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Image of William Shakespeare

English staff

Dr C Bates, Head of Faculty
Miss H Maycock, Second in Faculty
Ms J Bhatt
Mr J Brothers
Mrs E Coney
Mrs J Davis
Mr C Hughes
Ms N Hodgson
Miss S Tapscott


“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”

– Rita Mae Brown

Curriculum intent

Our intention is to promote a love of English among our students, and to foster the positive qualities that English engenders. Through the study of a wide range of challenging texts from all periods and cultures, and the undertaking of a diverse range of activities – both within school and extra-curricular – we seek to foster an appreciation of, and passion for, literature and the ideas that lie behind it. Our intent is to develop not only technical proficiency in our subject, but emotional intelligence, inference and empathy skills that the students can draw on as life-long learners.

What does progress through Key Stage 3 look like for a student in English?

Throughout years 7, 8 and 9, students will study a range of units that sequentially build upon each other, allowing them to:

  • experience a wide range of challenging texts from all periods and cultures;
  • expand their knowledge and understanding of British culture and its diversity;
  • develop a good understanding of the subject terminology for English and the terminology for English and the importance of technical accuracy;
  • demonstrate their skills in inference, empathy and analysis;
  • develop skills for learning, memory and retention;
  • be highly reflective, resilient and determined in their approach to learning;
  • aspire highly for themselves;
  • articulate and demonstrate (in their books/ work) their learning journey and progress;
  • demonstrate where they have responded to feedback, targets and have improved their learning;
  • empathise and support others and contribute directly to the inclusive ethos of the school;
  • move on to the next stage of their education without barriers of attainment or aspiration. 

What do students learn in Year 7?

A student in year 7 will follow an exciting and challenging curriculum journey, which consolidates skills and knowledge gained at primary school whilst introducing new concepts and competencies.

Unit 1 – Childhood Then and Now – runs as a 12 week block and asks the children to address the Big Question: What Can we Learn Going Forwards by Looking Back? Students will explore a wide range of texts – from the Victorian period to the modern day, looking at fiction, fact and poetry – in order to address the ways in which childhood has changed over time, and what this change can tell them about the wider role children play in their own society, and further afield. 

Year 7 students are ideally placed to consider this question as they begin their secondary school journey, looking ahead to new maturity whilst still very much inhabiting the world of childhood. We cover texts by authors as diverse as William Blake, Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Charlotte Bronte and Andy Mulligan who offer a broad and challenging exploration of the Big Question. The children will gain new knowledge about childhood in different places in the world and in different periods of time, whilst developing their skills in reading and writing. 

Unit Two – Magic and Mystery – runs as a 12 week block and asks the children to consider the Big Question: What is Life Without Magic and Mystery? Students will read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; they will explore extracts from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; they will consider the historical and cultural importance of Greek Myths and Arthurian Legend; and they will research the life and career of Harry Houdini The students will come to understand the important role Magic has played throughout human history. Again, we have decided to place this Unit here as the students transition between childhood and young adulthood. At the start of the Unit, the majority of our students associate magic only with childhood and something they no longer believe in; by the end, they have understood magic as a much broader cultural phenomenon and have a deeper understanding of its role.


Unit Three – Animal Antics – runs as a 12 week block, and poses the Big Question: What do Animals Teach us About Ourselves? Students will read the modern novel, Dog, by Andy Mulligan, and a selection of animal poetry drawn from different cultures and different times; they will also access the question through their exploration of non-fiction resources such as animal charity leaflets, adverts, and research literature. This Unit focuses on developing the children’s empathy and kindness, in line with our whole school ethos. Its placement at the end of Year 7 seems fitting as we look to extend the children’s imagination and focus away from their own lives and preoccupations towards different lived experiences. The novel ‘Dog’ is partly written from an animal’s point of view, and the poems have been specifically chosen to present animals as sentient and intelligent beings who deserve respect and kindness from humans. The non-fiction elements focus the students’ attention on the way animals can be exploited by humans for their own gain. By the end of the Unit, students are able to articulate a powerful answer to the Big Question which highlights compassion and kindness towards each other, as well as to the animal kingdom. 

 What do students learn in Year 8?

In Year 8, students will build on the knowledge and skills gained in Year 7 and will follow a sequenced curriculum journey which covers a diverse range of texts designed to appeal and offer appropriate challenge as the children progress through the school.

Unit One – Most Haunted – runs as a 12 week block and poses the Big Question: Beyond the Grave: Why Do We Find the Supernatural Thrilling? Students will be given the opportunity to study a wide and diverse selection of texts and ideas based round this theme: Shakespeare’s Hamlet; ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Poe; poetry by Wordsworth; modern ghost stories by Neil Gaiman; and non-fiction research on The Day of the Dead and the Cottingley Fairies. This Unit is placed at the start of Year 8 to engage students from the very beginning with a ‘darker’ and more mature text selection than that which they experienced in year 7. As they engage with the Big Question, students come to understand that the supernatural is not just the stuff of scary movies but has a long historical, multi-cultural and literary tradition, and that exploration of the unknown is an enduring imaginative inspiration.

Unit Two – Survival – runs as a 12 week block and poses the Big Question: Fight or Flight: What Drives us to Survive? Students will read the whole modern novel, October, October by Katya Balen, as well as a variety of non-fiction texts about surviving in difficult and dangerous conditions. Its placement here follows seamlessly on from Most Haunted – if that Unit was about life after death, this Unit is all about how we cling on to life at all costs. It offers those complex and more mature themes that engage and are suitable for Year 8. The novel, October, October also offers a striking contrast to the more traditional texts from the previous Unit, as it is strikingly modern in style and content. By the end of the Unit, students will have engaged at a deep level with the Big Question, and will have understood that survival is a metaphorical and emotional condition as well as a physical state, and that the human will to survive in all situations is inspirational and motivational.

Unit Three – Conflict – runs as a 12 week block and asks the Big Question: How Can Tearing Us Apart Bring Us Together? Students will explore a diverse and challenging range of sources, including a selection of fiction texts across the dystopian genre; Shakespeare’s King Lear; and a range of war poetry from different times and cultures. This Unit is a perfect follow-on from Survival, with obvious serious themes and ideas shared between the two concepts. It also links back to the students’ previous experience of Shakespeare study (Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and to their exploration of poetic techniques in Animal Antics. By the end of the Unit, students are able to articulate thoughtful answers to the Big Question, showing an understanding that conflict can never be allowed to rip worlds apart but should be used as a unifying force.

What do students learn in Year 9?

In Year 9, students will study an increasingly challenging and mature selection of texts that will develop their emotional intelligence and understanding of the world as much as it supports the growth of their English knowledge and skill set. This growth is enabled by an increased number of Units offered throughout the Year to really stimulate the students’ insight, imagination and perception.

Unit One – Crime and Detection – runs as a 12 week block, and asks the Big Question: Why are the Good Drawn To The Bad? Students will get the opportunity to study a wide and diverse range of short stories from writers such as Roald Dahl and Conan Doyle, as well as a selection of non-fiction texts on the subject of crime by authors such as Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. This Unit has been chosen to start Year 9 English study as it both looks back to earlier units, where students compared modern and Victorian attitudes (Childhood in Year 7), but also tackles a serious and emotive subject appropriate to the students’ growing maturity. By the end of the Unit, students will answer the Big Question with a perceptive understanding of why some within society are drawn to crime – and also why crime and the detecting of crime is such a popular subject for writers and readers alike.


Unit Two – Creative Writing – runs as a 6 week block and asks the Big Question: What Does Creative Writing Give Us That Nothing Else Can? Students will read a selection of effective short stories from different times and cultures and recap learning from previous Units, revising what ingredients make a great short story, and which linguistic and structural features they can use to enhance their writing skills. They will also explore the stylistic devices which make for effective descriptive writing, before crafting their own pieces in this style. By the end of the Unit, students will be able to answer the question that, for both reader and writer, creative writing offers a uniquely rewarding and rich experience.

Unit Three – Shakespeare and His World – runs as a 6 week block, and poses the Big Question: Why are we still talking about Shakespeare? Students will embark on researching Shakespeare’s world and times to put his plays into wider social and historical context, before going on to explore some Shakespearian sonnets and the whole play of Much Ado About Nothing. This Unit links back to both earlier explorations of Shakespeare in Year 7 and 8 (Hamlet, King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) but now looks to understand the cultural significance of Shakespeare in more depth. By the end of the Unit, students should be able to articulate their answer to the Big Question thoughtfully, having gained the understanding that Shakespeare was a writer of his own time and place but also covers themes and emotions that are still relevant to us today.

Unit Four – Half a World Away – will run as a 12 week block and asks the Big Question: What Can We Learn About Ourselves From Learning About Others? This unit has a direct link back to Animal Antics in Year 7, where students’ were first explicitly encouraged through text to develop their empathy skills. Again, students are being asked to do this here, but on a deeper and more complex level as they consider other people’s lives in very different times and places. Students will be challenged by the study of poems from a previous GCSE syllabus, Poems From Other Cultures.

The academic year will end with the students’ study of John Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice and Men.This seminal work revisits the themes of Conflict and Survival from year 8, in an increasingly challenging context of racism and prejudice. By the end of the Unit, students will be able to articulate that it is often harsh societal factors outside of human control that dictate the fulfilment of our dreams and plans. 

Students will explore the effect of different modes and registers of speech the characters use within the novella and the ways Steinbeck has used this device to deepen our understanding of those characters.

What do students learn in Year 10?

Year 10 marks the beginning of the students’ GCSE English Literature and Language journey. Their curriculum has been carefully sequenced and planned to allow for the most effective and engaging learning experience, and to allow for the optimal outcomes for each student.

Autumn Term – the students begin by studying the modern text for English Literature. This will be J. B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. Students concluded Year 9 with the study of a modern text with Of Mice and Men, so to start their literature journey in Year 10 by exploring the same genre makes for a seamless transition for our students.

After half term, students begin to learn the content of English Language Paper Two and the skills and techniques they need to tackle it. They will be asked to compare a modern and 19th century piece of writing on a similar theme, and write a persuasive piece. In the same half term, students are required to deliver a short speech in front of an audience and answer questions about it. This is a requirement for their English Language GCSE. They have had lots of practice at gaining the necessary oracy skills and confidence for this assessment throughout KS3. Students should be able to use the persuasive skills they are learning for English Language Paper 2 to help them write an effective speech.

Spring Term – The students will go on to study a 19th century text for their English Literature GCSE: A Christmas Carol. Students have had plenty of opportunities to explore 19th century writers during their KS3 learning experience, so are well prepared for the linguistic and contextual complexities of a Victorian novella.

After half term, students begin to learn the content of English Language Paper One, and the skills and techniques they need to tackle it. They will be asked to explore a piece of unseen modern fiction and write a short descriptive piece or narrative. Class study and assessments throughout KS3 have prepared students well for these tasks.

Summer Term – Students will begin to study the Power and Conflict poetry anthology. These poems are complex in ideas and language and the students are asked to compare one poem with another. Therefore, the poems are not tackled until the Summer term to allow for students’ increased maturity and confidence in both their understanding and written responses. However, students have had the opportunity to respond to both poems studied in class and unseen poems during their KS3 learning journey. They will be given the opportunity to answer a poetry comparison question in the Summer PPEs.

After half term, students will revise English Language Paper One, which they sit as part of their Summer PPEs.

After half term, students will revise English Language Paper One, which they sit as part of their Summer PPEs.

What do students learn in Year 11?

Year 11 is a time to both learn and absorb new content but also to revise and consolidate Year 10 material in preparation for the exams.  Again, the curriculum has been carefully sequenced and planned to optimise the time available and maximise the students’ experience in the classroom.

Autumn Term – Students will study Macbeth. Exposure to Shakespeare throughout their KS3 journey has prepared the students well – but as they are having to explore the whole of the play in depth, it is left until Year 11 for the additional maturity and sustained focus that year brings. They will answer a Macbeth question in the November PPEs. As the students’ previous language exam experience at the end of Year 10 was in English Language Paper One, they will now revise the skills needed for English Language Paper Two for the November PPEs.

Spring Term – Students will revise the modern text for this term’s PPEs, and will revisit the skills needed for their English Language Papers One and Two. They will also use this time to complete any poems from the Power and Conflict Anthology and develop the skills needed for the Unseen Poetry questions. They will finish the term revising A Christmas Carol.

 Summer Term – GCSE exams

Knowledge Organisers

Knowledge organisers for students in Key Stage 4 at Millthorpe School can be found here. All the key facts and essential knowledge you’ll need, right at your fingertips!

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