Encompassing English Language, Literature, Drama and Media Studies; the English Faculty are united in striving to enable our students to discover more about the world and their identity within that world. The engagement of our students is such that we have consistently surpassed the national average and Hertfordshire GCSE boys’ performance in English for the last 10 years.
Students will learn about real life and real experiences; it is about the digital world; and it is about the skills that people use every day to succeed in all walks of life. We aim to provide our students with skills to help them to develop and define their character, whilst respecting and embracing others, ultimately becoming the best version of themselves that they can be. Students explore and debate topics that matter to them and to the world they live in; they are given opportunities to express themselves through written contributions to the school magazine, ‘Top Button’ and in debates, essays, poems and presentations.
Whether through literature, drama productions or creative digital media productions, our students are on a journey towards new knowledge and deeper understanding with engaging opportunities for investigation, discovery, analysis and deconstruction. Our aim is to go beyond the ordinary and allow our students to project themselves into invented, unfamiliar or fictional experiences, through reading about them and creating them for themselves.
Through the study of English Language, Literature, Drama and Media Studies, we encourage our students to have the courage and confidence to be able to rise to Mahatma Gandhi’s challenge to ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’
‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’. Reading is at the heart of what we do at Verulam. It is essential for our students to engage with a range of reading from non-fiction to poetry to classic and modern fiction.
ALL students in years 7-11 are expected to have a private reading book with them in school every day. Students should be reading roughly one book every 2-3 weeks.
EVERY English lesson will begin with silent private reading. Students are expected to read books appropriate to their age and reading ability.
Accuracy of written communication is an important life skill for all and we acknowledge this at Verulam by ensuring that students in years 7-11 learn key words and word forms and take weekly spelling tests. In order to embed spelling rules and key words, we then assess spelling with a re-cap test at the end of each term. The end of term test consists of a selection of words from the weekly tests for each term.
English Faculty KS3:
Reading in years 7 and 8
Students take a reading test to assess their reading age at the start of the academic year in Year 7 and throughout the year to monitor progress. This continues until the end of Year 8. Based on these tests, students will be advised as to which books in the school library are suitable for their reading ability. We use the Accelerated Reading programme to track reading progress. Feedback on progress will be given to students during their ‘Library lesson’ taken by their English teacher and the school librarian. These lessons take place once a month throughout the school year.
Students are encouraged to borrow books from our library and can download books from our digital library app.
Students who achieve their termly reading target will receive an achievement certificate as will the most successful reader in each form (compared to their individual target) and the most successful 10% of boys in the year group. As each individual has a personal target, this system rewards effort, which we feel is the most appropriate way to encourage reading in school.
In Year 7 our focus is on the foundations of English study at secondary level. We work on answering the questions: What is English? How do I explore English Language and English Literature successfully? This is achieved through the study of a range of topics from ‘Macbeth’, Sherlock Holmes stories, Literature through time, to creative poetry writing and spoken presentation skills.
The focus for English studies in Year 8 is ‘Finding my voice’: Who am I? How do I express my beliefs respectfully and understand the views of others?
Students continue their exploration of Shakespeare with ‘Julius Caesar’ and develop persuasive skills using rhetoric inspired by the play. In Year 8 students also begin to analyse and respond to a range of protest poetry exploring different ways to express opinions. Creativity and a sense of personal identity are further developed through creative narrative and descriptive writing.
In Year 9 the focus is: ‘Empathy and Enlightenment’. Students explore the question: How do we understand the world around us and our place in that world?
Students begin Year 9 with an engaging unit exploring the gothic literary tradition – ghosts, unexplained happenings and anguish!
This is followed by studying the whole gothic text: ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley, a firm favourite with students. Students are also introduced to the use of narrative in television advertising, modern play scripts and seminal world literature all of which will broaden students’ understanding of the world around them.
Advice for parents/carers
- You can help your child by encouraging them to read at home for 15 minutes each day – if it helps, schedule this time into the evening and check the reading has been completed.
- Please discuss with your child what they are reading – and what you are reading!
- Check that your son is managing to finish his reading book in 2-3 weeks – he has about an hour a week to read in school and should be reading at home too, so this should be achievable.
- If your son is in Year 7 or 8, remind him to take an Accelerated Reader quiz when he has finished his reading book.
- English Literature and English Language are about concepts, ideas and emotions in the world around us – our young people need to form opinions and understand the world they will inherit – discussion at home based around topics in the news will greatly benefit students.
- Set a time each week to run through the weekly spelling test prior to the test taken at school to ensure your son is prepared.
The English faculty offers the following clubs:
- Year 7 Books and Biscuits reading group
- Year 8 Books and Biscuits reading group
- Year 9 Books and Biscuits reading group
- Years 7-8 Creative Writing club – linked to the school magazine, ‘Top Button’
- All years Chess Club
- Years 7-8 – Drama Club (School productions will be open to all years via auditions)
- Years 8 Debate Club