Subject Overviews: English Language and Literature
English at OSCA immerses students in the ocean of literary imagination and navigates them through the waves of concepts, cultures and creativity, enriching their wider appreciation and understanding of the world depicted through both fiction and non-fiction. As a department, we believe strongly that all students – regardless of their starting points or academic ability – can achieve in English to become competent, confident and creative readers and writers.
Our main aim in English at KS3 is to deliver an engaging and challenging curriculum that equips students with the confidence to dive down deeper into different conceptualisations of the world, as well as, critically engage with texts and experiment with the intricacies of the English Language. With this in mind, we aim to nurture students’ resilience to creatively and confidently communicate their ideas through a variety of forms, including oratory.
In addition, our intentions at KS3 involve igniting a passion for reading and providing students with the prowess to reach new heights with regards to their reading ages. We aim to introduce students to a broad range of fiction, non-fiction and multi-modal texts, allowing them to develop an appreciation for the ways in which the English Language depicts the inter-connecting aspects of life in many guises - from profound speeches to inspirational narratives. Over the course of years 7 and 8, students will also be exposed to a plethora of authors and topics - from Charles Dickens to the art of rhetoric – with a view to broaden their literary horizons and culture a more mature, philosophical and intellectual perception of the wider world. We aim to achieve this through reading texts that present challenging ideologies surrounding:
When exploring these topics, we endeavour to encourage students to envisage the ‘bigger picture’, and so, we encourage them to use their knowledge and skills acquired in English to effectively convey their ideas both in the classroom and beyond. Overall, we aim for students at KS3 to become confident, critical readers and writers with the ability to articulate their understanding in a variety of ways.
To compliment previous understanding and knowledge acquired at KS3, we aim to achieve academic autonomy, manifesting itself in students’ ability to develop subject-specific expertise, which builds upon our bespoke ‘bigger picture’ curriculum. We intend for students to use their knowledge and communicative skills acquired in English as a stepping-stone to the world beyond OSCA.
Through our exploration of an array of GCSE texts, encompassing many authors, eras and concepts, we intend to guide students towards a holistic understanding of how and why pieces of literature become influential and remain part of the collective conscious for many years. Although confined to teaching texts from the GSCE syllabus, we intend to enrich students’ cultural capital through the study of powerful concepts that encapsulate many themes and ideas relevant to the wider world. For example, we explore society’s collective responsibility in Priestley’s An Inspector Calls and the broadening of cultural history when studying the poem ‘Checking Out Me History’ by John Agard. By engaging with a range of authors, text-types, cultures and concepts we hope for students to comprehend - in more depth - the importance of the English Language in representing who and what we are.
In addition, our department aims to invest time in coaching students how to effectively craft their writing and improve their oracy skills to suit a range of purposes – whether that be to respond analytically to an exam question, craft a piece of descriptive writing, or compose a speech to be performed. Due to this, the teaching and application of exam-specific approaches is a key initiative we aim to consistently disseminate across the department to ensure students have the opportunity to organise their ideas in a sophisticated and logical way; thus enabling them to access the higher marks awarded on the AQA mark schemes.
Furthermore, as a department, we value the opportunity to equip our students with original and enlightened knowledge, and so, we have developed a programme of expert knowledge which is delivered in both lessons and our Super Learning lectures. The objective of the expert Knowledge initiative is to offer tailored and unique perspectives and ideas on all of our English Literature texts to help embellish students’ analytical writing with grade 9 material. For example, when students study Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we intend for students to consider how the play could be a form of social propaganda, acting as an allegorical rulebook for suspect criminals in the Jacobean era.
Overall, in KS4, we aim to further develop the ‘whole child’, ensuring our students enter the wider world with a comprehensive view of the influential nature of English and its importance in shaping the society we live in.
First and foremost, in order to successfully implement our key intentions across all year groups, we have ensured, through our concise long term planning, that our English curriculum offers exciting, challenging and stimulating schemes of learning that promote the development of students’ knowledge, understanding and skills.
Importantly, our curriculum planning sets ambitious expectations and ensures that we build on students’ prior knowledge as well as enabling us to fulfil all of the requirements of the secondary National Curriculum. Primarily, this is achieved through a keen focus on developing spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of our schemes of learning. However, as a department, we are astutely aware that fluency in all aspects of English is an essential foundation for success across the Academy and in the wider world. Therefore, confidently implementing the National Curriculum is just one element in the education of every child that we consider when implementing our key intentions; in order to fulfil our aim of nurturing the ‘whole’ child, we also ensure there is time and space in our curriculum to range beyond the National Curriculum specifications at both Key Stage 3 and 4, developing cultural capital and emotional resilience at every opportunity.
As a department, we place great emphasis upon our students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills over time. As a result, schemes of learning within our long term planning are strategically sequenced so that students can acquire key knowledge and skills and build up further expertise and confidence over time through consistent evaluation and application in different contexts. In order to implement our well planned curriculum – that not only focuses on developing academic expertise through interleaving knowledge and skills over time, but also focuses on developing our students culturally, socially, emotionally and spiritually – we have a consistent approach to teaching and learning that utilises the following methods and pedagogy:
- Medium term planning clearly identifies core knowledge that all students must be taught but also identifies ‘extra’ and ‘expert’ knowledge that not only ensures a high level of challenge but also aids with differentiation.
- Schemes of learning set the highest standard expected across all topics within all year groups.
- At key points in the academic year, schemes of learning are topical and require students to evaluate a wide range of knowledge and skills across various texts and text types.
- Clear interleaving of key knowledge across topics and year groups. For example, students are introduced to literary theory/ theorists at the very beginning of Key Stage 3. This knowledge is then developed and used as a foundation for other topics throughout both Key Stage 3 and 4.
- All schemes of learning use key symbols that explicitly highlight the following to staff and students: stretch and challenge tasks; introduction of new vocabulary; where students are expected to use prior knowledge from a previous lesson or topic; expert knowledge to learn and use; cross-curricular links; oracy skills and teamwork skills.
- Consistent use of high quality teaching and learning resources, including pre-populated resources used when teaching core knowledge, standardised English OSCA examples and exam board key documents.
- Utilising expert knowledge within all schemes of learning to ensure we reach beyond the range of the National Curriculum.
- Keen focus on enriching our students’ understanding of the wider world around them when teaching key texts/ topics – consistently re-evaluated to ensure our students have access to and a clear understanding of the most current affairs and how they may link to their current topic.
- Consistent approach to teaching and applying grammar and developing vocabulary across all year groups.
- Use of a high quality reading programme (Renaissance Reading) at Key Stage 3 as well as offering library facilities to all students in all year groups.
- Consistent and robust homework tasks that complement appropriate key skills and knowledge.
Finally, in order to implement our vision, we ensure that our formative and summative assessment practices allow for both students and teachers alike to have a clear and confident understanding of the progress that is being made. Below are some of the formative assessment strategies implemented throughout all schemes in all year groups to help track progress:
- Implementation of weekly ‘big questions’ that are used to ensure teachers and students are able to evaluate the learning that has taken place over a sequence of lessons.
- Low stakes quizzes – to test key terms, theories and new core, extra and expert knowledge
- Multiple choice questions – to ascertain understanding of core knowledge
- Mimic the expert; become the expert – writing challenges
- Rote learning tasks
- Expert knowledge quizzes – designed to teach allusions and expert context
- Convention quests – to demonstrate understanding of varied text type
- Recall/ comprehension quizzing – including through the use of mini- whiteboards to check on core understanding of plot, character and/or writers’ purpose and intentions.
- Short application challenges to apply newly taught knowledge in short bursts
- Mini mock exams for more developed application of new knowledge
- Speaking and listening – oracy tasks including presentations and debates
As a department, we also ensure that our summative assessments test all appropriate knowledge and skills through the mapping of assessment objectives across all year groups. Our summative assessments take place at key intervals throughout the year in line with department priorities and the Academy calendar. Our consistent and robust assessment practices allow for all staff in the department to frequently evaluate the successes of our medium term planning, which includes a thorough QLA system where leaders can evaluate the impact of our medium or long term planning and therefore make adaptions when required. Therefore, as a team, we can be confident that our curriculum remains appropriately challenging and enriching, developing the ‘whole’ child whilst engendering a love of English Language and Literature.
Assessment and exams: including exemplar assessments
Key Stage 3
All staff use the same departmental marking criteria (created in line with GCSE Assessment Objectives and the 1-9 grading system) when marking summative assessments at Key Stage 3 once per half term. English assessment stickers will detail the key assessment objective/s being tested. Staff award a working at grade (not a score) and provide feedback on what went well and areas for improvement. For the WWW section, staff will write a positive comment regarding a success achieved by the student. For the EBI section, staff will provide no more than two writing or reading targets (depending on what is being assessed) using the coded system. Once feedback has been provided, students will complete a DIRT task which will provide students with a clear opportunity to develop their target area outlined by their reading/writing code/s.
Key Stage 4
All staff use AQA English Language and Literature mark schemes as appropriate when marking summative assessments at Key Stage 4 at least once per half term. Staff are to award a score (as per GCSE) and a working at grade. Grade boundaries will be provided to all staff for each assessment to ensure consistency. WWW comments will be written and EBI comments will use the English marking codes as appropriate. DIRT tasks will provide a clear opportunity for students to develop their identified weaknesses. When annotating, any positive comments will be written and any areas for development identified using the English marking codes.
Homework: including homework plans
Homework in English has been mapped throughout the academic year to ensure a consistent and full coverage of key skills and knowledge. Fortnightly homework projects at Key Stage 3 have been designed to complement the learning that is taking place in the classroom through either adding to or developing key skills and knowledge. Weekly homework tasks at Key Stage 4 have been designed to allow students to improve vocabulary, apply examination approaches, develop their understanding of core and expert knowledge as well as demonstrate a retention of key skills and knowledge over time.