CONTACT - J.Holman@smithillsschool.net

The English Department


The English department at Smithills School is a happy, thriving place: we are a team of committed professionals who work hard and support each other as we take the department forward. We are united in our common goals for students:

  • Promoting independence and an ethos of being the best you can be

  • Deploying a range of strategies to engage students and to further their success in English

  • Supporting students in achieving their potential

  • Developing pride in their work 

  • Thinking hard and deeply about English but also about our place in the world and the issues which affect people


And, just as importantly, we are united in our common goals for staff:

  • Looking after each other professionally and personally, sharing resources, expertise and best practice 

  • Respecting what each other brings to the department and learning from each other all the time

  • Laughing together and bolstering each other through the good and the tougher times

  • Supporting each other’s professional development


We have recently re-designed the curriculum so that Literature has the same status and priority as Language: this guiding belief in the vital importance of Literature underpins our work. We mobilise the power of Literature to open doors in thinking and to connect students to the issues, ideas and feelings which shape our lives. Every scheme of learning now includes a range of references to the conversation of mankind, supporting students to debate and grapple with big ideas whilst seeing the relevance of literary works to today. In this and in other ways, we encourage students to find their voice in the world.

There are 12 full time teachers in the department. Within this team is a wealth of expertise and everyone brings something to the table. We are fortunate enough to count amongst us: the Vice Principal for Curriculum; the Assistant Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning, EAL, literacy and SEND; the Assistant Vice Principal for English, Reading and the library; the Director of Learning for year 11; the SEND co-ordinator; lead on KS4; lead on KS3; lead on year 7. Each member of the team is enthusiastic, dedicated and caring in their approach to colleagues.

We are acutely aware that the education we provide students with holds the key to their life opportunities. This awareness shapes our daily work and our pedagogy. In particular, we know that we need to deliver high quality classroom practice so that students can achieve the GCSE grades in English Language and in English Literature which are so crucial to future success. GCSE outcomes in English for the 2016-2017 cohort were a clear improvement on previous years: English Language 9-5 42% and 9-4 nearly 60%; English Literature 9-5 37% and 9-4 54%. We are determined to build on this success, aiming for even more powerful results for the current year 11 cohort and for all future year 11s. We are particularly focused on strategies to stretch and challenge, so that we can support the achievement of all students, but especially the more able. We are also focused on strategies which promote the engagement and achievement of boys, as the gender gap is one which we need to close.

KS3 English

In KS3 English, our vision is to develop students who articulate their thoughts and opinions from reading a rich array of literature. We encourage learners to engage and explore a range of texts, fiction and non-fiction, so that they have a secure understanding of history, culture and current affairs. Discovering new characters, plots and scenes, pupils can shape their own writing to be imaginative, engaging and innovative.


At Smithills our aim is to get the basics right at Key Stage Three to allow a seamless transition in to Key Stage Four. All students in KS3 will study a broad spectrum of texts designed to strengthen and embed key English skills. These skills are developed and fine-tuned through extended writing pieces intended to strengthen written accuracy and allow creative and analytical expression. 


Each unit will comprise of two formative assessments and a final summative assessment to consolidate the students’ learning. These assessments will be graded alongside the new GCSE 9-1 Mark Scheme and accurate, relevant feedback will be provided to allow each student to take responsibility for their academic progression. 


In Year 7, students study a range of texts by Dickens, a short story anthology, a range of poems from other cultures, as well as introducing students to a variety of Shakespeare’s plays.


In Year 8, students will explore the work of Robert Louis Stevenson through the novella, ‘Treasure Island’; examining structural features in non-fiction texts; focusing on the contextual links in ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’; and analysing the language used in a variety of Shakespearian plays.


Year 9 students start to build upon their skills in preparation for the KS4 transition. This will include an exploration of ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck; an analysis of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm; examining poetic devices in War Poetry; focusing on structural features in Speeches and Transactional Writing and investigate the characters in Romeo and Juliet. 


Across KS3 students are encouraged to read for pleasure and can use the school library at break, lunch and after school. Students have one hour of dedicated library time per week as part of their English lessons. Students learn how to use the library, are able access a wide range of books, experience new genres and authors, and develop a love of reading.
Homework is set once a week on the Show My Homework website, accessible through the school homepage. Homework tasks are designed to consolidate the learning done in the classroom. Tasks vary and can include research, designing revision materials, spellings and creative pieces of writing.

KS4 English

Course Overview

This AQA course offers two GCSE certificates, one in English Language and one in English Literature. These examinations are non-tiered, and students will be entered for both English Language and English Literature, receiving two separate GCSEs. Over the two years a varied programme of reading, writing and oral work will be undertaken to ensure the students are prepared for these examinations.


English Language

The AQA specification is designed to help students of all abilities develop the skills they need to read, understand and analyse a wide range of different texts spanning the 19th, 20th and 21st century time periods. In addition they are assessed on their ability to write clearly, coherently and accurately using a range of vocabulary, techniques and sentence structures.


Paper 1 is entitled ‘Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing’ and is split into two sections. The paper is 1 hour and 45 minutes and is assessed via an examination.


Section A: Reading, 25%

Students read one literary fiction text from the 20th or 21st century and respond to a mix of short and

extended questions.


Section B: Writing, 25%

Students produce one descriptive or narrative piece of writing. A written or visual prompt will be provided.


Paper 2 is entitled ‘Writers’ Viewpoints and Perspectives’ and is also divided into two sections. The paper is 1 hour and 45 minutes and is assessed via an examination.


Section A: Reading, 25%

Students read one recent non-fiction text and one literary non-fiction text from the 19th century. They then respond to a mix of short and extended questions based on these sources.


Section B: Writing, 25%

Students produce one extended piece of non-fiction writing.

In addition, students will also be prepared for a non-examination assessment for spoken language. Students will develop the skills to present a variety of information for different contexts and audiences, and respond to questions and feedback. This component is assessed on a pass, merit or distinction grading system.


English Literature

The AQA English Literature course is designed to challenge, motivate and support every student, no matter what their level of ability. Students will encounter a wide range of poetry, drama and prose from the 19th, 20th and 21st century. The qualification will be assessed wholly through closed text examinations.


Paper 1: Shakespeare and the 19th century novel,

[1 hour 45 minutes, 40%]


Section A: Shakespeare, 20%

Students will answer one extract-based question on the Shakespearean play Macbeth. They will be expected to respond analytically to the extract, as well as responding to the novel as a whole. 


Section B: 19th century novel, 20%

Students will answer one extract-based question on the 19th century novel ‘A Christmas Carol’. Similarly to section a, students will be required to respond analytically to the extract, as well as responding to the novel as a whole. 


Paper 2: Modern texts and poetry, [2 hour 15 minutes, 60%]


Section A: Modern Texts, 20%

Students will respond to one question on the modern play ‘Blood Brothers’.


Section B: Poetry, 20% 

Students are required to answer one question, comparing two poems that they have studied previously in class. These poems will be selected from the ‘Power and Conflict’ cluster and are a mix of contemporary and literary heritage. 


Section C: Unseen Poetry, 20%

Students answer one question in response to a poem they have never seen before. Students are required to analyse this poem, and then compare this unseen poem with a second unseen poem. 


KS4 PPE (Pre-Public Examinations):

In order to measure progress towards their GCSE, pupils will sit PPE papers, for English Language and English Literature, during both Year 10 and Year 11.

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