Head of Department: Mr Charles Neave
Essential to the St James philosophy is the education of the whole child. By education we mean the creation of an environment and situation in which the child has the capacity, will and motivation to learn. Learning should be inspiring; a structured journey of discovery that nourishes the spirit.
At the heart of all our learning is language. Language enables us to encapsulate complicated concepts and communicate them to the world. The English department at St James aims to develop a secure knowledge and understanding of the way our language works so that pupils are able to think, communicate and act with lucidity. We also recognise the masters of this ability, and through our study of literature we enable boys to explore the great ideas of the universe.
In English lessons we seek to teach our pupils to:
• listen precisely
• read widely
• speak confidently, clearly and fluently
• understand the significance of words, their power and meaning
• evaluate information, reading and listening objectively and critically
• present information and argument coherently
• understand the value of form and discipline in creativity
• be able to give expression as appropriate to the full range of intellect and emotion.
In order to understand and use language well, we make a deep study of words and the laws that govern the structure of a sentence.
This works very practically as a way of learning to structure writing, and coheres with the suggested approach of the National Literacy Strategy for Key Stage 2 and 3, in which English is approached at Word Level, Sentence Level and Text Level.
We aim to give our pupils
• a thorough grounding in spelling and vocabulary (Word Level)
• a practical understanding of grammar, syntax and punctuation (Sentence Level)
• a clear understanding therefore of how to structure sentences, paragraphs, stories, essays, speeches etc (Text Level)
• the facility to adopt in speech and writing, through study of a wide range of fiction and non fiction, the tone and style best suited to the context.
We also believe it is important to provide our pupils with access to material of the highest quality, with which to inspire them.
We aim to give our pupils
• an introduction to a wide range of great literature, ancient and modern, ranging from some of the very earliest English writers to some of the best current writers for children
• study of the origins of the English Language
• study of the history of English Literature
• an easy familiarity with Shakespeare and a close acquaintance with many of his plays
• an ability to appreciate poetry by reading great poems, practising poetic techniques and writing poetry
• understanding of how the writers they read are seeking to influence them, and the means they use to try to do this
Poetry Competition and Festival
Each year, in October, we hold a poetry festival to coincide with National Poetry Day. All English lessons are devoted to poetry for the week and other departments in the school try to bring poetry into the classroom. A Poetry Competition is held and a Poet Laureate is elected for the academic year.
Oral work is a cornerstone of our curriculum. Each year in the Spring Term there is a Speech Competition for the Lower and Upper Schools. All pupils participate in this, with individual speeches, group scenes and class choral sections.
Debating is a part of the curriculum in each year, as it presents an excellent way of teaching pupils to structure their thoughts. There is also the opportunity for students to compete in debating competitions with other schools.
All members of the English Department use drama extensively as a teaching tool in English. There are class productions in Year 7 and Year 9, as well as Upper School productions and Lower and Upper School Drama Clubs.
Theatre Trips are also standard for every year, with a particular emphasis on giving our pupils access to top quality productions of great classics.
In Year 7 writing skills are developed through three formal grammar courses: The Basics of Punctuation, Sentence Structures, and Paragraphs and Topic Sentences. Much work on the successful construction of narrative is done this year, with units on Narrative Poetry and story writing skills. We also follow a poetry writing course, a Shakespeare project including a visit to the Globe Theatre, and work on different forms of non fiction writing and debating.
In Year 8, along with a folder of their best written work, we use an examination modelled on the 13+ Common Entrance Examinations as the end of year assessment, and prepare for this by following a course on poetry analysis throughout the year, and by focusing our study of texts on characters and themes - invaluable preparation for literature work in later years. The pupils also follow a course in The History of the English Language this year, study a Shakespeare play in depth, and hone their non-fiction writing skills.
In Year 9 the foundations are laid for the GCSE courses beginning in Year 10. During this year pupils study and perform a Shakespeare play, start to develop the skills needed for detailed literary analysis, analyse different forms of non-fiction writing following a course in the study of Language in Media, and develop their own skills in forms of discursive, persuasive and informative writing, with a focus in the summer term on The Rosenberg Essay Prize which is awarded to the finest non-fiction essay on a set title. This also informs their oral work, and formal debating is a key skill practised this year in Speaking and Listening lessons.
Years 10 & 11
For GCSE we follow the AQA syllabuses. All pupils will sit both English Language and English Literature GCSE, which are taught simultaneously in English lessons.
AQA English Language
Students apply and develop skills across units including:
- Learning to read texts actively and critically
- Employing close reading skills to retrieve information
- Making inferences and giving informed comments on language in use
- Producing texts that are fit for purpose and audience
- Unit 1: Written paper: Understanding and producing non- fiction texts – 40% of assessment
- Unit 2: Controlled Assessment: Speaking and listening - 20% of assessment
- Role play
- Discussing and Listening
- Individual presentation
- Unit 3: Controlled Assessment: Understanding spoken and written texts and writing creatively - 40% of assessment
- An essay on ‘Of Mice and Men’ by J. Steinbeck
- Two pieces of creative writing, with topics supplied by the examination board
- An essay about the use of Spoken English in society
AQA English Literature
Students will explore texts from a personal perspective and the specification covers:
- Literature today – contemporary and modern texts (post 1945)
- Literature globally – reference to universality as well as 'difference'
- The Literary Heritage – timeless and significant English, Welsh or Irish texts
- Unit 1: Written paper: Exploring modern texts – 40% of assessment
- This includes an essay on ‘The Woman in Black’ by S. Hill and ‘Of Mice and Men’ by J. Steinbeck.
- Unit 2: Written paper: Poetry across time - 35% of assessment
- This includes an essay on two poems from the examination board’s poetry anthology and an essay on an unseen poem
- Unit 3: Controlled Assessment: The significance of Shakespeare and the English Literary Heritage – 25% of assessment
- This will be an essay on Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’.
Year 12 - AS Level OCR AS English Literature H071
Year 13 - A2 Level OCR A2 English Literature H471
The course is an excellent foundation for many university courses and career paths in areas such as journalism, law and media, and is, of course, a basis for further specialist study at degree level.
It offers opportunities for wide reading and advanced detailed research in the whole field of literary studies, building on the knowledge and skills acquired at GCSE, with a tremendously varied programme of study which is rewarding and enjoyable, and which can, to some extent, be dictated by the student's own literary tastes.
At AS, students study a novel and a poet, and complete coursework on texts linked by their theme.
At A2 there is a further coursework component including study of texts (two novels and a poem) linked by theme, a study of poetry and prose texts pre 1900, and a detailed study of a Shakespearian play.