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The English Department at the Langton strives to foster a love of the written word, to promote literary study as an end in itself, and to introduce our students to the English literary heritage: the canonical tradition which unites Beowulf with the Brontës; Piers Plowman with Pope; Gawain with Gandalf.

Complementing this love of the aesthetic, we promote technical accuracy and fluency through a traditional programme of grammar, spelling and comprehension – insisting on the highest standards, and encouraging boys to focus on audience and expression as they write. We believe that all of our students are potential authors, and invite them to find their voice.

A department of diverse tastes, research interests, backgrounds and teaching styles, we unite in our determination to explore, celebrate and create meaningful literature. For us, English is a living, breathing subject: the iambic pounding at the heart of the Langton curriculum. We see ourselves as custodians of a glorious inheritance, and we seek to share this with others.

English at the Langton – The Journey

English at KS3

The English curriculum for Years 7 to 9 at the Langton is varied, academically challenging and pupil-focused: we want each boy to fulfil his potential, and to guide him in such a way that he makes measurable gains across the key specialisms of reading, writing, and speaking and listening.  Our chief aim is to help each boy to ‘find his own voice’ – and this has been adopted as the mission statement, so to speak, of our department. We aim to stretch the most able and support those who need more direction; differentiating chiefly by outcome although we also offer more focused literacy support and intervention through our colleagues in the Faculty for Support and Guidance (BASE).  All boys receive SMART targets as part of their teacher’s feedback on their written work and the department sees marking and assessment as a ‘two-way street’: a dialogue between pupil and teacher which outlines achievement and encourages progress.

The course followed by our KS3 cohort includes mandatory Shakespeare, pre- and post-1914 fiction, non-fiction, poetry, critical thinking and modern drama. We also teach spelling, punctuation and grammar and expect our pupils to understand how the English language works. Speaking and listening work is embedded across the curriculum and is assessed periodically: activities range from solo presentations and paired work to group debates and hot seating.

Reading is an important part of the life of the department, and we aim to foster a love of the written word and to encourage reading for pleasure. Pupils in Years 7 to 9 have timetabled library lessons, which support but also extend the work undertaken in English lessons. Reading lists are available from the school librarian and individual English teachers are of course on hand to direct boys in their choice of texts and to talk to them about their private reading.

In terms of boosting and monitoring academic attainment, we stream pupils in Years 8 and 9, whilst Year 7 students are not placed in sets – although we do keep a close eye on pupil performance via regular formal assessments, which are taken across the year.

In line with the revised National Curriculum, we teach boys how to write in Standard English, and across a range of styles, including, but not limited to, argumentative, discursive, descriptive, narrative and summative writing. Pupils will have the opportunity to produce their own poetry, short stories, essays and newspaper articles, and the more traditional skill set of letter writing and diary entries is also covered. Boys will be able to enter national poetry competitions such as the Foyle Young Poets Award and will take part in the annual celebrations for National Poetry Day and World Book Day. A range of competitions runs throughout the year and we encourage all the boys to participate.

The central motivating philosophy of the English department at the Langton is inspiration, and this informs all our work. We believe in the spiritual, ethical and aesthetic value of the English literary heritage and we invite the boys to join us.

English at KS4

The English Department at the Langton follow the reformed 9-1 specifications offered by AQA. These are two, separate, GCSE courses leading to two final examination grades.

The Literature course consists of two examined components, and includes mandatory coverage of a play by Shakespeare, study of a nineteenth-century novel, plus exposure to a selection of poetry, modern drama, and a range of unseen poetry and prose extracts.

The Paper 1 examination tests responses to the novel and Shakespeare, and accounts for 40% of the marks for the overall qualification; Paper 2 is the longer, more taxing paper, which tests responses to the modern drama and poetry – weighing in at 60% of the overall qualification. The 8702 course is designed for candidates who read widely and who enjoy literature. It is therefore imperative that your son approaches the course in the right frame of mind: ready to work hard, keen to explore a range of texts from the English literary heritage, and capable of expressing personal responses to texts from different genres and literary eras.

Over the two years of the course, your son will study an eclectic range of modern and canonical poetry, with Shelley, Blake, Browning, Tennyson and Wordsworth rubbing shoulders, or sharing quills, with Heaney, Hughes, Armitage and Duffy. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will be our set prose text, and boys will also study Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The modern drama text will be J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, and there will be ample time for boys to indulge their passion for private reading.

The Language specification is a demanding but exciting experience, split into three distinct sections. Paper 1 (‘Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing’) tests a range of traditional skills such as language analysis, analysis of structural devices, and descriptive and narrative composition. This component accounts for 50% of the available marks. Paper 2 (‘Writers’ Viewpoints and Perspectives’) tests comprehension, summary writing, analysis of rhetorical devices, close reading, and argumentative and persuasive writing, and is also worth 50% of the marks. Passages set in these two papers tend to average 500 words, and the majority are non-fiction texts taken from 20th- or 21st-century sources, sitting alongside nineteenth-century literary non-fiction sources. Given the primacy of non-fiction in these papers, your son is strongly advised to acquire good reading habits, and to expose himself to as much quality journalism and literary non-fiction as possible. Guidance with reading will of course be offered by individual English teachers and the school librarian.

The final component of the Language specification is the Speaking and Listening test – a mandatory but separately endorsed unit which consists of a formal presentation (delivered by the candidate) which should take around three minutes, followed by a Q+A phase of a further four to five minutes, during which the candidate will be asked questions relating to the topic of the main talk. A sample of representative oral performances are audio-visually recorded, before being submitted to an external AQA moderator for final grading. The speaking and listening grade will appear on the candidate’s final GCSE certification, and passes at pass, merit and distinction are possible.

As you can see, the AQA GCSE is a very robust and academically-focused qualification, and one which promotes the acquisition of a range of essential skills which will help your son to become a skilled and confident user of Standard English in a range of contexts. These qualifications also help pupils prepare for literary study at A-Level, and encourage an appreciation of the written word which is likely to remain with them throughout their lives.

English Literature at KS5

This is a varied and demanding course which prepares students for undergraduate study in either Literature, the Arts, law, journalism or the media.  The overriding principles of the specification are the primacy of the written word and the importance of the Western literary canon, and there is a correspondingly serious emphasis placed upon reading, literary analysis, the awareness of different critical schools, and the centrality of private research: we expect all our Literature students to read widely, to plan and submit polished and professional written work, and to participate in class debate.

 As part of this course, the texts listed below are studied.  Additional materials such as specification highlights, support packs, critical reading and the Sixth Form English Guide are provided at the start of the academic year.

Year 12 set texts:

  • Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry 2002-11 (a selection of 20 poems are studied for the examination)
  • Frankenstein
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Dr Faustus

Year 13 set texts:

Revision of the above, with the addition of:

  • Hamlet
  • Donne: Selected Poems
  • Two coursework texts: based on a taught module entitled ‘War of the Words’, but leading to the selection of two texts by the individual student (with support from the English Dept. and the Edexcel Coursework Advisory Service)

 The full A level suite of papers is as follows:

 Component 1: Drama. Externally assessed.  Written examination, lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Open book – clean copies of the drama texts can be taken into the examination. The Critical Anthology must not be taken into the examination.  Total of 60 marks available – 35 marks for Section A and 25 marks for Section B.  Two sections: students answer one question from a choice of two on their studied text for both Section A and Section B.  30% of the total qualification. 

Component 2: Prose. Externally assessed.  Written examination, lasting 1 hour 15 mins.  Open book – clean copies of the prose texts can be taken into the examination.  Total of 40 marks available.  20% of the total qualification.


Component 3: Poetry. Externally assessed.  Written examination, lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Open book – clean copies of the poetry texts can be taken into the examination.  Total of 60 marks available – 30 marks for Section A and 30 marks for Section B.  30% of the total qualification.


Coursework. Internally assessed, externally moderated. One extended comparative essay referring to two texts.  Advisory total word count is 25003000 words.  Total of 60 marks available.  20% of the total qualification.