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Ofsted Outstanding School 2012 | 2013
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The English Curriculum Intent

We follow the National Curriculum for English which provides plenty of scope for students to engage with a fantastic range of stories from whole novels, plays, poems and short stories to their own creative writing. At OVA we want our students to see the connections between the stories we tell each other –  so whether it’s a play by William Shakespeare or a short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we will explore the big questions about what it means to be human and how the writer explores and presents those ideas. To help foster these connections we return to our four ‘Big Picture Ideas’ or themes that recur across so many literary texts: Morality, Responsibility, Injustice and Hierarchy. The development of technical skills is no less important – in order to fulfil their potential, students must be able to master the full range of language skills. We therefore use the study of literary texts to grow students’ technical skills, within challenging and supportive classroom environments with high expectations for all.

Key Stage 3

Each half term students complete a core knowledge test to assess their retention and understanding of knowledge from the half term’s unit.

Students also write an extended piece (either an analytical essay or a creative/transactional text). This is assessed by the classroom teacher using the English Department’s mastery statement criteria for five levels: emerging, developing, secure, mastered, and exceptional progress.

Year 7 Genre and Big Ideas

Autumn 1-Autumn 2

Students begin their KS3 course by studying the twentieth century classic novel ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, through which they are introduced to the genre of allegory and analytical writing. The focus is on the writer’s “Big Ideas” (themes) such as hierarchy and responsibility.

Autumn 2-Spring 1

After October half term students study the modern novel ‘The Woman In Black’ by Susan Hill which introduces them to the gothic genre. Through studying this novel students build on the analytical skills taught in Year 7 and develop their own creative writing expertise, whilst maintaining a focus on the writer’s “Big Ideas” such as morality and injustice.

Spring 2

After the February half term, students return to study a range of engaging non-fiction texts based on the theme of “justice” which explore the contemporary world in which they live.Through this unit students build on the previous term’s study, exploring writer’s purpose and viewpoint through analysis, whilst also developing their own persuasive writing skills through transactional tasks with a focus on speeches.

Summer 1

After the Easter break, students return to school to read a range of short stories that will inspire them to write their own. Students will be taught whole-text structure as well as sentence and word-level language devices, in order to create their own original pieces of creative writing.

Summer 2

The best is saved til last when students will study their first Shakespeare play at high school – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Many students are familiar with this Shakespearean comedy from primary school, allowing them to approach the text with confidence. Through studying the play, students  gain further confidence in their own ability to read and understand Shakespeare, and consolidate the analytical essay writing skills they have been taught, exploring structure, language and writer’s purpose, returning to the Big Ideas explored earlier such as hierarchy, injustice and responsibility.

Year 8 Contrasts and  Change

Autumn 1

In Year 8, students return to the study of the modern text through the twentieth century classic play ‘Journey’s End’ by R.C. Sherriff. Through this unit, students explore the presentation of the soldier’s experience of WWI in the play, in contrast to its presentation through the propaganda of the time. We focus on the big ideas of morality, responsibility, power and injustice – themes they encountered across the texts they studied in Year 7. Students will consolidate and refine their analytical essay writing skills with increasing independence and confidence as they tackle a full length essay.

Autumn 2

After the October half term, students study the 19th Century classic novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. Through this unit students will uncover meaning in a text through exploring its social and historical context as well as develop their analytical skills through the study of theme, symbolism and writer’s purpose. Students chart Scrooge;s change through the novel with a focus on the structural device of character development. 

Spring 1

After the Christmas break, students return to study a range of engaging non-fiction texts based on the all-important theme of the environment. Through this unit they build on their study of non-fiction texts in Year 7, developing their understanding of viewpoint  and the effects of writer’s methods. Students write their own persuasive texts through a range of transactional pieces.

Spring 2

In Spring 2 students study a range of classic war poems by acclaimed poets such as Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon. Through this unit students build on their prior learning of context from the Autumn term as they continue to explore texts through the “Big Ideas” from previous units. The focus of this unit is learning to analyse writer’s methods and compare texts, exploring similarities and differences between poems.

Summer 1 & 2

In the summer term, students study their second play by William Shakespeare, the tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Through the study of the whole play students build on their previous knowledge of Shakespeare’s language and context. They also learn how Shakespeare uses language and structure to present the protagonist and how he changes, thereby preparing the ground for GCSE study of the tragic hero.

Year 9 

Year 9 forms a bridging year between KS3 and KS4. Year 9 Mastery statements linked to GCSE assessment criteria are used to assess students’ work this year.

Autumn 1

At the start of Year 9 students study the modern novel ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ by Malorie Blackman. Through this unit they learn to analyse the novelist’s use of structural devices. This unit is intended to provide a good foundation for the study of the GCSE set text the following year – DNA by Dennis Kelly.

Autumn 2

After the October half term, students study the 19th century novel ‘The Island of Dr Moreau’ by HG Wells, sometimes called the father of Science Fiction. Through the study of this novel students build on their contextual understanding of the Victorian gentlemen class, and explore 19th century attitudes towards science. This unit is intended to provide a good foundation for the study of the GCSE set text the following year – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In this unit, students are introduced to the concept of Literary Theory through a discussion of post-colonial readings of the novella.

Spring 1

After Christmas, students study a range of non-fiction texts based on the theme of identity. Through this unit students develop their comparison skills, analysing the similarities and differences between pairs of texts. As well as this, students develop their own transactional writing skills. This unit is intended to provide a good foundation for the GCSE Language course the following year – Paper 2 Writers’ Viewpoints and Perspectives. 

Spring 2

In Spring 2, students study a range of poems from the seventeenth century to the present day. They learn to place modern poetry, particularly free verse and the use of the sonnet, within the context of a developing and changing poetic tradition. The intended purpose of this unit is to enable students to  identify different forms and styles of poetry, as a foundation for their GCSE course the following year in which they will encounter works by the Romantics as well as contemporary poets.


In the Summer Term students are introduced to their GCSE Literature set text ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare. The focus is on reading the entire play and ensuring a  firm understanding of the plot, main characters and context, specifically how the play uses the genre conventions of the tragic hero in its depiction of the protagonist’s fatal fall. 

Key Stage 4

Year 10 & 11

In Years 10 and 11 students study towards two GCSEs: English Language and English Literature.

By the end of Year 10 students have studied their set texts for Literature, and Year 11 is used to revise and consolidate / extend understanding. The examination board is AQA.

English Language GCSE

An English Language GCSE equips students with essential communication skills, preparing them for continued education, training and future employment. This qualification allows students to develop skills in analysing language and writing skills for imaginative and practical tasks, as well as speaking and listening skills. As a linear GCSE, the course is assessed through 100% final examinations in Year 11.

Paper 1: Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing (50%): Response to unseen extract from a twentieth or twenty-first century novel or short story. Write your own short story or description. Exam: 1 hour 45 mins

Paper 2: Writers’ Viewpoints and Perspectives (50%): Response to two unseen nineteenth / twentieth  century non-fiction texts e.g. leaflet & article. Write your own transactional text e.g. letter or article. Exam: 1 hour 45 mins

English Literature GCSE

An English Literature GCSE allows students to explore our vast literary heritage, studying a range of texts, including drama, poetry, prose and texts from other cultures. The main skills learnt are analytical reading skills. We aim to develop students with enquiring minds, who can apply their skills to literary texts and to the world around them.  As a linear GCSE the course is assessed through 100% final examinations in Year 11. The exams are ‘closed book’ (i.e. no texts are allowed in the examination).

Paper 1: Shakespeare & the 19th-century novel (50%): Response to a question on an extract as well as the rest of the  Shakespeare set text. Response to a question on an extract as well as the rest of the 19th Century set text. Exam: 1 hour 45 mins

At OVA all students study the play Macbeth and the novella Jekyll & Hyde.

Paper 2: Modern Texts and Poetry (50%) : Response to an essay question on the set twentieth century prose or drama text. Essay question comparing two poems from the anthology. Response to an unseen poem. Exam: 2 hours 15 mins

At OVA all students study the Power & Conflict cluster of poems from the AQA anthology.

Key Stage 5

English Literature

A Level English Literature

Exam Board Edexcel

A Level English Literature includes the study of drama, poetry and prose, including texts from 1800 to the modern-day. Through this course students develop the skills to think critically and analytically about literature and the world around them. Although the focus for formal assessments will always be on analysis of literature students are still given opportunities in lesson time to develop a range of wider skills including debating, presenting and creative writing. Students are actively encouraged to pursue their own literary interests and read widely throughout the course.

All exams are open book.

Current course outline:

Paper 1 Drama 30%

Section A) Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Section B) A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Paper 2: Prose 20%

One comparative essay on the following texts:

Dracula by Bram Stoker


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Current Year 13 are studying Beloved by Toni Morrison instead)

Paper 3: Poetry 30%

Section A)  21st Century poetry.

Comparison of one studied poem from the anthology Poems of the Decade with an unseen poem.

Section B)  Study of a named poet or movement: John Keats

Non-examined assessment: Comparative Essay 20%

Students are given the opportunity and freedom to explore their own literary interests through the study of one core text and then a free choice of a second text to compare it to.

For more information, please see the A Level Literature Student Handbook.

Progression Map

English Progression Map

Curriculum Overview

Core Concepts

Curriculum Related Expectations

English Team

Mrs AryaMr ConnellMrs AudisMr ToddMiss Catchpole
Miss Maxwell-HuntMr ConnellMrs AudisMr ToddMrs Naim
Director of EnglishDeputy Director of EnglishDeputy Director of EnglishDeputy Director of English and HPA Leader Teacher of English
Mr ColeMiss EadieMr GleedMiss ReadMiss Reader
Mr ColeMiss EadieMr Gleed Miss ReadMs Reader
Assistant Principal for Key Stage 3 and Teacher of EnglishLiteracy Coordinator and Teacher of English Teacher of EnglishTeacher of EnglishTeacher of English

English Twitter


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