Principles and Purpose of English Curriculum
Our English curriculum at BCCS is bespokely designed so that students become equipped with powerful knowledge that enables them to be critical thinkers and readers who communicate clearly and purposefully both in writing and verbally. Our ambitious curriculum simultaneously encourages students to be empathetic learners who explore a range of themes, issues, situations and emotions, which they otherwise may never experience. This supports the school’s ethos that young people come together to be hopeful, kind and courageous. We strongly believe in students reading and responding to a range of diverse texts that incorporate wide ranging viewpoints and perspectives so that our curriculum content reflects our diverse student population. Through studying a range of diverse and engaging texts, students are taught to appreciate the power, richness and subtlety of words. Promoting a love of reading and reading widely is at the heart of our curriculum and we aim for all of our students to become highly literate and confident with reading.
The English Programme of Study is accessible, inclusive and challenging for all learners and is designed to ensure our SEND and vulnerable students have an enjoyable and enriching learning experience in addition to providing rigorous challenge for our higher attaining students. As an academic discipline, English develops skills of creativity, analysis, research, critical thinking, debate and argument, persuasion and clarity of thought - all skills which are central to our curriculum and are lifelong assets in our everyday lives. We teach students to be inquisitive and curious and realise how they can use their English skills to help them thrive in the wider world. English is a subject that not only equips students with core knowledge and skills, it is one that enables students to have a better understanding of the world around them and have a voice to express themselves with. Therefore through English we aim to build personal resilience, confidence and autonomy in order to prepare students for their future lives.
Why this, why now?
Our English curriculum is designed to empower students with knowledge that enables them to be creative, critical and questioning learners. Through various units of work, students are taught core substantive knowledge in a sequenced fashion throughout the key stages; this provides the building blocks for their wide ranging study of English. Key concepts and terms our young people are taught include genre and text type, key literary methods and devices, the difference between fiction and non-fiction and academic register. At GCSE and A Level, students become experts of the set texts and the contexts in which these texts are written and received. At A Level, students are challenged to read and research widely to further develop their expertise. Disciplinary knowledge is at the forefront of studying English Literature and Language and the skills at the heart of our curriculum encompass: inference, comprehension, analysis, evaluation, comparison, creative writing skills, persuasive writing skills and consideration of the purpose, audience and form in writing. Interdisciplinary knowledge is also key and through studying such a range of diverse texts, students are able to make links with their own cultural experiences and those of less familiar ones. Moreover, they are able to make links with other subjects such as history, politics, REP, citizenship, art and drama as they travel through the tapestry of our curriculum. Our aim is that students can then transfer their skills and knowledge, developing a voice in the real world so they can be well-informed agents for change.
Learning is sequenced to support a narrative that secures learning over time and key concepts and skills are continually revisited throughout our curriculum across the key stages. This allows for students to keep honing the core reading, writing and oracy skills that are at the heart of English. In Year 7, work on the identity and expression within a range of studied texts and the students’ own autobiographical pieces are complemented by the study of a novel in the first person. Written communication skills and discussion skills are developed throughout Year 7. In Year 8, the focus is on different cultures and associated challenging issues as well as genre study. Close reading skills are developed further in Year 8 as students become more confident with a range of texts. In Year 9, there is a strong emphasis on students creating a sense of voice. Students have opportunities to study and write poetry of protest, deliver their own essays on important issues and study a novel with key contemporary and universal themes so that students can start to relate their reading to wider contexts. The skill of relating texts to wider contexts in addition to comparative skills prepare Year 9 students well for the demands of GCSE English Literature and Language. Our excellent links with the drama department support study at Key Stage 3 being a really active and enjoyable experience, especially in the teaching of Shakespeare.
In Year 10 and 11, students prepare for AQA GCSE English Language and Literature and text choices are accessible yet challenging. Close reading and essay skills are honed throughout this part of a student’s English journey and students become more established writers as they build on creative and persuasive writing skills At A Level, students develop their critical skills through reading a range of texts which they closely analyse in terms of key themes and ideas as well as the style and craft of language. Independent work and secondary reading is crucial and students sharpen skills of developing interesting and sophisticated arguments in response to the texts they study.
Teaching the English Curriculum
In our English department, we deliberately choose texts that open up big issues that are current and meaningful for students. We have a team of knowledgeable subject specialists who are passionate about their subject and pursue the curriculum with charisma and confidence and are given a level of autonomy over the content they teach. This means that teachers can tailor and adapt the curriculum to best suit the needs of their students which is especially important when providing for SEND and P/LAC students in addition to making sure the higher attaining students are being adequately challenged.
In our teaching of English we use a range of strategies to promote inspiration and engagement in the subject and ensure that our students are active agents in their learning journey. These include:
- Diverse and engaging textual resources from a range of writers of varied backgrounds
- A wide range of texts, presented to students at different paces where appropriate and scaffolded appropriately
- Differentiated tasks - often by student choice or individual outcome
- Visual slides and use of images, video clips and documentaries for case study understanding
- Investigative and research tasks
- Promotion of the English classroom as a space where the highest academic expectations are a given and thinking hard is a requisite of every single student
- A mix of auditory, kinaesthetic and visual learning to support students’ learning styles and needs
- Key focus on discussion and speaking and listening
- Timetabled English intervention and support lessons
- Timetabled library reading lesson for students to pursue their own independent reading.
Thinking hard is a key, tangible quality in English lessons and is promoted through a range of strategies, including:
- Skilful and persistent questioning
- A respectful classroom
- High quality source materials
- Intertextual cross referencing
- Promotion of listening skills
- High expectations
- Academic ambition
- Modelling of thoughtful responses
- Promotion of self-confidence
Assessing the English Curriculum
In English, we ensure that students are assessed every half term through a summative assessment and at Key Stage 3 we strongly believe in speaking and listening being a key aspect of this assessment, in addition to reading and writing skills. At all key stages, formative assessment is used throughout each term to ensure that students are clear on their strengths and targets for improvement. Teachers mark with constructive comments, facilitate peer assessment, provide different forms of assessment (verbal, written), give whole class feedback and ‘common errors’ marking, use visualisers and work collaboratively to troubleshoot and share marking. Students are encouraged to read and respond to marked work by redrafting and routinely making corrections.
Disciplinary English skills are ones which develop over time through practice and exploration and our curriculum is designed with that in mind. We understand that in English we have a responsibility to teach and assess a wide range of skills and that progress for students may not always be linear (for example, an individual might have strong comprehension skills and be struggling with vocabulary in their creative writing). Therefore, we understand the importance of returning to key skills throughout a student’s journey through English and testing these through a variety of exciting assessments. .
For Key Stage 4 and 5 we have key mock exams in place in line with the BCCS assessment schedule to ensure that students’ progress is closely monitored. Detailed feedback is provided to students and model pieces of work are shared so students understand what they are aiming for and redrafting sections of their work is encouraged.
Progression in the English Curriculum
Broadly speaking, progression within our English curriculum is illustrated by students becoming increasingly confident, sophisticated and precise in their writing, reading and analytical and oracy skills.
Key Stage 3
We believe in a three year Key Stage 3 curriculum and are proud of the strong identity of our curriculum plus the skills we develop in our young people in Year 7 - 9 set them up for success at GCSE study. By the end of Year 9, students will have been exposed to a wide and diverse range of texts. Our curriculum allows us to focus on developing students’ inference and analytical skills so that they are confident in comprehension and selecting evidence from texts. They will also have had exposure to units of work that have developed their creative writing skills and have the foundations of a voice with which to express their ideas in writing and verbally. Comparison skills and starting to consider writers’ intentions in texts will have also been developed as foundation skills. We have a strong focus on literacy, with our library lessons, focus on spelling and some students using Lexia to enhance the accuracy of their writing. Their different studies of Shakespeare in Year 7, 8 and 9 also provide preparation for GCSE study.
Key Stage 4
In Year 10 and 11, students are preparing for AQA GCSE English Language and Literature. Students build on their disciplinary knowledge from GCSE and become experts in their set texts: Macbeth, A Christmas Carol, An Inspector Calls and Power and Conflict poetry. Analytical and argumentative writing skills become more confident as students prepare for essay writing on Shakespeare and 19th century texts. A key skill that students develop in this key stage inbeing able to relate texts they are studying to wider contexts and are thus able to make interesting comments about writers’ intentions. Comparison skills are honed and students further developed quick and accurate reading skills when faced with unfamiliar texts. Students build on the sense of voice developed at key stage 3 to be able to produce clear and coherent fiction and non-fiction writing with a sense of purpose.
Key Stage 5
A Level English Literature and Language are highly challenging subjects and by the end of Year 13 our students are experts of the texts they have studied and have confident understanding of the contexts of such texts. Technical knowledge of literary and linguistic techniques of concepts NEA sections of the specifications allow students to be exploratory and independent and we expect a high level of independent research to be completed by our sixth form students. They also become experts in appreciating different interpretations of texts and applying literary or linguistic theory or concepts to their reading and understanding. At this stage in their English studies, students are able to make links with the concepts and/or texts they are studying and the wider world so that their studies are enhancing their understanding of the world around them.