With excellent academic success and a thriving enrichment programme, our English Department’s simple aims are to foster a love of reading and to develop expertise in writing.

Head of Department: Mrs Joanne West

Lower School curriculum

Our overriding aims for Key Stage 3 are to foster a love of reading and to develop expertise in writing; throughout the year groups, girls are taught to read critically and to write precisely.

All pupils in Remove (Year 7) to Upper Fourth (Year 9) are taught in mixed ability classes. Each unit has two formally assessed common tasks that allow us to track progress and aid learning.

Removes study a unit on autobiography, detective and mystery fiction, poetry and an introduction to Shakespeare. In Remove, Shakespeare’s plays are presented by genre and here girls are introduced to tenets of Shakespearean comedy, tragedy, history plays and romances. They all have Microsoft Surfaces to use as a tool in lessons alongside their exercise books and folders.

The Lower Fourth study a unit on language skills, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or the Oliver Twist play version, followed by A Midsummer Night’s DreamStudents have two terms of study in place of the usual three as they spend a term at Downe House Sauveterre.

The Upper Fourth is used to develop many of the skills that are essential for GCSE. Students study Of Mice and Men followed by a play such as Educating Rita or Death of A Salesman in the Michaelmas term. Language practice is achieved by the study of non-fiction texts such as Mrs Beeton’s Household Management alongside a Michelle Obama speech. Romeo and Juliet or The Merchant of Venice is our Shakespeare text studied in full as a rehearsal for GCSE Literature. The Summer term is dedicated to poetry and oral work with a collaborative project with the Religious Studies Department.

Upper School curriculum

In the Lower Fifth and Upper Fifth (Years 10 and 11), girls are prepared for AQA GCSE English Language (8700) and AQA GCSE English Literature (8702). For the literature course, we currently study Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, An Inspector Calls and a selection of verse.

Sixth Form curriculum

Our Sixth Form girls follow the AQA English Literature syllabus A. The set texts studied for examination at the end of the two year course are Othello, The Handmaid’s Tale, Wuthering Heights or A Room with a View, A Streetcar Named Desire or Top Girls, Skirrid Hill, (Sheers) or Feminine Gospels (Duffy); a selection of love poetry. There is also scope for a range of other texts to be taught as part of the girls’ studies: for the coursework (non-exam assessment) which is assessed via a comparative academic essay of 3000 words, girls read widely in a shared area of study; the area that will be studied is dystopian literature.

We also prepare girls for entrance to Oxford and Cambridge. As well as offering individual tutorial support for this, we offer a term-long series of seminars, which are run mainly by members of the Department; girls also attend events and open days at Oxford and Cambridge.

English enrichment

Girls from every year group are encouraged to make the most of a range of opportunities including author talks, debating and the creative writing club as well as to enter both School and national creative writing and essay competitions.

Members of our Upper Fourth have been published in a Young Writers’s poetry anthology Poetry Escape.

Full details of the curriculum are available in the GCSE and Sixth Form options publications. Further information about the teaching and learning of English may be obtained by contacting the Head of Department, Mrs Joanne West westj@downehouse.net.

Meet the English Department

Mrs Jo West (Head of Department)

Mrs West has been teaching for twenty-two years in a variety of contexts and is a former AQA examiner. She is a keen advocator of the School’s ethos of encouraging each girl to develop and make the most of her individual strengths. She also drives the Department’s philosophy of promoting all forms of literacy; reading, writing, speaking and listening. The Department aims to give the girls the tools to flourish in later life and become lifelong independent learners.

Mr Justin Bartholomew (Second in Department)

Mr Bartholomew has also taught for twenty-two years and has plenty of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad. He is a qualified EAL teacher and current AQA examiner. Mr Bartholomew is a keen proponent of literacy throughout the School curriculum and he is currently looking at strategies to promote this further.

Dr Andrew Atherton (English academic enrichment responsibility holder)

Dr Atherton is Head of Oxbridge and the Elective Programme. He currently runs sessions with Sixth Form on English at University and mentors our Oxbridge applicants for English.

Mr John Owen

Mr Owen has over forty years of classroom experience. He has a wealth of knowledge and expertise that students and staff are able to draw from!

Miss Isla McLachlan

Miss McLachlan is the newest member of the Department, joining the English team full time in September 2019. She graduated from the University of Nottingham with a First Class Honours degree. Her favourite book is The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan.

Rev’d Anthea Platt

Rev’d Platt is a part-time teacher alongside her role as Chaplain. She taught for many years before becoming a Chaplain fifteen years ago. She is keen for students to enjoy English and develop a joy of reading for pleasure.

Mrs Jess Boswell

Mrs Boswell is currently on maternity leave, but due to return this December as a full-time teacher of English. Terry Pratchett is her favourite author.

Mrs Beth Mears-Smith

Mrs Mears-Smith teaches English on a part-time basis and in January 2020, she will take on the role of Housemistress of the Upper School House, AGN. Birdsong and Alice in Wonderland are among her favourite reads.

Miss Lucinda Gates

Tours & Open Mornings

The best way to find out more about Downe House is to experience it for yourself. Book a personal tour or join us at one of our Open Mornings, available throughout the year.


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