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 (First Language English and 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 France. 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, an investigation into the oral tradition of storytelling, 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.

Years 10 and 11

We follow the Cambridge International Examinations IGCSE syllabuses for First Language English (0500) and Literature in English (0992). The IGCSE curriculum is flexible, challenging and inspiring. The focus of the first term is to develop students’ analytical skills by exploring a combination of poetry ‘unseen’ and poetry from the exam board’s prescribed anthology, which establishes the foundations of literary analysis in preparation for close study of one of the prescribed prose texts. In Year 11 students study one of the prescribed drama texts; the higher ability sets will opt for a Shakespeare play. Over the duration of the two year course, our study of literature is interspersed with the exploration of a range of other forms of fiction and non-fiction writing. 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.

Sixth Form

In the Sixth Form we follow the Eduqas A level Literature syllabus and offer the IB Literature A: Literature and English A: Language and Literature courses. Please refer to the Sixth Form section of the website for further details of these courses.

Societies and events

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.