In English at Ashlyns, we aim to promote skills and knowledge that will build confident, articulate readers, writers, and speakers, able to engage with and analyse a broad range of diverse and challenging texts. We want our students to be perceptive, critical thinkers, who are able to overcome challenges and obstacles and who enjoy engaging with the written and spoken word and understand the power of literature and what literature of all types can teach us. Our curriculum is engaging and creative, encouraging and inspiring tolerance and diversity. It aims to stretch and challenge our students’ skills, knowledge and understanding at all levels, while also working to address any gaps.
Key Stage 3
Our aims at KS3 are to further a love of reading and engagement with all varieties of text types. We want to give students the skills to tackle all types and genres of writing and the knowledge to appreciate them, while being able to ask critical and informed questions of what they are reading. Students build on skills developed in KS2 through a thematic approach and are challenged to consider different viewpoints from their own. A core part of KS3 is in using texts to develop and explore difference, respect, and tolerance.
Students study how a variety of authors communicate ideas and information through their choice of vocabulary, sentence structure and punctuation. The texts studied include: nineteenth century fiction and non-fiction, poetry, newspaper articles, and modern novels. Our choice of ‘Coram Boy’ for the Year 7 novel is to engage students with our local heritage while building understanding of past cultures. These skills are then embedded into the students’ work as they build their creative and transactional writing expertise.
The skills gained in year 7 are further built on and expanded through the students’ study of a range of challenging texts including Shakespeare and two modern novels. Woven through these schemes are: nineteenth century extracts, including canonical authors; a short film unit; poetry; non-fiction extracts and creative writing. The students begin to look at bias, reliable narrators, point of view and to further their ability to challenge their understanding of the world. The Year 8 novel, ‘The Other Side of Truth’, is chosen to work with our overall aims of building tolerance and understanding of diversity.
This is an engaging and demanding year for our students; they study a Shakespeare play, nineteenth century novella and an early twentieth century classic. They also look at a variety of non-fiction extracts as well as a short media unit – these both help to build their transactional writing skills. This school year enables the students to consolidate the English skills that they have attained over their time in KS3, implicitly giving them the skills needed for their GCSEs whilst still nurturing a love of the written word.
Key Stage 4
Students build on core skills in writing, analysis, and critical thinking, amongst others, developed in KS3. We deliver the AQA specifications in English Language and English Literature, and students sit both qualifications.
Over the two years of KS4, students continue to develop their understanding of the world, of the past, and of the English literary canon through the study of core texts such as ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘Macbeth.’ The work done in KS3 on the appreciation and analysis of writers’ craft are developed fully in KS4, allowing students to engage with and understand challenging texts. Students continually develop skills that will create insightful, critical students of English Language and Literature at A level and beyond in the wider world, working to understand tone and bias, how language can be manipulated, how to create and manage formality and write for audience and purpose.
Key Stage 5
At KS5, students are given the opportunity to broaden and develop analysis and interpretation skills to their fullest. We aim to produce insightful, articulate, resilient students of English Literature who are equipped for further study at university and in the wider context. We study the Eduqas specification for English Literature and the AQA specification for English Language and Literature.
In both subjects students enjoy engaging with a wide array from texts, from John Donne and Shakespeare to Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Larkin, and Lionel Shriver. The level of independence required in English, alongside guidance of where you can take English further in the wider job market, means many of our English students decide to pursue the subject at higher education establishments after achieving fantastic results at A-Level.
Learning beyond the classroom
Students have the opportunity to engage in a wide and exciting array of English -related activities beyond the classroom. The Learning Resource Centre is a lively hub of activity, with a full calendar of author visits, Harry Potter-themed after school events, murder mystery afternoons, spooky Halloween readings by members of teaching staff, quizzes, and much, much more. The English department offers regular theatre trips, visits to Poetry Live, and other events. Our Youth Speaks teams are successful year after year, often reaching the Regional Finals, and our learning ambassadors regularly deliver English lessons to our local primary schools building links to wider community.
Our parallel curriculum offers the chance to extend all students’ learning, and is founded in developing a love of reading while encouraging students to think critically around text.
At Ashlyns, we believe that the development of students’ love of learning is of central importance in our curriculum. In order to give students every opportunity to develop this, we have developed a Challenge Curriculum which provides the opportunity for students to enhance their learning across the subjects. The activities contained within the Challenge Curriculum are for students to undertake independently, and take lots of forms, including watching films or clips, visiting museums, conducting independent research, listening to podcasts, and watching lectures online. They are by no means exhaustive, and we encourage all activities that enable students to engage with subjects beyond the classroom and further their learning. Students should let their teachers know which activities they have completed, and are able to earn merits for doing so.