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The English department's programmes of study, which reflect those of the National Curriculum in English, are largely literature based. Pupils are given the opportunity to read a wide variety of literature and to respond to both the substance and the style of the texts. Our aim is that they should develop into independent, enthusiastic and responsive readers.


Author Anne Cassidy visits BHS

Pupils are introduced to major works of literature from the English literary heritage, and also to works from other countries and cultures. They also experience a range of non-literary and media texts and practise the analytical and critical skills necessary to become discriminating readers of these as well as of literary texts.

Pupils are encouraged to develop confidence and commitment in writing for a variety of purposes and audiences, and for themselves. Writing is presented as way of developing thinking, as a means of aesthetic and imaginative exploration, and as a medium of information and communication. Our pupils contribute to the writing and presenting of the school magazine.

Speaking and listening, including drama, play an important role in the English classroom.

The English programmes of study are designed to stretch students academically; the schemes of work include varied activities to encourage critical and imaginative responses. Students are encouraged to focus reflectively on the processes in which they are engaged and to be actively and positively critical of their own and others' work.

Much that is important in English happens outside the classroom, including theatre trips, book days and poetry events.

Additionally, all of our pupils enter for our annual drama and public speaking festivals, and many compete in national debating and public speaking competitions. Last year we reached the London regional finals of the Institute of Ideas Debating Competition and the ESU Public Speaking Competition, and the grand final of the GDST Chrystall Prize public speaking competition. We also won the first round of the ESU’s Schools’ Mace debating competition. BHS students also compete in Oxford Schools Debating.

The KS3 English course is designed to help our students develop into perceptive, analytical readers and confident, imaginative communicators, whilst at the same time fostering a love of literature. Students study a wide-range of challenging literary texts from different periods. Assessment is designed to help students to build skills as critical readers, eloquent speakers, and proficient writers. KS3 students also enjoy a regular reading lesson in which they follow a book club-style reading scheme which encourages them to engage with texts from different literary genres, and to share their thoughts about what they are reading with other girls in their class.

We study the IGCSE for English and English Literature because we think it is a well-structured course, based around the development of key skills. Another advantage of the course is that it contains a coursework element which enables students to study texts in far greater detail and depth than GCSE courses allow.

English in the Sixth Form

From September 2015 the English department has elected to teach the new Edexcel Literature course. This is an exciting new course which will allow students to study a range of classic and modern drama, poetry and prose texts. There is an excellent range of set texts on offer, including the works of Shakespeare, Woolf, Donne, Bronte, and Atwood.

Students in Year 13 will complete their current specifications, with AQA Literature B and AQA Language B being studied at A2 level. Literature students will study critical approaches and literature of The Gothic genre, while Language students will focus on a language investigation coursework project and the study of Child Language Acquisition and The History of English.