Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.
The study of English in all its aspects, including both the written word and the spoken word, is integral to many areas of academic life, but it does not stop there – the skills acquired are ed extensively in the workplace and research indicates that there is a close correlation between oral and written fluency and success in the world of work.
The English Departments strives to develop proficiency in expression through a whole range of activities. The Department currently follows the Edexcel specification at A level. 80% of the course is assessed by a written examination covering prose, poetry and drama. The study of Shakespeare is compulsory, and students will be expected to make comparisons between texts. The examinations are open-book, meaning that the students may take unannotated copies of the texts into the examination room with them. Some of the themes addressed in the study novels are Childhood, Colonisation and its Aftermath, Crime and Detection, Science and Society and the Supernatural.
The remaining 20% is assessed through coursework, which is marked by the teachers and then moderated by the examining board. Students must produce an essay of between 2,500 and 3,000 words, analysing texts from any genre, time period or theme. The texts must in some way be linked and must not be the same as those studied for the written examination.
Reading is, of course, key and the Department aims to foster a love of reading through structured programmes, which include small discussion groups at lunchtimes, with books chosen to suit all ranges of ability. The Department offers a range of challenging texts, which can be explored in depth. One example of this is the formation of a group of students, who decided amongst themselves which of the shortlisted Booker Prize novels should receive the award. Experience to date suggests that the boys do not always agree with the judges!
English offers a number of opportunities for careers. Media, journalism and creative writing are the obvious choices, but it is also important to recognise how communication skills can benefit all areas of activity. The Department has an active debating programme, competing against other schools, which allows the boys to showcase their oral skills.