Perhaps the most famous of Old Greshamians is the great twentieth century poet W H Auden. With such a legacy, which also features John Bradburne and Stephen Spender, it is unsurprising that Gresham’s boasts a very strong English department and a vibrant literary culture.
The department has considerable success in examinations, is a popular option in the Sixth Form and many students choose to study English Literature or Creative Writing at university. We offer Cambridge IGCSE in Literature and Language, which offers a curriculum relevant to the 21st Century and reflects our desire to broaden our students’ literary experience beyond the canon of English literature. In advanced study we offer A levels and a choice of IB courses.
- YEAR 9
We view Year 9 as an opportunity to foster a love of literature and writing and to simultaneously prepare our students for the IGCSE courses (English Language and English Literature). All Year 9 students begin by studying our conflict unit Experiences of War, which has been designed to make cross curricular links with the history department in preparation for the Year 9 battlefields trip to Ypres. We are keen to stretch our students by exploring the experience of war from multiple perspectives, in settings beyond Europe and in a variety of literary forms. One of the objectives of this unit is to enhance our students’ awareness and understanding of global conflicts, past and present. Year 9 students then follow a programme of study that includes a close exploration of a prose text, the study of transactional writing, a Shakespeare play and a variety of poetry and prose extracts. To reflect the diversity of our Gresham’s community, we study a variety of texts written by authors from different cultures and some texts in translation. We support and encourage students to read for pleasure by providing parents and students with a termly reading list of recommended texts which complement each term’s unit of work.
Year 9 English classes are taught in groups streamed broadly by ability across the curriculum; in Year 10 English classes are set by ability in English.
- GCSE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND ENGLISH LITERATURE
Exam board: Edexcel IGCSE
We follow the Edexcel IGCSE syllabuses for English Language A (4ET0) and Literature (4ETA) in Year 10 and 11. The focus of the first term is to develop students’ analytical skills with non-fiction by exploring texts from the exam board’s prescribed anthology. In the first year we will also cover a wide range of poetry, as well as two of the Literature texts. In Year 11 students continue to refine their skills for the Language exam as well as studying their Drama text; the higher ability sets will usually opt for a Shakespeare play. As developing writers themselves, students will also investigate a variety of writing skills, including the ability to create and compose texts with a variety of forms and purposes, such as descriptive, narrative, discursive, argumentative and persuasive.
- A LEVEL ENGLISH LITERATURE
Entry requirements: Grade 6 in IGCSE English Language and IGCSE English Literature or equivalent
- Component 1 – Drama: This component is worth 30% of the qualification. Section A is based on your study of one Shakespeare play (either Tragedy or Comedy). Section B is based on your study of one other drama text (either Tragedy or Comedy). You may take a clean copy of your prose texts into the exam with you.
- Component 2 – Prose: This component is worth 20% of the qualification. Your exam is based on the study of two prose texts from a chosen theme. You will answer one comparative essay question on your two texts. You may take a clean copy of your prose texts into the exam with you.
- Component 3 – Poetry: This component is worth 30% of the qualification. You will study a post-2000 anthology of poetry as well as a selection of poetry by a named poet or movement. Section A of the exam will ask you to compare one unseen poem written post-2000 with the one of the named poems from your studied post-2000 poetry anthology. Section B of the exam requires you to answer one essay question based on your named poet or movement. You may take a clean copy of your poetry texts into the exam with you.
- Component 4 – NEA (Coursework): This component is worth 20% of the qualification. You have a free choice of texts to study from poetry, prose fiction, prose non-fiction and drama that may be linked by theme, author, movement or period. Pupils will produce a comparative essay of 2500-3500 words.
- IB ENGLISH A: LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
Entry requirements: Grade B in IGCSE English Language and IGCSE English Literature or equivalent
IB English A: Language and Literature allows pupils to experience a wide range of literary and non-literary texts, covering at least six different text types, from around the world, including some not originally written in English.
You will be given opportunities to consider a wide range of different reading perspectives in relation to a diverse range of international texts.
Higher Level pupils study six literary works, including two in translation, covering three major literary genres, three periods and three places.
Standard Level pupils study four literary works, including two in translation, covering two major literary genres, two periods and two places.
In addition to studying these literary texts, pupils will also study a wide range of non-literary and media texts of an amount comparable to the number of literary texts in the IB English A: Language and Literature course.
The three areas of exploration are the same for the two courses. English A; Language and Literature includes the study of non-literary and media texts in addition to literary ones.
- Readers, writers and Texts looks at the nature of texts and the relationships formed between all three;
- Time and Space looks at the various contexts of literary, linguistic and media production and reception;
- Intertextuality aims to connect diverse texts, traditions, creators and ideas.
- IB ENGLISH A: LITERATURE
Entry requirements: Grade B in IGCSE First Language English and IGCSE English Literature or equivalent.
IB English A: Literature allows pupils to experience a wide range of literary texts from around the world, including some not originally written in English. You will be given opportunities to consider a wide range of different reading perspectives, such as feminist, postcolonial and psychoanalytical readings in relation to a diverse range of international texts.
Higher Level English A: Literature pupils study thirteen texts taken from the four IB genres: drama, poetry, prose (novel and/or short story) and prose other than the novel and short story (usually a work of literary non-fiction). Of these thirteen texts, four must be translated from another language and all must cover three periods (usually different centuries) and four places (countries).
Standard Level English A: Literature pupils study ten texts from three of the four IB genres listed above. Of these ten texts, three must be from different periods and three from different places.
Our units are taught thematically, giving pupils the opportunity to make as many connections as they can between texts, places and periods. Thematic units currently running are:
- New Worlds/Old World, which looks at the literature of empire and postcolonial texts;
- Sharing our World, which focuses on the power of literature to help us to understand our relationship with the natural world;
- On the Edge of Society, which looks at groups in society which are sometimes marginalised, excluded or silenced;
- Women in the World, which looks at the impact of female writers have on the literary canon and how they use literary techniques to give women a voice in a cultural domain that has historically been dominated by men.
Within these thematic units, the following three areas of literary study are explored:
- Readers Writers and Texts looks at the nature of literature and the relationships formed between all three;
- Time and Space looks at the various contexts of literary production and reception;
- Intertextuality aims to connect diverse texts, traditions, creators and ideas.
- IB ENGLISH B
Entry requirements: No additional English requirements above those required for entry to Gresham’s.
IB English B is a language acquisition course designed for students with some previous experience of the target language.
Most pupils follow a Higher Level course where students are expected to extend the range and complexity of the language they use. The IB English B course focuses on receptive, productive and interactive skills
- ACTIVITIES AND SOCIETIES
The Auden Society is the department’s flagship, representative of what we offer to the Sixth Form beyond the curriculum. In the last few years, as well as talks from staff and students on such subjects as Norwegian Noir, South African literature and Apollonaire, we have enjoyed readings from recent graduates of UEA’s Creative Writing MA, Professor Vic Sage, award-winning poet Andrea Holland, Kzrzystof Fijalkowski – an expert in literary Surrealism – from Norwich University of the Arts and a reading from novelist and poet Elizabeth Cook, who also edited the Oxford Keats. The Auden Society is student led, well attended and meets each half-term.
The English department hosts a variety of competitions over the course of the academic year to showcase the literary talents of our student body. Two particular highlights of our social calendar include our celebration of Auden’s birthday and our Burns Night Supper.