In English all students are initially assessed to ascertain baseline levels. They are graded according to the GCSE level 1-9 system (including pre-levels) and set headline targets to focus on in English lessons. Students in years 7-10 are taught two or three English lessons and two Literacy lessons per week. In year 11, due to the focus on exams, students are offered four English lessons and one Literacy lesson. In ‘Literacy-Writing’ lessons students follow the Dyslexia Action approved literacy-intervention programme Units of Sound for spelling and also complete punctuation and grammar exercises. Units of Sound is a structured, cumulative, multisensory programme that teaches literacy skills to students of all ages from 7 through to adult. Units of Sound can be used to support basic reading skills with very weak students but Accelerated Reading is the main system used to improve comprehension. Accelerated Reading will run in ‘Literacy-Reading’ lessons which will focus on group reading but has scope for students to be independent when they are ready. The programme can also be used in form time. Accelerated Reading is a differentiated scheme which assesses students’ understanding of each text they read with a bank of exercises and tests. The aim of the programme is to inculcate ‘a love of reading’ and develop reading resilience and comprehension skills.
During Key Stage Three placements, pupils are given a choice of schemes but must cover at least one writing unit, one reading unit and one speaking and listening unit. Based on student ability staff will recommend appropriate schemes of work and, where necessary, adapt them to meet particular student targets. Units should be short, lasting no more than 4 weeks. Reading units offer a range of fiction and nonfiction, writing units cover a range of purposes, audiences and genres and speaking and listening units cover both discussions and individual presentations.
As in KS3, year 10 students are given some choice as to which units they study in order to improve their skills across particular Assessment Objectives. However, the aim for long-term year 10 students (more than one half-term) is to achieve a Functional Skills qualification so in the approach to an exam teaching will be more explicitly focussed on the format and specific demands of the relevant paper. In year 11, students have some input into their choice of units but largely this is dictated by the GCSE English Language course or the Functional Skills course.
Students with particularly weak literacy skills may follow the Entry Level Certificate courses. Further literacy testing is triggered by below average Baseline literacy tests and the data from the these tests is used to determine whether additional time and support can be made available in public exams. Students who are able are entered for GCSE, and usually follow the AQA 8700 English Language syllabus. The intention of the English Department is to achieve a recognised qualification for all students and to achieve a GCSE grade for as many students as possible. The English Department has also developed its own student progress tracker system to record students’ learning progress, including a detailed commentary on students’ attitude to learning. GCSE English Literature may be made available to eligible students who wish to study it as an option subject.
All curriculum planning is informed by the recommendations of the Chief Examiner for English’s Moving English Forward report (2012)