English & Film Studies
Key Stage 3
The Key Stage Three curriculum at St Mary’s is a deft blend of the exciting, stimulating and challenging; with schemes of work designed to motivate and inspire and as well as equip the younger members of our community with the requisites for the rigours of GCSE. Our experienced teachers design and write the schemes of work themselves and all groups are taught the same topics at the same time. Our staff follow detailed plans so that students across all groups are ensured the same basic diet of English skills. Individual teachers do however also recognise the need to differentiate the work for the myriad personalities and learning styles reflected in the students before them. As in the school as a whole, we employ successful quality controls in the department to ensure that we maintain the high success rate and standards of teaching and learning that have become synonymous with the school’s name.
Students are taught in mixed ability groups in each of the three years, though we have always retained a flexibility in our approach, and this results in the implementation of a small Progress Group for students with SEND if and when it is required. In addition, we have flexibility within classes so that for designated periods in the academic year, we can ‘fast track’ all students. No two cohorts are the same, so we ensure that we are free to adapt the structure of our KS3 classes as necessity dictates.
Our Year 7s learn about new ways to write to imagine, explore and entertain. They produce their own original work but also begin to analyse the work of others. Our Yr7s also experience learning beyond the classroom and our annual trip to Shakespeare’s Globe is a timely reminder for students and staff alike that the Bard is too significant a literary force to be confined to the classroom; his work needs to seen and heard, and the experience that the Globe players offer us is thoroughly enriching.
We recognise the need to promote reading: the most successful students are those who read outside the classroom. We also study at least one novel each year at the school, perhaps our most popular KS3 novel being the deliciously dark and brooding The Woman in Black.
One of the highlights of the Year Eight curriculum is our poetry unit, with authors both ancient and modern being studied, beginning with Chaucer’s Miller from The Canterbury Tales: a deliciously funny and grotesque character that reminds us once again of the wealth of weird and wonderful characters to be found in literature. Our studies bring us right up to date by exploring contemporary giants like Simon Armitage. Ultimately, the students will need to work independently to find a poem of their own that engages and inspires them, and then write analytically about their choice.
Year Nine is the year that lays the foundations for GCSE, including studying the GCSE text Of Mice & Men. Steinbeck’s novel is something of a hardy perennial on the English curriculum: this profoundly moving tale of friendship and the exploration of dreams is always popular with a wide variety of students. Even those who don’t consider themselves ‘readers’ usually end up finding plenty to enjoy about this enduring tale.
We also provide students with a comprehensive study of non-fiction and media texts, from Bill Bryson or Michael Palin, to electronic texts such as blogs and online news, with everything in between. The students are prepared for their exam in the Spring Term, when they sit a GCSE paper on non-fiction texts that is designed to prepare them for the rigours of GCSE. We always ask parents support students in their endeavours by reading and discussing with them news texts including online news stories and longer news articles in the papers. Also, if you see a leaflet in the shops – grab it: your son or daughter will know how to analyse it for language and presentational.
Each year group has a programme of continual assessments as well as an end of year exam. Parents often query how and when decisions are made about the GCSE setting, and a range of data is drawn on to create careful sets: exam results of course play a part, but so do results from continual assessments as well as teacher assessments and behavioural issues.
Key Stage 4
The GCSE English course provides students with two qualifications: Literature and Language. We follow the AQA specification. From September 2014, students in Yr10 will begin a two year programme in which they sit their exam at the end of the course. The demands of the subject are such that we are allocating all students four teaching hours per week in order to cover the material in sufficient depth and pace. The courses are taught in parallel, with a particular focus to the non-fiction and media element over the two years.
As parents may know, Speaking and Listening is no longer a percentage part of the qualification for the GCSE Language and this is reported separately, though it is still a requirement that speaking and listening skills are taught. Indeed, at St Mary’s we believe that ‘if students cannot say it, they cannot write it’, and the skills in discussion and presentation are the fundamentals of life in the wider world. A new GCSE curriculum will be introduced nationally from September 2015, so please look here for further details as they appear later in the year. Should you have any specific questions about the GCSE course, please do not hesitate to contact the school and your query will reach the right member of staff.
Key Stage 5
GCE AS/A2-Level - English Literature
Exam Board: WJEC
This course provides students with an introduction to the discipline of advanced literary studies and presents opportunities for reading widely and for making creative and informed responses to each of the major literary genres of poetry, prose and drama. The course requires students to show knowledge and understanding of :
•The functions and effects of structure, form and language
•Some of the ways in which texts are interpreted by different readers
•Some of the ways in which texts relate to one another
•The contexts in which texts are written
Literature is a subject that requires students to consider individual, moral, ethical, social, cultural and contemporary issues. The specification followed by the department at St Mary’s provides a framework for exploration of such issues.
A-Level Film Studies
“Film Studies? Do I get to just watch films all day?”
Film Studies has been offered at St Mary’s since 2001, and occasionally some students are unprepared for the academic rigour of the subject.
This course has the potential to open up the medium of film to you in a new, engaging and thoroughly enlightening way. You will begin to watch films in a completely new light, and appreciate features of film that you never knew existed.
To make sure that you make the right choice at A-Level, carefully consider the aims of the course which are explained below.
We aim to develop candidates’ interest in and appreciation of cinema through studying:
- The film as ‘text’ – the ‘language’ of film and how an audience ‘reads’ that language.
- Producers and audiences: the film industry as an intricate business, and audiences as consumers. Particular attention is paid to Hollywood and the British film industry.
- The messages and values of a society that are contained in a range of films, in particular the attitudes and representation in British Cinema.
We aim to provide candidates with the skills required to write in-depth analytical essays, as well as the ability to conduct independent research. The level of study is well suited to candidates who wish to continue with further education.
We also aim to develop candidates’ understanding of the world around them, and how this is represented - and often misrepresented - in film. In its broadest sense, this course demands that candidates consider the nature of film in their society and the world around them.