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

In Remove and Lower Fourth (Years 7 and 8), teachers draw upon their specific interests and specialisms as well as delivering a core curriculum that includes discrete grammar lessons. One term of each academic year is devoted to the study of Shakespeare.

In the Upper Fourth (Year 9), many of the skills that are essential for GCSE are developed. A significant pre-twentieth century novel, such as Jane Eyre is studied, as is a Shakespeare play such as ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and a selection of verse. In addition, more advanced language work is undertaken and pupils sit a slightly modified GCSE English language paper as one of their final examinations.

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.

Our Sixth Formers follow 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 3,000 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.

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.

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.

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