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 ‘cold-read’ of a novel, enabling students to immerse themselves into the story of the wonderful and moving ‘A Monster Calls’. Having studied how a renowned author creates imagery through words, students then move through to their own descriptive writing (with a focus on gothic elements!) before Christmas, enhancing their core writing skills.

In the spring term, we introduce students to a Shakespeare text. 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 leads into the next unit which is a study of ‘Then and Now’: how the world has changed, for better or worse, over the centuries. We feel it is important that we develop our students’ understanding of real-world issues through our curriculum, and therefore do not shy away from serious topics such as gender-stereotyping, or the negative impact new technology can have on lives today.

Lastly, in the summer term, we continue to explore the world through English with a ‘Visionaries’ unit, looking at a range of inspirational poets of different races and backgrounds, encouraging our students to appreciate the diverse nature of our world.

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 concepts and ideas that they will need for their GCSE studies in Year 9 onwards. Like in Year 7, we begin with the ‘cold-read’ of a novel, this time John Steinbeck’s classic ‘Of Mice and Men’. Those of a particular age may be familiar with this text as one to be studied at a slightly older age, but we feel with 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’. Further to this, our students enhance their persuasive/rhetoric skills in a Detective Fiction module; any aspiring lawyers will be thrilled to play the role of ‘The Prosecution’ in court!

Lastly, in the summer term, we aim to keep things fun whilst also building our students’ confidence for their GCSE work in Year 9. Therefore, we end with a Victorian Poetry unit which will help students’ contextual understanding when they arrive at Dickens in Year 9, before ending with a Myths and Legends unit in which students are asked to write and deliver a speech.

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 Year 9, students will complete thorough reading and understanding of a modern text, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ 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 rigidly ‘to the text’, ensuring that our students have the textual accuracy in terms of quotations and the tone in which they are delivered!

Curriculum Overview – Year 10

Students will begin the year continuing their Literature studies by exploring Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. 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 this specific text until Year 10 so that we can explore the range of adult themes in the play, and also build on the contextual knowledge and understanding that our students have acquired when studying Shakespeare before. 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. Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ is also studied (festively, at Christmas!) before students undertake some English Language work.

For English Language, students study a range of different extracts in order to prepare them for the ‘unseen’ exam, in which they must answer questions on an extract 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 students’ 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.

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.

Curriculum Overview – Year 11

By Year 11, our students will have been taught all Literature content in some capacity, meaning that we can focus on a mixture of revising and developing critical understanding in this final year. In Year 11, our students look at a range of theory for the texts that they now know well, and encourage them to take responsibility for their own wider reading for these texts. We also aim to take our students for a live performance of the texts they have studied in the build-up to the exams (though, of course, we are always at the mercy of their schedules!). We always deliberately select live performances in which the actors stick rigidly ‘to the text’, ensuring that our students have the textual accuracy in terms of quotations and the tone in which they are delivered! Our aim is that, by the time the Literature exams come around, students do not feel daunted by the level of depth and stamina (both emotional and physical) required but feel fully prepared to ‘show off’ the knowledge and understanding they have acquired since beginning their GCSE work in Year 9.

By Year 11, our students will also be well-acquainted with the requirements of the English Language exams and will spend part of the year refining and developing their analytical skills. Because of the demands of the questions on the 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 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.

Curriculum Leader

Mr N Geoghegan – ngeoghegan@sbch.org.uk

Teacher of English

Mrs K Crawford – kcrawford@sbch.org.uk

Ms A Harrison – aharrison@sbch.org.uk

Mrs N Marshall – nmarshall@sbch.org.uk

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

Miss L Carver – lcarver@sbch.org.uk

Miss C Wan – cwan@sbch.org.uk