What makes the English curriculum so special?

Our English curriculum is so special because it is both a window and a mirror. English allows scholars to both hold a mirror up to their own selves through the rich and wonderful texts that we read, such as ‘A Monster Calls’, ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, ‘The Weight of Water’, ‘Clap When you Land’ or ‘Othello’, and reflect upon their own thoughts, feelings and place within the world.

But, we also show our scholars through a window out into the world of wider experiences, different customs, beliefs as well as new and enriching knowledge which will only unlock more windows and doors for them in the future. This is through texts such as ‘The Woman in Black’ – we read this in year 8 in order to plant seeds for future study of Gothic texts and interpolated narrative structure in Year 9 and Year 10.   Or, we explicitly teach Aristotle’s modes of persuasion at the start of year 8, not only so that scholars can be persuasive and enticing speakers themselves but also so that they can notice and appreciate or even be wary of rhetoric when they are consuming it outside of the classroom.

The English curriculum is built upon recurrent key questions, which are interwoven and revisited throughout the programme of study.  Examples of these include:

  • Why is love important?
  • What makes a tragedy?
  • Is there any justice?
  • How do writers reflect the society in which they live?
  • What makes writing persuasive?

How is the English curriculum enacted in a way that honours its beauty, richness and distinctiveness?

Our English teachers are experts, both in their subject and in the craft of teaching. We focus on scripting powerful questions; mapping links and connections and considering precisely how we will narrate these to scholars to support them in developing increasingly complex schemata; planning to the detail as to how we can maximise the number of scholars thinking hard and participating fully in lessons. There are plentiful opportunities for purposeful discussion in English classrooms at CMA, but scholars also engage in extensive opportunities for independent practice so that they develop fluency.

The English department spends time scripting and rehearsing our exposition to ensure that we are fully prepared to discuss traditionally taboo or ‘uncomfortable’ topics found in literary texts such as racism, consent, homophobia etc. This ensures that our scholars are equipped with powerful yet respectful language in order to grapple with crucial social issues of the past, present and future. Our English Language curriculum exposes scholars to a variety of media and text types, particularly non-fiction writing and rhetoric, which will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to society by being able to consume and critique the media of today.

English is the bedrock of a school’s curriculum. English explicitly teaches the rules of the English language which makes scholars effective oral and written communicators. Through our explicit grammar instruction and English language lessons, scholars are equipped with the abilities to express themselves articulately through a variety of text types (such as memoir, letter, article and narrative writing) as well as verbally (through debates, rhetorical speeches and class performances). We emphasise the importance that writing is performed to be read, heard and shared, and scholars are carefully guided and instructed so as to create an environment where their voice can be heard and their ideas can inspire.

 How does the English curriculum equip scholars with knowledge that provides them with new ways of thinking about the world and has the capacity to take them beyond their own original experiences?

The historicist approach of much of our English Literature curriculum equips our scholars with the interest and understanding of the ways our own and different communities and societies function now and throughout history at a variety of levels. For example, the social and political structures of democracy and monarchy are crucial underpinning elements of the year 8 curriculum and are taught explicitly and explored in depth. In addition, scholars in year 9 begin explicit practice of critical literary theory and read texts through feminist, post-colonial and Marxist lenses. This develops critical skills to examine and question social interactions, wider reading and media exposure throughout their lives in a respectful manner and from an informed perspective. This springboards into discussions upon tolerance, acceptance, stereotypes, liberty and respect.

Poetry in Voice helps the cultural development of our scholars as the poems that they learn by heart are noteworthy and significant texts from our heritage and or are culturally iconic. They are written by influential and talented poets who are also representative of different national and international communities and cultures. The selection of poems and poets which make up the Castle Canon are consciously diversifying and, in some cases, decolonising the traditional literary canon: they are representative of the vast range of cultures in our school, our city and our country. Furthermore, Poetry in Voice highlights and celebrates the cultural influences which have and will shape media and art and our tutor time programme during ‘Poetry in Voice Weeks’ will help our scholars and our community to become increasingly empathetic and knowledgeable individuals. They represent our school’s commitment to shape a more equitable future for our scholars.

Subject Leader/s

Ms Lily Woods
[email protected]