English study at Sutton Grammar School is focused on developing thoughtfulness, accuracy and confidence.
Our spiral curriculum has been carefully designed to develop a full range of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, whilst allowing pupils to fully explore a rich and edifying selection of texts. We have thought about the needs of our cohort when making text selections, ensuring that students experience a range of thought-provoking and spiritually uplifting topics. The tasks and text difficulty become increasingly more challenging as boys move up the school to match their increasing levels of ability. We also greatly value the craft of writing, and make grammar, punctuation, as well as vocabulary building, a regular activity in lessons. To help pupils to retain key aspects of the learning, we have embedded quizzes and ‘spaced recall’ activities. We also subscribe to a range of digital theatre platforms to further dual code pupil set text knowledge.
The English Faculty offers lots of enrichment activities too. We often arrange trips to the theatre, run reading and writing initiatives (such as the annual House Poetry event), and English teachers look to support all abilities in and around their lessons – issuing additional resources to help pupils catch up or to push them further. The pupil-run magazine (Eloquent) is an example of passion for prose that exists in the SGS community, and we work with the library to promote reading as much as possible.
During Year 7, students will frequently reflect on the concept of empathy and heroism. Boys are challenged to question ideas around ‘otherness’ and are encouraged to empathise with everyone in society. Alongside studying “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, boys will encounter several well-known myths and legends, be introduced to a wide variety of poems, and study a comedy by William Shakespeare, before studying a Non Fiction text in the Summer. Boys will begin to develop critical reading skills as well as confidence in their imaginative writing – as well as cultural capital. Carefully curated reading lessons will introduce boys to a wide range of literature, including classical stories.
The texts become more challenging in Year 8, with boys moving onto the Victorian era – studying The Gothic, including “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and an abridged version of “Dracula”. Pupils will also explore abstract worlds as well as the charismatic genre of travel writing. Building on Year 7, pupils are challenged to include historical context when analysing the Romantic Period and its rich collection of poetry.
In this final year before GCSEs, pupils are faced with powerful and hard hitting stories of prejudice and violence. Beginning with “Whale Rider” (a story of a girl struggling within a patriarchy), boys are asked to reflect on the nature of turbulent societies where institutionalised prejudice is commonplace: Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” becomes a vehicle for discussion and close analysis – as does Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, which we encourage boys to read in its entirety. Throughout the year, the reading and writing knowledge, gained in Years 7 and 8, is consolidated and built on, leaving students ready for the next phase of study.
Although they are a core part of English Language study, which we continue to embrace at Sutton Grammar School, “speaking” and “listening” abilities no longer count towards a student’s final grade. This means that the “9-1” English Language GCSE is 50% reading and 50% Writing.
As readers, boys must read fiction and non-fiction and then answer comprehension questions in their final exams. As writers, they must produce carefully crafted stories, speeches, letters or other types of texts.
For more details, exemplar examination materials and mark schemes, please click on the specification button above!
English Literature involves the study of three things: poetry, prose and drama. Studying a play by William Shakespeare continues to be a mainstay for GCSE Literature students. In addition to this, Victorian Literature is a key component of the syllabus, as is 20th Century drama from the UK. Boys must also study at least 15 poems from their GCSE Poetry Anthology (this will be given to each pupil). More details and resources can be found by clicking the specification button above.
Studying literature (plays, poems and novels) helps you to understand yourself and others. As a subject, it complements any other A level as you are encouraged to think deeply and write accurately: vital skills for any student hoping to continue into university education. Furthermore, as one of the oldest subjects, it is universally respected and seen as a difficult and reliable marker of one’s academic ability. Being well-read is seen as part of being a well-rounded, independent-minded and cultured person. English also develops your analytical skills, close reading and questioning of what you read, looking beyond the obvious and, of course, through writing, it develops your unique perspective and voice.
What do you need to study A Level English Literature?
A Grade 7 for GCSE English Literature is the usual requirement. Nevertheless, a genuine interest in reading and writing is by far the most important factor. Inevitably, you will have to read a number of hopefully very interesting texts, so you need to be up for this challenge. An interest in history is also very useful as each text has its own unique historical and cultural context. You are not assessed for “speaking and listening” but the most successful students often look to get involved in class discussions, through offering their ideas or raising apt questions. Finally, being able to think and write quickly, whilst meticulously evaluating your work is a key skill, which will bring exam success.
Further Study and Careers
English Literature prepares you for most graduate positions – including banking and finance. You develop analytical skills and an ability to express yourself with confidence and precision. Future lawyers, journalists, doctors, scientists, researchers, and businessmen will all hugely benefit from studying English Literature – as, indeed, will artists, budding poets, novelists and actors.