English: your questions answered

Our Literary Seniors, Minty and Sasha, tell us all about studying English at Downe House.

16 October 2020

English at Downe House is an exciting subject that everyone studies up to GCSE level. Alongside lessons there are so many different ways to get involved with English whilst at school.

1) Do you get to go on trips?

At Downe House, experiencing the theatre and seeing the performances of our texts first-hand is a very important and rewarding aspect of studying English. For example, in the last school year, GCSE students went to see An Inspector Calls, while the Lower Sixth were privileged to attend the Measure for Measure production at the RSC. Downe House also hosted a travelling theatre company that performed a wonderful Macbeth and A Christmas Carol, which meant that students had easy access to enlightening material on performance variables for these texts.

2) Are there societies and events for English?

We offer an excellent literature society called The Ridler Society, which is open to anyone in the Upper School. This is a student-led discussion group that analyses poetry selected by its leaders in the Lower Sixth, and is a really informal and comfortable way to filter more challenging literature into the system, including Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters. In addition, we also recognise certain literary holidays in creative ways, such as World Book Day and International Poetry Day, giving these events a high profile and arranging special themed celebrations.

3) What about book clubs?

There are several House Book Clubs in the Lower and Upper School Houses and in the Sixth Form which help encourage girls to read more often. These are a brilliant way of socialising with your friends, while at the same time learning about new books and literature in a cosy setting.

4) Are there opportunities for creative writing?

Another great opportunity to exercise your literary minds is the DHSA Short Story Competition. This occurs every year and is a fun way of expanding your imagination outside the classroom, with the added bonus of winning the coveted Clare Balding Prize for Excellent Writing, with generous Amazon vouchers for runners up and a creative writing workshop with an author.

5) What if I just enjoy reading by myself?

Throughout the week, there are several times that girls can enjoy the relaxation of sitting and reading, such as during quiet time in Houses, or in the ‘Feet Off the Ground’ time in the Lower School Houses. This year, an opportunity to sit and listen to someone reading aloud from one of your favourite books in the library has been introduced, and it is a wonderful alternative to simply reading to yourself.

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