‘Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.’ J.K. Rowling

The Swanage School English Department aims to inspire, encourage and succeed in helping every child reach their full potential and enjoy the journey. We aim to create an environment where our students are aspirational, supported and confident to express their opinions and concerns. We will bring energy, knowledge and a passion for our subject to the classroom and will encourage a work ethic and develop resilience.

The new GCSEs are challenging and require diverse skills in reading and writing. Students’ understanding of fiction and non-fiction needs to span centuries, and their appreciation of how writers use linguistic devices to shape meaning spans genres. They will develop an understanding of how contextual factors, whether they be societal, political or personal, influence meaning and will study a range of literature from around the world.


‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’ Mark Twain

Key Stage 3 Year 7 

We start the year ensuring that we are very clear about what each of our student’s needs are, as they start their journey with us. They are assessed in reading and writing, targets are set and our curriculum seeks to develop students’ skills and ensure progress.

During the year they will develop their creative writing skills, with a particular emphasis on linguistic devices and accuracy. Non-fiction writing is also a focus, through autobiographical writing; students will also simultaneously engage with autobiographical poetry. Alfred Noyes’ ‘The Highwayman’ also allows students to engage with narrative poetry. With a view always to future successes one of the novels we chose is Michael Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse’ to read and study. Students will need knowledge of WW1 to access the GCSE poetry. Similarly, an understanding of Shakespeare’s life and times is developed to ensure that his plays can be studied and understood in depth later on. Regularly throughout the year we assess our students’ reading and writing and work with them to increase skills and confidence, and hopefully a love of the subject.

‘Literature delivers tidings of the world within and the world without.’ George Henry Lewes

Key Stage 3 Year 8

During the course of this year we deliver literature from around the world. Students will study African-American poetry, Greek Myths and Legends and the Gothic, whilst developing their knowledge and confidence with linguistic devices, narrative, characterisation, genre and context. They will also engage with the work of two poet laureates and study a Shakespeare play. The development of their non-fiction and fiction writing will also be a regular focus. Our students will continue to be assessed regularly so that we can ensure continued progress and support.

‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ Benjamin Franklin

Key Stage Year 9

This year is all about ensuring that students are prepared for the challenge of the GCSE courses in English Language and Literature. All students will study Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ with its brilliant use of setting and characterisation, which link so closely to our GCSE novelist, Dickens’ own satirical use of both. Steinbeck and Dickens also shared a strong desire to use their literature to give the voiceless a voice and expose prejudice and marginalisation. Our study of short stories from different centuries will also provide opportunities for close textual analysis and the development of their comparative essay style. Year 9 students will start elements of the GCSE course; they will start the study of poems from the fifteen studied in Year 10 and 11. The study of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will also begin. It is our intention that they begin Year 10 ready to face the new challenges and reach their full potential.

‘Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun’. We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.’ Zora Neale Hurston

Key Stage 4 Year 10 and 11

The new GCSE is challenging, but it’s a challenge that we meet. For the Literature GCSE, students will study Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’, Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and fifteen poems sharing the themes of power and conflict. It is a closed text examination, which means we can’t take our books into the exam, which in turn means that we learn quotes and develop the skills needed to analyse the text and poetry placed before us. We must have a knowledge of contextual factors that influence meaning and need to identify and successfully write about language and linguistic devices used to present our writers’ Marxist and feminist messages; our writers are social commentators and our students will develop an understanding of the lives and challenges of our ancestors.

The Language GCSE is split into two papers, one where students study and write non-fiction and one where they study and write fiction. Throughout the two years students will gradually develop their experience of reading short passages of both and will continue to develop their writing. Their ability to understand and use the conventions of letter, speech and article writing is a particular focus as is their ability to write creatively. Once again we will work hard to help our students reach their full potential and ensure that they ‘jump at de sun’.

Extra-curricular opportunities

‘When I was a teenager, I began to settle into school because I'd discovered the extracurricular activities that interested me…’ Morgan Freeman

As a department we give freely of our time out of lesson time, to ensure that our students feel fully supported with their study of English and English Literature, but we provide much more. Clubs vary, but may include media, debating and newsletter. Throughout the year we try to visit the theatre to support their studies and enjoyment of the subject. All year groups will have the opportunity to enter a range of exciting national competitions as well as our in-house reading project. 

Further information

Exam Board: AQA English GCSE