Here in the English Department at St. Mary’s we love literature. And we want our pupils to love literature too. We aim to promote a lifelong enjoyment of reading and a greater confidence in employing the wonders of the English language in the written and spoken word. Blow the dust off those books, dip that quill in the ink and join us on our literary quest!

The most important skill we can impart to our pupils is confidence in the written and spoken word. We want to help all of our pupils expand their vocabulary, increase their ability in all technical areas of writing, and also promote to them a love of literature from a variety of times, authors and genres. We also appreciate the demands of this rigorous and academic subject at GCSE and beyond. It is, therefore, our mission to equip all of our pupils with the skills they need to gain these important qualifications from the moment that they join us in Year 7. We hope that the skills they acquire will continue to be relevant in the wider world long after they leave us.

Drama is an integral part of the units studied in lessons. However, a weekly drama club is also hosted for the theatrically inclined. The English Department regularly collaborates with other departments to stage a variety of drama productions. Recent productions include Lord of the Flies, West Side Story and Bugsy Malone as well as the Greek tragedies Medea, Antigone, Ajax, Electra and Trojan Women.

Lower School

Our Key Stage 3 curriculum is designed to develop the skills required of pupils at GCSE level and reflect the content of English Language and Literature specifications at GCSE. This will enable them to consolidate their abilities in reading and writing, and not be intimidated by GCSE level work when they begin these courses in Year 10. Our focus is on literature. We believe that language skills are best taught as part of a study of a core text. Some language skills, such as rhetorical and descriptive writing, may be taught discretely. A pupil in Key Stage 3 can expect to study:

  • A selection of modern literature from the twentieth century onwards. These texts may include Animal Farm by George Orwell, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • At least one Shakespeare text
  • At least one example of poetry from the Romantic Period, for example The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • A selection of nineteenth century literature

Every Key Stage 3 pupil is expected to keep a regular Reading Journal that records their own private reading outside of lesson time. It is standard practice in the department to allow one single lesson a week for the purposes of private reading and discussion of the books chosen.


At GCSE we follow the EDUQAS specifications for both English Language and English Literature.

English Language and English Literature are assessed as separate qualifications, although there are many transferable skills, and the courses are taught in tandem over the two years of the GCSE assessment.

Course Structure & Content:

  • 100% examination at the end of two years – full linear structure
  • No tiered examinations
  • English language exams must feature 19th, 20th and 21st century textual extracts and assess both reading and writing skills, focusing on language and textual analysis combined with interpretation and evaluation
  • Focus on the study of one Shakespeare text, a 19th century novel, a post-1914 prose or drama text, and poetry from 1789 onwards including Romantic Poetry for English Literature
  • A Level

    This exciting A Level subject has traditionally attracted the top range of ability. However, thanks to recent syllabus changes, and a range of more contemporary novels on offer, we now attract students across the ability range. This means that the A Level English course has grown in popularity and students enjoy the relaxed, yet studious, atmosphere within curriculum time.

    In the second year of the course students are given the opportunity to select novels of their own choice. Equally students may follow the suggested range of texts if they feel more comfortable in so doing; it really is a course tailored to suit all students.

    We firmly believe that enjoyment of the subject and a love of reading is the key to successful learning. Therefore, we endeavour to engender a stimulating environment of learning. We also encourage active debate and independent study, along with clear assessment opportunities to maximise potential.

    Course content:

    Year 1

    • A study of a selection of poems from contemporary poets
    • The study of two novels – ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley, and ‘The War of the Worlds’ by H G Wells
    • The study of a drama text in the genre of Tragedy – ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams

    Year 2

    • The study of a Shakespeare Tragedy – ‘King Lear’, in conjunction with the study of an anthology of critical writings on the play, its themes and characters
    • The study of the poetry of The Romantics
    • The coursework unit, in which students select two texts for close analytical study