I love English lessons – the teaching is inspirational and we gain insight into so many aspects of life

Current Pupil

Aims and philosophy

There are seven members of the English department at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. The department has enjoyed considerable success in achieving the highest grades possible for the students of the school. At GCSE, between 97% and 100% of our pupils have achieved a C grade or above, and at A level last year, 55% achieved A grades, and 87% achieved A and B grades. The progress made by our pupils during their time at The Vaughan has repeatedly put out department in the top one percent in the country. Our approach is very traditional: it is our aim that students who study English at The Vaughan should be given a good grasp of the skills needed for accurate, and eventually eloquent, written English. In the Lower School, we focus on the basics of grammar and punctuation, and writing for different audiences and purposes, before encouraging them to craft effective and dynamic creative writing. We encourage analytical and interrogative reading of a variety of different texts, and hope to engender a love of literature, stretching our pupils by introducing them to some of the finest writing in the English canon. Throughout the key stages, the courses promote understanding of the influences of history and diverse cultures on the texts studied.

Key Stage Three

The aim of the first year in English is to consolidate and extend boys' knowledge about language, to develop their skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing, and to introduce them to a variety of literary texts. Knowledge about language and how to spell and punctuate correctly is developed through analysis of what the boys write, formal grammar exercises and the use of reference books. Speaking and listening is practised in a variety of ways, such as debating, small-group discussions, drama and discussion in class. Reading involves the study of texts by the class as a whole - plays, poems, novels and short stories - and of guided individual choices. During the Trinity term, all classes study a Shakespeare play. Pupils are encouraged to keep records of their private reading and share their discoveries via ‘Fronta’, a web based forum . There are also weekly library periods for each class. Boys will be recommended books to read over the holidays. Writing often arises from what the boys have been reading and takes a wide variety of forms. Boys are encouraged to write creatively and to widen their vocabulary and are taught how to write formal letters and reports.

Key Stage Four

Both English Language & English Literature include elements of oral and written coursework as well as exams in the Summer term of the Fifth Form.

The English coursework folder is comprised of original writing and responses to Shakespeare, prose and media texts. The English exams test responses to further media texts and AQA's Anthology and asks candidates to write essays which persuade, inform, argue, explain and describe. The English Literature coursework folder comprises responses to Shakespeare, post-1914 drama and pre-1914 prose. The English Literature exam tests responses to post-1914 prose and poetry from the Anthology. The course involves responding to many classic works by writers such as Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, Dickens, Shakespeare and Arthur Miller, and poets as wide-ranging as Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Tennyson, Browning and Hardy.

Sixth Form

We enter students at the Vaughan for examination by OCR, which we consider to be the most traditional and intellectually rigorous examination board, and therefore the board which provides the best preparation for university study.

AS is comprised of two units. For examination, students are now studying Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and a selection of poetry by Robert Frost. For the coursework, they have studied the poetry of Maya Angelou, Beloved by Toni Morrison and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, in a unit which addresses the concerns of post-colonialist literature.

A2 is also comprised of two units. For examination, Pupils will study a choice of texts by Shakespeare, Webster, Marlowe, Donne and Milton. For coursework, they will write a piece based on a particular literary movement of period, such as the modernists (Conrad, Joyce and TS Eliot).

Outside the classroom

The English Department runs various trips in order to enrich the curriculum. Our students visit the theatre as often as possible to see the works they study, or works of the same genre, performed. Where this is not possible, we invite actors to the school to perform here. Each Fifth Form group enjoys the tremendous experience of seeing the country’s premier poets perform the poetry studied at the ‘Poetry Live!’ conference, where the boys have the opportunity to ask the poets questions about their work. Sixth Form students, in preparation for exam and also for university study, are taken to conferences on their set texts, and, if ever possible, to hear the authors speak. In the Sixth Form, we also run a debating society, and each year students are entered for the English Speaking Society’s Mace competition. Various writing competitions are also run throughout the Lower School.

In the summer term, the English Department, in conjunction with the Music Department, stages a large scale musical production involving large numbers of students in a show which is always very successful and hugely enjoyed, by those involved and audiences alike.

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