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English is a department that believes in teaching skills as much as content, and about encouraging enthusiasm in reading, writing, and other media. Our aim is to foster articulacy, confidence and distinction; this is stated explicitly in our written department objectives, and is something we reflect on every year. We aim not only to make a decisive contribution to the academic success of our students, but also to promote their personal growth as reflective and independent individuals. Most of all, we believe in the fundamental importance of literacy and literature to the development of young people.  

Pupils at St Albans School will also have frequent opportunities to experience English outside of the classroom, too. We run an extensive program of trips and visits; just a few recent examples include The Merchant of Venice (Watford, Fourth Form), The Crucible (National Theatre, Sixth Form), and Tosca (English National Opera, Third and Fourth Form).  

English in Lower School
In the Lower School (Years 7 and 8), pupils are taught English in mixed ability form groups by one specialist teacher. They have three or four lessons per week; one of those lessons will take place in our purpose-built Junior Library, and will focus on the fundamentals of grammar, and on allowing a safe space for pupils to pursue their own reading interests. The syllabus focuses on grounding and developing key written skills, but also aims to introduce students to a diverse range of writers and genres; over the two years, students will study (among other things) a Shakespeare play, a Gothic novel, a unit on non-fiction, and war poetry. There are many opportunities for creative writing, with an annual competition, as well as an annual Workshop for First Form pupils, who spend a morning working with professional writers.

English in Third Form
In the Third Form (Year 9), pupils are setted by ability. Initial sets are decided by Second Form/entrance data at the start of the year, with some changes typically made for the spring term. We do not begin GCSE content in this year, but do begin to teach the relevant skills, and pupils are introduced to more sophisticated approaches to the subject, including the importance of context, the idea of comparison and comparative literary study, and how to approach whole text essays. These objectives are taught and assessed partly via a c.1500-word extended essay on a Shakespeare play, and pupils will also study a substantial modern novel and a range of poetry, covering the period 1560 to the present day. In Language, we develop pupils’ ability to read and write non-fiction in a range of styles for different purposes and audiences. The year concludes with an oral presentation, which is the final skill we work on in this year.

English in Middle School
The Fourth and Fifth Form (Years 10 and 11) programme of study prepares pupils for the Edexcel IGCSE qualifications in English Literature and English Language. Pupils are continue to be setted by ability and are taught by the same teacher for both years. The Literature course is exam-only; pupils will sit two papers, which between them cover a Shakespeare play, a modern novel, a modern drama, a selection of poetry and an unseen poetry assessment. Language is assessed partly by exam (60%) and partly by coursework (40%). There is one exam paper, which tests students’ responses to an unseen non-fiction text, a previously studied non-fiction piece, and requires a non-fiction essay. Coursework involves a short essay comparing two poems or short stories, and an additional piece of creative writing. Pupils have the opportunity to draft their coursework and receive guidance prior to final submission. The IGCSE Language course also requires that pupils complete an oral presentation, which is separately assessed.

English in Sixth Form
At A Level, both our approach to the subject and the texts studied become increasingly sophisticated, and pupils are expected be more independent, scholarly and adventurous in their approach. All pupils are taught, typically in small groups, by two teachers, for a total of six periods per week. We follow the Edexcel A Level specification, and all students will study two plays (one by Shakespeare), two novels (at least one written before 1900), 2 poets or collections of poetry (one from after 2000), and produce a semi-independent coursework essay, based on two texts, of approximately 3000 words. The department benefits from the input of experienced senior examiners and we have consistently enjoyed superb results for students at various levels of ability.