English Subject Philosophy and Vision
"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers." â Charles W. Eliot
Stories are the fabric of life and literature is the human attempt to understand the world around us. The study of literature explores the depths of human emotions. It has the power to open our minds beyond our own circumstances towards our diverse world, its people, and experiences. The study of literature can educate us of ancient societies, open our imagination to fantastical lands, communicate to us profound emotions, and ultimately teach us the pillars of empathy.
Through the centuries, literature has been a symbol of freedom. Knowledge liberates us and therefore the ability to read literature from different time periods and places educates us about our own rights and opinions. The knowledge we can find in books is liberating. Charles Dickens is undoubtedly a literary genius, and yet his education was poor, but his ability to read and read widely is what gave him the knowledge and skill to succeed. In a world of misinformation and rapidly evolving political propaganda, literature affords us the opportunity to develop critical reading skills and healthy scepticism through study of narrative voice, characterisation, language, writer’s purpose and the audience’s reception.
‘The limits of my language mean the limit of my world’ Ludwig Wittgenstein
Language is a powerful tool in communication, developing vocabulary and rhetoric equips young people in expressing themselves. Without it, the essence of what we want to say is restricted or even silenced entirely. In the study of literature young people are given a critical voice and are encouraged to in turn develop their own creativity in developing their own ideas.
‘Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.’ John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
The study of literature is also a matter of social inclusion. The ability to communicate our truth, respect different viewpoints and appreciate the many different experiences of life are key to a world where people are free, happy and safe; the sole aim of any education system. Reading is not just a skill to be acquired for the workplace, it should not be a high brow activity that some are excluded from but instead gives everyone the dignity to understand and engage in culture.
We are passionate about the importance of literature and therefore our curriculum philosophy is to ensure pupils will be explicitly taught vocabulary, reading routines, and rich knowledge to develop critical readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers who engage with a wide range of texts, time periods and genres to increase their cultural capital and life chances.
Our literature curriculum takes students on a journey through the ages of literature, in Year 7 this begins with the Ancient Greeks, exploring the birth of theatre and the stories of the Gods before the English Language even existed.
This journey begins with students exploring characterisation and narrative voice in A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Students explore English myth in modern fiction and develop their inference and deduction skills of a whole novel. Students then consolidate their understanding of narrative through Narrative Poetry, exploring mythical allusions and narrative voice through poems such as The Highway Man and The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Students then develop their own descriptive writing, using the stimulus they have engaged with so far pupils are explicitly taught sentence and grammar construction to develop their writing of character.
Students explore Greek mythology and Ancient Greece in more depth as the new year begins, learning about ancient civilisation from Homer’s The Odyssey to the many mythological creatures and moral lessons of this period. Paired with this study, students will explore rhetoric in the study of letters of note through history to develop the art of expression in more depth. Students then explore Victorian literature and the narratives and settings portrayed in many great writer’s such as Dickens and Conan Doyle to widen understanding of narrative and classical allusions in literature. This leads into study of The Woman in Black towards the end of the year where they begin unpicking Victorian literature in depth.
Students continue their study by exploring The Renaissance with their study of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, consolidating their writing of setting, mythical allusions in the monstrous characters they meet and understanding the complex language of Shakespeare. Students will use this study as stimulus for their own writing of setting. Students finish the year developing their oracy skills in expressing their viewpoints about the vast array of literature they have engaged with in preparation for the Harris Greenwich Public Speaking Competition.
The journey through literature continues in Year 8 where students develop their critical reading skills of complex themes and symbols from modern fiction during The Great Depression to short stories from around the world where students understand the power of their voice.
Students begin their journey in The Great Depression of 1950s America, where themes such as discrimination, poverty and sexism are explored through the novella of Of Mice and Men. A thorough understanding of historical context in literature is developed through the reading of rhetorical speeches from the time period and into modern times on the similar themes of the novella. Students develop an understanding of character and emotion through their study of rhetoric and characterisation.
The importance of equality and expressing your voice is developed further through the study of a range of diverse short stories and poetry from around the world. Students develop their understanding of poetic convention whilst appreciating the wider global canon of literature. Students then continue their study of modern texts with Lord of The Flies where students are challenged to be critical about high level themes such as Good and Evil and the savagery that may be within us all. Religious and classical allusions are explored here, where pupils will draw upon their knowledge from year 7 of Ancient Civilisations. Alongside this study they too will develop their own writing by developing their ability to create and develop character.
Students then voyage back to Victorian England to explore the Empire and the beginnings of travel. Studying a range of texts from of colonial Britain and exploring voices and writers beyond the empire and exploring those who were oppressed exposes pupils to important historical information about British history and ensure pupils are critical about this information and understand the importance of decolonisation and voices from other cultures.
Students end the year exploring the tragedies of Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet, where students can draw upon their knowledge of The Renaissance from Year 7 and develop an understanding of the genres Shakespeare explored. In this final term students will be developing their oracy skills and revisiting rhetoric to prepare for Harris Academy Greenwich’s Public Speaking Competition.
The voyage through literature continues in Year 9 where students develop their critical reading and analytical skills with more complex texts, themes and historical knowledge. They begin this voyage with the conventions of Greek Tragedy in A View from The Bridge and explore complex ideologies such as capitalism and socialism in Animal Farm. Students develop an understanding of politics, history and allegory throughout this year.
Year 9 students begin studying the conventions of Aristotle’s Tragedies by reading A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller where they also gain an insight into post-war America. This complements their prior knowledge of The Great Depression from Year 8 and builds upon their study of modern drama from previous year’s study of Shakespeare. Students are also taught about the power of non-fiction texts such as speeches and letters in understanding the huge post-war problems in America and the struggles of migrants.
Having explored the human emotions of Eddie Carbone in A View from the Bridge, students then get to grips with poems of human emotion in their study of Love and Relationships poetry. They learn about Shakespeare’s sonnets, the Romantic Period and modern poetry which provides them understanding of language through the ages. Students will make links between the poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the romantic texts such as Frankenstein of his wife Mary Shelley.
Students will then develop their understanding of the power of literature through their reading of Animal Farm by George Orwell. They will learn about the Russian revolution and allegory in texts to develop their critical understanding of texts. This in-depth study of the text is then followed by a development of their own creative writing paying attention to narratives and character.
The study of literature then progresses into the study of Much Ado about Nothing, Shakespeare’s comedy. Students will be taught about the life of Shakespeare, his different genres and the monarchs during his life which influenced his political plays. The year will end with development of oracy skills and critical discussion in preparation for Harris Academy Greenwich’s Public Speaking Competition.
Students will build on the foundation literature they have learned in Key Stage Three as they move into Key Stage Four where students will be challenged to develop a critical voice, be more adept at understanding the writer’s purpose and context in each text studied. Students will also develop their independent writing skills and develop their own creative ideas and build confidence in their voice.
In Year 10 students begin their GCSE journey beginning with the drama of the Edwardian period of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. Students will consolidate their understanding of socialism and capitalism in a more nuanced way than their learning in Year 9 and do an in-depth study of the structure of this modern drama. They will then begin exploring rhetoric at a high level and understanding tone and viewpoint in modern articles and speeches, they too will express their own viewpoints in response to a range of stimulus and current affairs. Students will develop their understanding of Industrialisation in the Victorian Period and build on their knowledge of socialism and industry in An Inspector Calls through the study of A Christmas Carol by Dickens. They will learn advanced ideas about the Malthusian Catastrophe, Industrialisation and Dickens’ faith to complement the text.
The art of creative writing will be developed with students, bringing together previous study of character, place and narrative arc will see students planning and creating their own narratives a focus on accuracy of writing. Students will then move into the study of the GCSE Anthology Power and Conflict. They will first explore the war poems and understand the difference between modern and traditional warfare, understanding the vast experiences of combatants and combatants through this selection of poems. Rich historical knowledge and political context will be taught alongside the poems to develop student’s critical understanding and analysis of each text.
Students will build on the Key Stage Three knowledge of Shakespeare in Year 10 with an in-depth study of Macbeth, a more complex tragedy than previously studied. Students will learn about the Jacobean era of Shakespeare’s writing, the medieval context of the setting and will stretched to develop their own critical voices.
Students will end the year developing their responses to unseen fiction to build their resilience in reading widely and build their analytical skills. Students will also focus on building ideas about current affairs and their own hobbies to create a speech to be performed for their GCSE Speaking and Listening Language exam in the final summer term.
Year 11 students will continue to explore a range of poems and consolidate their learning in Year 10. Students will be challenged to think in more depth about texts, make key knowledge stick in long term memory and practice their own writing style.
Students begin the year revisiting the core themes and political ideologies of Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. Alongside this study, students will focus on power poetry exploring the great poems of Lord Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning and modern stalwarts such as Carol Ann Duffy and John Agard.
Students will practice responding to a range of stimulus in their writing covering politic strands such as gender, equality, the environment and a range of other important issues in order to develop a critical voice int heir transactional writing and build ideas for their own creative writing.
Students will then continue to revise A Christmas Carol and develop their analysis of Dicken’s purpose for writing the text. Moving from the Victorian period, students will then consolidate Macbeth learning and practice their discursive writing and critical viewpoints about each text in preparation for both GCSE English Literature and Language. Students will be given specific revision and revision techniques to complement their study.
The GCSE Literature course will have provided a sound foundation for the advanced study of Literature in Key Stage Five, when English is no longer a compulsory subject. The choice of this A level should be informed by students’ genuine enthusiasm for reading literature and exploring texts through discussion and written analysis. We have chosen a range of texts to reflect the diversity of English literature, to enable students to develop their own reading tastes and to provide a secure basis for the possible study of this subject at university.
For A Level English, students’ study six exam texts across the genres of Drama, Prose and Poetry. In addition, they make an independent choice of two texts for a 3000-word coursework essay, which accounts for 20% of the A level. In Year 12 students begin the course with an introduction to the advanced study of Narrative and Drama. This leads into the study of the first exam texts, as well as providing students with a range of approaches to genres that they may choose to focus their coursework on. The comparative Prose paper is theme-based, with the topic Science and Society. Students develop an understanding of Romanticism and Gothic through the study of ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. This novel, judged by many to be the first work of Science Fiction in English Literature, is paired with Margaret Atwood’s modern dystopian classic, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, a feminist text which resonates very strongly in our times, with its underlying themes of repression and political and environmental catastrophe. Alongside the study of these texts, students also develop the understanding of Drama they acquired at GCSE. They build on their understanding of Shakespeare’s Jacobean tragedy through their study of the Revenge Tragedy, ‘The Duchess of Malfi’, developing analytical and evaluative skills and their ability to interpret the conventions of drama texts.
Year 12 also brings the first encounter with medieval literature, in the study of Chaucer’s riotous Wife of Bath’s Tale. Although the language presents some initial challenges, this text gives students an understanding of the development of English. More familiar forms of poetry continue to be read throughout the year, with the aim of developing students’ confidence in the independent reading and interpretation of modern poems, all written since 2000, balancing the pre-1900 literature studied elsewhere.
Throughout the year, students are encouraged to read widely and independently, developing their own literary preferences in preparation for choosing their coursework texts.
Year 13 students will complete their study of the exam texts, developing their own critical voice in response to literature and consolidate their essay-writing skills. Discursive writing skills are developed further as coursework is drafted and redrafted throughout the year.
Students begin the year with the bloody Shakespearean tragedy ‘Othello’, building on the foundations they have already built in the study of drama throughout year 12. Alongside this, they study an anthology of critical writing exploring different approaches to and interpretations of the play, building resilience with literary criticism. Their responses to the critical reading are an important element in the exam essays students will write on this text.
Further modern poems are studied, bringing the total of set poems to 20, including the work of contemporary poets such as Patience Agbabi, Andrew Motion and Helen Dunmore. One part of the poetry exam paper includes responding to an unseen poem, so a wide range of poems that are not set texts will be read over the course of the year to both prepare for the exam and foster a love for a wide range of literature.
Students will be supported to be independent and critical with their coursework essays, completing this part of the component in the second year of the course. Students will also be revising their exam texts, with appropriate guidance and resources, developing their own ability to shape an analytical argument and evaluate the achievements of the writers they have studied. All the skills developed through this course, and the rich knowledge of the wide literary canon will aid students in the study of a University degree.
Please find attached the 2019/2020 curriculum map for English, as well as a narrative of how that curriculum builds over time