English at Bedale High School
The English Department at Bedale High School places central importance on joy and progress. Our schemes of learning explore many rich aspects of the English curriculum: from Shakespeare to spelling; from paragraphing to poetry. We foster creative original thinking, and our priority is to equip all pupils with the English skills and understanding that they will need in our 21st Century knowledge economy. As the forms in which we communicate are constantly changing, English has the power and the scope to empower pupils in new and increasingly dynamic ways. Our goal is to explore some of the depth of this fascinating subject, and to continually develop our students’ skill in communicating their ideas so as to offer the best preparation we can for GCSE examinations and for life beyond.
Key Stage 3
English in KS3 is all about engaging and inspiring pupils, as well as building the skills needed to be successful further on in the school
We aim to engage all learners through vibrant approaches to English skills and a desire to make compelling learning experiences a feature of every child’s progress. Our materials and approaches have been developed by the whole department and reflect the skills and expertise of its individual members.
Current topics of study include:
Year 7: A Shakespeare play (Romeo and Juliet or The Tempest), autobiography, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and Beowulf.
Year 8: Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, War Poetry, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott.
Key Stage 4
Both English Language and English Literature are compulsory subjects at GCSE.
Our study of English at KS4 is about extending the engagement fostered in KS3, deepening independence and independent thought; and, at the same time, ensuring the best outcomes for all.
In line with the requirements AQA GCSE in English Literature, our chosen topics of study are:
Students also receive rigorous and focused preparation for the AQA GCSE in English Language. Although sometimes targeted in isolation, we find that, due to the significant crossover in skills and approach needed in English Literature, study for English Language is best interwoven with the rest of their study. This makes the most effective use of teaching time and allows students to draw parallels between the different elements of their learning.
Throughout KS4, we continually practise and develop our skills in information retrieval, language and structure analysis, summary writing, and comparison of texts, using a variety of stimulating and challenging materials.
We also support students in the improvement of their own descriptive writing, narrative writing, and their writing to present a viewpoint through text types such as formal letters and newspaper articles.
The majority of assessment in English takes place formatively within the classroom, where teachers can respond to the needs of the class, and use their findings to inform next steps teaching, or give immediate and focused feedback on how students are progressing and what they need to do next.
Students will also take more formal assessments at the end of each half-termly scheme of work to test that they are on track towards their end of key stage targets, and to provide feedback for improvement. In KS3, these assessments relate to the skills and techniques that students will need to be successful in KS4, but allow for a broader appreciation and exploration of texts and language.
From Year 9, these assessments become increasingly focused and explicit in their reference to the final GCSE examinations, allowing students the opportunity to continually revisit and hone the techniques needed to be successful at the end of Year 11.
All Year 7 and Year 8 pupils will regularly be set written homework designed to deepen and enhance their learning from lessons, as well as foster independence. These tasks, along with all other English homework, are published to all students and parents online via ‘Show My Homework’.
In addition, Year 7 and Year 8 pupils also have reading homework as part of the Accelerated Reader programme. This programme engages pupils via fun, motivational quizzes based on the books deemed most suitable for pupils according to a personalised reading plan. Students are expected to read their (Accelerated Reader) books for at least 15 minutes every day. This is closely monitored in school and has an invaluable impact on literacy skills not only in English but also across the curriculum. Parental support in helping this process is hugely appreciated.
For Year 9 pupils, we embark on a series of engaging homework projects that complement and extend the learning done within lessons. These half termly projects require students to use a range of skills independently, such as making notes, organising and interpreting information, making choices about material, and drafting and improving their written work. These projects play an important role in developing the independence needed to be successful throughout KS4.
Short homework tasks are set twice a week for students in Year 10 and 11. These assignments are set in response to the needs of individual classes and aim to extend, develop, and deepen the understanding of the subjects studied within lessons. As students approach their final exams, they also provide a key opportunity for reviewing understanding, revising content and for students to practise their skills independently.
To enhance the curriculum, theatre visits, poetry recitals, writing competitions, and talks by local authors are exciting features of the school calendar.
A good example of the English Department enriching pupil experience would be our Year 9 students shadowing the Carnegie Award for Children’s Fiction. Once the official judges’ shortlist is announced, our shadowing group of volunteers meet once a week for the duration of the 8 week run up to the final judging day. When we meet, we discuss the books we have read so far, write reviews for our shadowing page on the official website – The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards – and, in the penultimate week, we have a fantastic quiz. It is great hearing what everyone has to say about the shortlisted books; we often have very different opinions about what makes a ‘good’ book!