Curriculum Overview – Year 7

In Year 7, we want to continue to develop the children’s love of reading and writing that has been nurtured at KS2. We begin with a play adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist, enabling students to immerse themselves into the story before writing descriptively about the characters and scenery. Following on from this, students move onto a Gothic unit in which they create their own gothic landscapes and write about them. This presents the opportunity for our Y7s to develop their short story writing, as well as exploring fiction from the gothic genre such as Edgar Allen Poe.

In the spring term, we introduce students to Shakespeare. Alongside the teaching of plot, character and theme, we want our students to explore the social and historical context of the Elizabethan era, and draw comparisons with today’s society. This topic covers the full spring term due to the level of depth we want our Y7s to explore Shakespeare in.

In the summer term, we introduce our most modern text of the academic year as we look at A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness) which deals sensitively with illness, grief and the human condition. Lastly, we continue to explore the world through English with a Poetry unit, looking at a range of inspirational poets of different races and backgrounds, encouraging our students to appreciate the diverse nature of our world and the importance of identity.

Curriculum Overview – Year 8

In Year 8, we want our students to build on their success from Year 7 and continue to love English whilst introducing them to more thought-provoking concepts. We begin with the verse novel Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, published as recently as 2017, which deals with ideas around revenge, justice and crime. We feel that, to build on the cultural education we have given our students in Year 7, it is appropriate and deeply educational to explore the themes presented in this novel. Before Christmas, we also explore a ‘Dystopian Fiction’ model, which focuses on issues such as media bias and – so important for our young people growing up in a generation of ‘quick media’ – fake news!

In the spring term, our focus shifts to developing the students’ understanding of Shakespeare. Our Year 7 curriculum introduced students to Shakespeare, and this year we build on that, looking at the ‘big ideas’ in Shakespearean texts such as racism, male power and the representation of madness.

In the summer term, our students enhance their persuasive/rhetoric skills in a Detective Fiction module. We teach some Sherlock Holmes in this unit with a particular focus on The Speckled Band as we look at the archetypes of detectives and villains in Conan Doyle’s story. Lastly, we widen our students’ understanding of the weird and wonderful things in our world through our Myths and Legends which covers Atlantis, Icarus and many other tales!

Curriculum Overview – Year 9

In Y9, we begin our GCSE study of English Literature. In order for our students to receive the necessary depth in their Literature education, and to give them the best chance of academic success in their exams, we feel it is important that students have two years to focus purely on the Literature texts, before sitting their Literature exam at the end of Year 10. When our students reach Year 11, this year will therefore focus purely on English Language only, and students will sit that exam at the end of Year 11. So that students do not ‘lose sight’ of their Language skills in the ‘Lit-only’ years, our curriculum is designed to integrate the Language skills that students will need for when they reach their ‘Language only’ year in Year 11.

In Y9, students will complete thorough reading and understanding of An Inspector Calls, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Romeo and Juliet/Macbeth’ and a range of poetry. Their understanding of the meaning and contexts behind the Literature texts will be supported by visits to the theatre, as well as professional acting teams coming to St. Bernard’s and performing on stage before answering students’ questions. We always deliberately select live performances in which the actors stick closely ‘to the text’, ensuring that our students have the textual accuracy in terms of quotations and the tone in which they are delivered!

As our Y9 students will be examined on this content at the end of Y10, we ensure that there is an abundance of recap and consolidation work as they progress through this unit. Students are given a free poetry anthology in order to record their annotations for the poems, and are encouraged to keep their exercise books as effective revision guides to support them in their preparation for the Y10 exams.

Curriculum Overview – Year 10

Students will begin the year continuing their Literature studies by exploring Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Macbeth’ (teacher choice depending on their preference). Shakespeare will not be a new concept to students due to our teaching of the unit in Year 7 and Year 8, but we deliberately avoid these specific texts until Y10 so that they can enjoy a new play with a fresh outlook whilst building on the contextual knowledge and understanding that they have acquired when studying Shakespeare lower down school. We also encourage students to continue to make cross-curricular links, for example where they have studied Elizabethan England in History, and use that knowledge to enhance their Literature understanding.

By Christmas of Y10, students will have studied all of the texts that they need to know for their end of year exam, meaning that they are not bombarded with new content close to sitting these exams. Students have found this good for their emotional wellbeing and mindset in preparing for the summer exams. However, whilst there are (of course) elements of revision to the remainder of their year, it is worth noting that students do not merely revise content they already know. The teaching of the texts in Y9 enabled students to grasp the overall meanings of them, but the Y10 revisiting of them allows students to develop and deepen their understanding in order to become more critical thinkers about the texts.

Once they have completed their summer Literature exams, our Y10s begin their English Language course. In the summer term, students work on their persuasive speeches which will contribute to their Speaking and Listening Endorsement. We work thoroughly on this unit in order to prepare our students for the need to articulate themselves clearly and meaningfully when they leave St. Bernard’s, and ask them to learn their speeches in the summer holidays before Year 11 so that they can complete them in the first term of Y11.

Curriculum Overview – Year 11

Our Y11 course focuses purely on English Language. However, we still integrate the teaching students have had in their English Literature by wrapping our Y11 Curriculum around similar big ideas to those they have covered in their Literature curriculum: Power and Conflict and Identity. Students begin the year by being taught how to write descriptively and how to narrate, whilst also being taught how to synthesise and infer from Unseen extracts. Because of the demands of the questions on the English Language papers, we develop students’ higher-level thinking skills and ability to evaluate and form judgments, both on written texts and wider-world issues. In addition, our students complete their Speaking and Listening endorsement which they prepared for in Year 10; our students always enjoy completing these speeches, and because there is an element of choice about what they present on, we see the mature, thoughtful and passionate young people our students have blossomed into! This Speaking and Listening element supports the students’ practise for the written exam, in which they are asked to explore their point of view on a topic chosen by the exam board.

As the year progresses, our Y11 students study a range of different extracts in order to prepare them for the ‘unseen’ nature of the exam, in which they must answer questions on extracts that they have not been taught in class. Because of the nature of the written exam, in which students have to write a lot and work quickly under pressure, we build their confidence in working quickly under timed conditions, including strict time limits on questions in class. Through the studying of selected extracts which cover a range of themes, we continue to develop students’ cultural understanding of real-world issues meaning that when they eventually leave us, they are not only exam-ready but far more rounded individuals than when they began.

Curriculum Leader

Mr N Geoghegan (Curriculum Leader) – ngeoghegan@sbch.org.uk

Mrs J Thackery (Assistant Curriculum Leader) – jthackery@sbch.org.uk

Teacher of English

Mrs K Crawford – kcrawford@sbch.org.uk

Miss C Wan – cwan@sbch.org.uk

Miss E Giblin – egiblin@sbch.org.uk

Mrs N Marshall – nmarshall@sbch.org.uk

Mrs K McArdle-Dobson – kmcardle@sbch.org.uk

Mrs A Roebuck – aroebuck@sbch.org.uk