Queen Mary's High School

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Welcome to English

Curriculum area intent & rationale/department introduction

Welcome to English at Queen Mary’s High School. We are a passionate and experienced team that believe in the importance of enabling all our students to experience a rich, challenging, and diverse curriculum that includes literary and non-fiction texts from different periods, traditions, and cultures. Not only do we wish to ignite an unending love for the written and spoken word, but we also ensure that our students grow into articulate communicators and critical thinkers.

It is fitting to begin with a quotation from Viv – a character that features in our GCSE modern play – Leave Taking – that ‘no matter how hard [she] search[es] for [herself]’, she can never discover herself in the literature texts she reads. As a department, we believe that it is important for students to engage with literary and non-fiction texts that they can connect with, and thus, empathise with the situations and contexts of others. As such, an integral element of our curriculum rationale is to incorporate a wide range of texts so that students can develop an array of skills that will stay with them for life.

OCR ambassador centre

In 2022-23 academic year, we became a recognised OCR Ambassador School - a partnership with OCR to promote cultural diversity through the literary texts that we study. We have strong links with OCR and regularly collaborate with other centres to promote the inclusion of diverse texts within the classroom.

We regularly review our Schemes of Learning to ensure they align with the world in which we live in. For instance, we have recently incorporated a unit entitled ‘Awe and Wonder’, allowing students to engage in the debates surrounding climate change, whilst studying The Bone Sparrow enables students to explore issues such as, prejudice and discrimination.


Key Stage Three Curriculum Rationale

Whilst we recognise that Key Stage Three serves the important foundations of preparing students for the demands of Key Stage Four, we always ensure that the texts studied at Key Stage Three are different to those that they go onto study at Key Stage Four. We believe this helps to enhance their knowledge of literature in a fresh and unique way, and thus enables our students to approach their GCSE courses with fresh texts that build upon the thematic foundations that underpin our Key Stage Three curriculum.

As part our curriculum at Key Stage Three, we build in reading, writing and oracy skills that are repeated regularly to ensure progress so that by the time they reach Key Stage Four, they have a strong foundational platform to succeed for their GCSE experience.

Year Seven

In Year Seven, students begin their English curriculum journey by undertaking a transition unit titled ‘English at QMHS’, and this centres around the study of Roald Dahl’s ‘Lamb to the Slaughter.’ This short story is a powerful way to begin English at QMHS, as students begin to recognise how a children’s writer can also write more serious fiction. We then begin a thematic unit titled ‘Animals in Literature’ where students study Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, and here, our focus is on the concept of anthropomorphism, and we build in a variety of creative writing. Following this, students are exposed to ‘The Victorian Landscape’ where students are study Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, and it is here that students also begin to make comparisons to other literary texts, such as, Willy Russell’s Our Day Out with an emphasis on big ideas, such as, education and class. Our final thematic unit titled ‘The Refugee Experience’ focuses on the study of The Bone Sparrow, and through the study of these texts, students consistently explore the thematic concept of childhood and identity.

Year Eight

Moving into Year Eight, students begin reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which enables them to build upon and expand their appreciation of how a writer uses characters to represent bigger social and cultural issues. It is within this unit that we begin to also introduce the concept of rhetoric, so students begin to develop their appreciation of persuasive writing. After this, students study Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and develop a further appreciation of the concept of rhetoric, alongside giving students an introduction to Shakespeare, his life and his work. Our final thematic unit is titled ‘Awe and Wonder’ and through this, fiction and non-fiction use a variety of methods to explore and represent places, the environment and landscape. 

Year Nine

Finally, Year Nine begins with an exploration of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and within this unit, we explore the concepts of growth, identity, love and conflict. Emphasis is placed on social and historical context here. Following this, students complete a genre study titled ‘Supernatural Encounters’ where students study Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In this unit, we really place important value on the female voice – a key thread that underpins our Year Nine curriculum, as our intent is that by the end of Key Stage Three, our students are ready to begin their Key Stage Four experience with confidence and passion in their reading, writing and oracy skills. At the end of Year Nine, we complete a unit titled ‘Diverse Voices’, and central to this is the study of Meera Syal’s Anita and Me. Not only is this literary text valuable to study, but it is also fitting to study a text from a highly successful female writer that has been a student at the school herself. Alongside this, we expose students to other female writers, especially Anita Desai, Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, and female poets, such as, Maya Angelou.


From the overview of our curriculum above, we ensure that students in each year group have the following core components:


  • Study all three genres (poetry, prose, and drama).
  • The texts are from different periods, traditions, and cultures.
  • Incremental development of reading, writing, and oracy skills.
  • Emphasis on the study of whole texts, whilst using ‘satellite texts’ to supplement background knowledge and wider reading.


Year Ten and Year Eleven

At GCSE, students work towards completing their GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature qualification. We follow the OCR specification for both courses. When teaching GCSE English Literature and English Language, we emphasise the value of each course by interleaving them together so that students can see the important relationship between the two texts.

During Year Ten, students will study Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, alongside preparation for Paper One and Two skills for English Language.

During Year Eleven, students will study a selection of fifteen poems from the OCR Anthology titled ‘Towards a World Unknown’ and study Winsome Pinnock’s play ‘Leave Taking.’ Continually, students will review and revise English Language skills for Paper One and Two.


Sixth-Form Provision

As part of our Sixth-Form provision, we offer A-Level English Language and A-Level English Literature. Both courses are highly successful, and we continue to achieve excellent outcomes for both courses.

We follow AQA A-Level English Language and OCR English Literature. Students enjoy the breadth, depth and unique texts and approaches that they experience on both courses.

Aims and values of the department

As a department, we aim to:

  • Enthuse our students so that they develop a love for reading, writing and oracy.
  • Promote our students to become effective communicators through the written and spoken word.
  • Encourage students to have a unique personal response to the texts and ideas we explore.
  • Support students in developing and growing as a reader, writer and oral communicator.
  • Develop effective reading habits so that students recognise it as a valuable activity that will follow them for life.

As a department, we recognise the important role we perform in that through having high expectations of students, they will develop an effective toolkit of reading, writing and oracy skills that will enable them to thrive and succeed in the world around them.

Where next? Links to careers

As the National Literacy Trust has documented, English plays a fundamental role in enhancing the life chances of young people. So, not only does English enable a direct pathway into specific careers, but it also provides the essential skills that students will carry with them for life.

Some possible careers are as follows:

  • Digital Copywriter
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Journalism
  • Teaching (Primary, Secondary and University)
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Screenwriter
  • Media
  • Lexicographer
  • Librarian
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Researcher
  • Speech and Language therapist
  • Law
  • HR (Human Resources)
  • Web Designer and Content Manager

It is important to note that English enables entry into an array of professions, given the fact that communication – both written and orally – are skills that every employer will value regardless of the career avenue one pursues.

Suggested reading/curriculum enhancement

All students have access to our MASSOLIT platform that we use for providing additional background reading and knowledge on an array of literature and language topics. This is a good starting point for exploration, as it provides high-quality lectures and resources that encourage students to see texts in new ways. They are delivered by scholars in the field and are highly accessible.

Trips & visits

We regularly offer opportunities to experience both texts on and outside of our curriculum. So far, we have:

  • Visits to the RSC to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Shakespeare on Tour performances, e.g., Macbeth.
  • Stratford-Upon-Avon tour (planned from 2024 onwards)
  • Theatre productions of An Inspector Calls at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in 2024.

Not only do we organise a range of different trips and visits, but we also run the following as part of our wider curriculum provision:

  • All students in KS3 and KS4 and KS5 have opportunities to participate in creative writing competitions, such as, those by Young Writers. We are very privileged to have many of our students have their work published.
  • Students in KS4 and KS5 are invited to attend lecture sessions that pitch the set texts they study at a higher level.

Students at KS3 have fortnightly library lessons that is led by our librarian – Mrs Groves where active approaches to reading are encouraged.

Department staffing

  • Mr M. Moore – Subject Leader for English
  • Mrs A. Gould – Assistant Subject Leader for English
  • Mrs A. Gottschall – Teacher of English
  • Miss S. Smith – Teacher of English
  • Mr A. Harden – Teacher of English
  • Mr M. Gibbons – Head of Year Ten and Teacher of English

How can parents help?

All students receive an Educake login, which we use as a resource to provide on-going revision and consolidation of skills. Continually encouraging your child to participate in not only assigned tasks, but also go beyond these, will enable them to progress further.

Reading widely is also an extremely important way that you can help your child. The more your child reads, the better their vocabulary will become, and the more confident writers and speakers they will grow into. Encouraging your child to regularly read fiction or non-fiction will enable them to progress further.

Reading non-fiction is equally as important as fiction texts. Where possible, encourage your child to read newspapers – printed or online – as they will also enable them to develop a wider appreciation of events, opinions and facts that they can then go onto use in their own work.

Encouraging your child to regularly write in different forms will help them develop their skills as a writer. For instance, writing the opening of a story or a newspaper article. We advise students to write regularly in different forms as they become more confident as they progress from Year Seven onwards.