Perhaps the most famous of Old Greshamians is the great twentieth century poet W H Auden. With such a legacy it is unsurprising that Gresham’s boasts a very strong English department and a vibrant literary culture.

The department can boast considerable success in examinations. We offer Cambridge IGCSE in literature and language because we believe the board offers an interesting curriculum and teaches very useful skills. In advanced study we offer A Levels and the English courses offered by the IB.


Year 9

We view year 9 both as a preparation for IGCSE exams (First Language English and Literature) and as an opportunity to foster a love of literature and writing. All year 9 students begin by examining the poetry of the First World War. In the remainder of year 9 they will study a Shakespeare play and a variety of poetry and prose in English and from other nationalities in translation. The primary focuses are responding in depth to both literary and non-fiction passages, on learning the skills of poetry response and on creative writing. 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. This decision is made on the basis of performance in an end of year examination (poetry response and creative writing), a Shakespeare unit assessed by the class teacher but moderated across the year and according to continuous assessment by the class teacher.

Years 10 and 11

We follow the Cambridge International Examinations IGCSE syllabuses for First Language English (0500) and Literature (0486). The first term is seen primarily as an opportunity for enrichment and also a period during which setting decisions can be reflected upon. From Lent term in year 10 Students will write three pieces of Language coursework (Creative, persuasive and a response to a text). They will also learn three Language skills for the exam: directed writing; analysis of the effects produced by writers; précis/summary. In Literature they will study a novel, a play (higher sets will study Shakespeare), and a selection of poetry. They will also study for an unseen response exam.

Sixth Form

In the sixth form we follow WJEC A level Literature and offer IB Literature and IB Language and Literature courses. Please refer to the Sixth Form section of the website for further details of these courses.


The Auden Society is the department’s flagship, a representative of what we offer to the Sixth Form beyond the curriculum. In the last few years – as well as talks from staff and pupils – we had visiting speakers from the University of Seoul in Korea, 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.

Beyond the classroom

The department prides itself in what it offers beyond the curriculum. We were very proud to host Gresham’s first Festival of Nature Writing. From February 17th-19th 2011 Gresham’s hosted writers who have dedicated themselves to exploring and responding to nature. These included the well-known such as the inspirational Richard Mabey and the more avant-garde such as poet Harriet Tarlo. They were also contributions from the most significant poetry periodicals published in Britain today: Rialto and The North. It was a major national event, truly placing Gresham’s at the forefront of literary culture.  Following this event Gresham’s hosted a further Festival of Nature from 24th February to 1st March 2014 which celebrated in particular the nature of Norfolk and its relationship between land and water.  The school welcomed prominent artists and speakers such as Mark Cocker, Judith Tucker and Harriet Tarlo. In 2015 Gresham’s became the launch point for a Norfolk-wide ‘Festival of Nature’.

The department is headed by Mrs Chrissie van Hasselt, an Oxford graduate.  Her particular interests are in Victorian literature, English literature of the early twentieth century (WWI, Woolf, Lawrence, and Forster), Anglo Saxon writing and Shakespeare. He studied Modern Languages at University College London, but has taught English throughout his career in order to be able to focus on literature.  His areas of interest are the influences of writers from other cultures on writers from the UK and Ireland.  Miss Keely Thompson joined the department from Abu Dhabi. Her interests are 19th century literature (Bronte, Austen, Shelley and Hardy), contemporary international literature, Beat Poetry especially Ferlinghetti and the beat poets to Garrity, and the poetry slam. The department is supported by excellent part-time teachers: Mr Mark Seldon (IB Co-ordinator) and Mrs Naomi Norris.