Our philosophy as a department is to ensure that we enable the best outcomes for our students in English. By sharing our passion for English as teachers we hope to develop a passion for English amongst our students. Our vision hopes to see students achieve academic excellence in English, explore lifelong opportunities beyond the classroom and develop a genuine appreciation of literature.
Never before have the key skills of English – reading, writing and speaking – mattered more. Our students will be graduating into a modern world filled with information (as well as misinformation) and it is vital that we instill in our students the skills to navigate that world successfully and contribute positively to it. The constant march of the information revolution means that students – throughout the course of their lives – will be exposed to ever-changing ways of accessing the world and ever-changing ways of communicating within it. By giving every student a strong foundation in English (whether that’s through our MYP programmes in KS3, our GCSE programmes at KS4 or our IB and A-level programmes at sixth form) we believe we are putting our students on the very best track to succeed after leaving Strood Academy.
Our curriculum is planned around the aspirations of the national curriculum. From Year 7 onwards students are encouraged to build on skills learnt at Primary – including building on the core skills developed in preparation for SATs – with an explicit focus on the teaching of writing, reading, grammar and oracy. In particular, throughout their study at Strood Academy students are expected to be able to –
- read easily, fluently and with good understanding
- develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
- acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
- appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
- write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
- are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate
Our curriculum is at all times focussed on developing the above skills with units specifically designed with these in mind. As students move further into their studies at Strood Academy the difficulty increases and better proficiency is expected.
The MYP programme for English is currently taught to all Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 students across the academy. The aim of the MYP programme in English is simple: to give students a conceptual understanding of English through a curriculum that is rich, broad, challenging and global in nature. Throughout their three years on the programme students study a curriculum that includes works from different authors, different time periods, different genres, different countries and different literary traditions that will give them a well-rounded and thorough understanding of the subject of English.
Our MYP programme allows us to pair the full rigour of the existing English national curriculum with the opportunities offered by a gold-standard global programme. As a result students get the best of both worlds studying the rich heritage of the English literary tradition (through their studies of Shakespeare and Dickens) as well as urgent and diverse global perspectives (through the poetry of John Agard or the short stories of Maya Angelou).
The MYP programme develops in difficulty as students progress through their studies and students are expected to make clear connections between different material (for example students will study Shakespeare on each year of the MYP with increasingly sophisticated analysis expected from year to year). The exact programme of study for the MYP programme is as follows –
Year 7: Cultural and Identity Poetry, War Horse, Romeo and Juliet
Year 8: Animal Farm, The Gothic and Romantic movements, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Year 9: Oliver Twist, Short Stories, Poetry and a Shakespeare Anthology
The Accelerated Reader Programme, or AR for short, is another way we aim to improve literacy amongst our students here at Strood Academy. The programme begins with STAR testing in Year 7 where students go through some basic tests to establish their current reading ability and ends with the test generating their own reading score.
Students then have the choice to match this score to the books in our library, as well as our online library myON, to ensure that they are reading at the correct level in order to enjoy what they are reading and to challenge themselves to improve going forwards. Every book in our library comes complete with a coloured sticker and label to help guide students to their correct reading range.
When a student finishes a book, they will need to log into a library computer to complete that book’s matching quiz. Passing these quizzes tells us if a student is understanding what they are reading and helps us to know when they are ready to move up to the next reading level.
If you would like to know more about the Accelerated Reader Programme, then further information can be found in this guide for parents and guardians.
Our aim in English is to create a cumulative curriculum which builds specifically on skills and knowledge over a robust five-year plan. We want to guarantee that students moving from Key Stage 3 into Key Stage 4 have received a curriculum with breadth and depth, allowing students to engage with a wide variety of writing forms, time frames and global cultures. They will subsequently begin their GCSE year with a well rounded and conceptual understanding of English and the time periods of the texts studied.
Key Stage 4 classes follow the AQA curriculum for both Language and Literature in which the focus is for students to receive equity between the two subjects. The impact of teaching these components simultaneously will help students become competent, resilient and enthusiastic learners, achieving academic excellence in English with the opportunity to explore lifelong opportunities beyond the classroom. For both subjects, it is essential that we encourage students to become independent thinkers who formulate personalised ideas and opinions in their responses, recognising the effect and impact of authorial purpose and intent.
The study of Literature is not a one dimensional concept, instead it is a kaleidoscopic study with a crucial reliance on personal engagement and the challenging of perceptions. The Literature curriculum at Key Stage 4 introduces students to the set exam texts, with an intrinsic focus on teaching analytical and conceptual responses in both theory and practise. Our ‘Rapid Cycling’ focus in Year 11 allows students to continually apply their skills, recognising the expectations of each exam paper and create detailed and effective responses which clearly evidence the relevant assessment objectives. They study 4 set texts which span different genres, time periods and societal norms, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the Power and Conflict Anthology collection. It is essential that students are encouraged to identify contextual influences within their study of these texts, focusing on the importance of authorial conscious crafting whilst also being able to formulate their own views and perceptions of intent and impact.
In English Language, our curriculum shares a lot of the analytical skills taught in Literature, allowing students to transfer their skills and understanding in the analysis of language, structure and authorial perspectives. They also learn how to write perceptive and engaging extended pieces of both descriptive and transactional forms. The Spoken Language component of the AQA curriculum encourages students to consider a host of moral, ethical, social and political topics, focusing on one to deliver in the form of an engaging and thought-provoking presentation.
We want our students to complete their exams at Strood Academy with the best possible outcomes and begin their next steps in life, whether it be further education, apprenticeships or employment, as resilient, independent and thoughtful individuals who have enjoyed their experience, not just in English, but in education as a whole.
KS5: IBCP Language and Literature
The IBCP Language and Literature programme is a far-reaching and challenging programme of study for students on the IBCP study track. The course itself exposes students to high-level literature texts as well as language focussed texts we encounter in our everyday lives. Through this programme of study students will be expected to develop insightful and original ideas in response to a wide range of texts covering different time periods. The programme has a very defined independent focus with students’ encouraged to pursue their own lines of inquiry through a higher level essay and an individual oral presentation.
Texts that students will study include
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy
1984 by George Orwell
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Antigone by Sophocoles
KS5: A Level English Literature
As our students enter into the next phase of their education, it has never been more important to us to provide a thoroughly immersive programme of study for our students pursuing A Level English Literature, and we feel that our choice of qualification in AQA English Literature A Level A enables us to provide this.
Fundamentally, all of the teachers within our department have a genuine passion for and love for their subject: this is what we want for our sixth form pupils. We choose a diverse range of challenging texts from classic William Shakespeare to Carol Ann Duffy writing in the 21st Century to ensure that students learn about a broad range of Literature across time. Students are able to build on their strong analytical foundations from their English Literature GCSE, and use this as a springboard into the more sophisticated, independent skills that are required of a higher level qualification. Much like our ethos in KS4, our first priority is to enable students to formulate personalised, informed ideas and opinions, to take risks with their assertions and to articulate these confidently in their written work. Within this qualification, it is imperative that students engage in classroom debates, group and independent project work, seminar-style teaching and reflective essay writing. By complementing the students’ previous study with new and up-to-date literary theory, broadened contextual horizons and particularly with the freedom of choice in their coursework assignments, we take the students on a journey towards excellence in English Literature. In many ways, through this course we are preparing students to work at a degree level, and indeed we hope for many of our students to consider pursuing an English based qualification at University.
With the above aims in mind, it is imperative to us that we build our curriculum in a way that engenders confidence in our students to achieve and exceed their aspirations. By beginning their studies with our choice of Shakespeare’s Othello, students will feel that they are in familiar territory from their GCSE days, and will be able to ‘hit the ground running’. With two teachers delivering different elements of the course, our students benefit from a range of teaching styles and backgrounds, and over the first year will quickly cover the majority of their texts in real depth. We choose not to begin the students’ coursework study until the final module of Year 12 as we feel it is important to give the students the time and space to progress and feel comfortable with the requirements of this significant piece of writing, to have built their knowledge to the required level and to have the time to conduct their own personal research. We choose to give our students total freedom in the two texts that they choose for their coursework, as we feel that this is a moment for students to really follow their passion and write about what interests them. As we are able to comfortably cover the content for the qualification by Module two of Year 13, we enable our students several months of focused study towards their exam with plenty of time to hone their essay writing skills in order to achieve and exceed their target grades.
Whilst it is very important to us that our students leave Strood Academy with the best possible outcomes that enable their next steps, it is our fundamental belief that if our students leave as thoughtful, critical and independent learners with a genuine love and appreciation of English Literature in all of its forms, then we will have done our job well.