factors and authorial intent, character development, and how to select and embed quotations. They experiment with speaking formally in a KS3 Solo Speaking competition, and for other purposes. They explore ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in terms of genre, plot, language, and theatrical devices. Students are taught how to write for different audiences and purposes. There are a large number of extra-curricular opportunities provided, including entering competitions.
In Year 8, students begin to think more conceptually about texts, developing their critical vocabulary so that they can analyse the language used with greater precision. Authors studied range from John Steinbeck to Shakespeare, and Chaucer to Arthur Miller, and students explore a range of poetry from different cultures. Students are encouraged to think about layers of meaning, and the use of symbolism. By this stage, students are writing formal literature essays, and learn to select and use quotations effectively to support their arguments. Students study a range of Victorian mystery stories, focusing on the writer’s craft, and they apply these techniques, thereby developing their creative writing skills in an extended narrative. Confidence in public speaking is further developed, including debating opportunities with other schools.
Students move away from reading texts in isolation and start to make connections between texts in terms of genre, themes and ideas. Students read texts of increasing length, complexity and sophistication, including Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet. In reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’, students start to acquire high-level analytical skills such as an appreciation of irony. Students build resilience and confidence by adopting different/opposing points of view in debate, and honing their research skills in order to support their arguments. The Conflict poetry unit encourages students to compare texts, integrating their comparisons. Students end the year with an independent project exploring the genre of dystopian literature. By the end of KS3, students have acquired the skills to feel confident in the transition to GCSE, both in English Language and English Literature.
Key Stage 4
Having acquired the vital analytical skills necessary for academic study in Key Stage 3, students at Henrietta Barnett find that the transition to GCSE goes smoothly. We combine opportunities for independence and discussion with a rigorous approach to the demands of the examination. The students are encouraged to develop thoughtful and individual approaches; this gives them the confidence to be self–reliant when faced with new challenges, posed for example by unseen examination texts. We aim to bring the subject alive through participation in theatre and conferences.
Key Stage 5
A large number of students continue to AS and A level English and beyond. We place real emphasis on students engaging in seminar style lessons, which is excellent preparation for university. There is a strong focus on vigorous debate, academic research, and students must be prepared to immerse themselves in the world of literature. We approach the A2 coursework in a unique way by offering each individual student the opportunity to choose her own authors and themes. This encourages independence, a sense of discovery and exploration and self-sufficiency.