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Higham Lane School

Higham Lane School


English FAQs

How are pupils set in English?

Students are initially set using the KS2 SATS scores into two ‘loose’ ability bands: Higher sets and Middle sets. During the first half term, we will also complete our own assessments to ensure that they are in the group best suited to their ability.

What support is offered to my child who finds English difficult?

Students who find English challenging are well supported in English lessons:

  •          work is often ‘scaffolded’ to ensure it is broken down into manageable chunks;
  •          teachers explain work carefully and in detail to ensure that students understand what to do;
  •         we use model answers to demonstrate what we mean by good writing and analysis;
  •          there is an element of discussion led by the teacher in every lesson to check students’ understanding;
  •          Teaching Assistants assist students in lessons where possible.


Will my child still have spelling tests and a reading book?

Yes. Spellings and independent reading are built into the curriculum. Students will have a fortnightly ‘Accelerated Reader’ lesson (a library lesson) in which they will be able to choose a book suited to their ability and interest. Students complete quizzes on the books they have read and we celebrate success in reading with lots of rewards, which includes hot chocolate with the Head teacher for our ‘word millionaires’!

What will my son/daughter learn in Year 7 curriculum?

 Our Key Stage 3 curriculum has been designed to take students through a journey of English: we will study and enjoy classics such as ' Romeo and Juliet' to more modern texts. Within our journey of the English language we will study plays, prose and poetry. Within each topic, we will be paying great attention to students’ ability to write accurately and with purpose. To this end, vocabulary and literacy activities will be embedded into every lesson. We will provide a booklet to complement the teaching of each topic so that students are able to see ‘the bigger picture’ of how lessons fit together and lead up to a final assessment.

What enrichment opportunities will there be?

Pre-Covid, we offered various opportunities for students to see their texts 'come to life'. Trips to the theatre, drama workshops at the RSC and Harry Potter World were all great favourites with students and staff alike. We hope to offer these again when it is safe to do so.

How much homework will students be given?

It is essential that students maintain the good reading habits that they have established at Primary School so we advise that they read for at least 20 minutes each night-- this will most probably be their 'Accelerated Reader' book. In addition to this, students will be tested weekly on key spellings and may also have a short piece of homework or a quiz to complete on Google Classroom.


The English department is currently made up of 14 staff, including full and part-time teachers. We work as a supportive team, collaboratively planning to ensure an engaging and exciting curriculum for our students. Our aim is to maximise the potential of every student to ensure they make outstanding progress during their time at Higham Lane School. Each Key Stage is managed by an Assistant Subject Leader, who supports the Subject Leader in creating resources, leading on training and ensuring the smooth running of the Department.

Students are organised into three ability sets: ‘Mid’ and ‘High’ and ‘Support’ (where required). We take great care to ensure that the pace and challenge in the classroom are pitched appropriately for students so that they are able to make good progress and fully engage with the learning. At Key Stage 3, Years 7 and 8, students have six English lessons per fortnight covering key reading and writing skills and one ‘Accelerated Reader’ lesson over the fortnight. For students who have struggled to meet the required standard in English, additional lessons are offered in special ‘Extra English’ lessons. These lessons follow the ‘Direct Instruction’ programmes of study to improve literacy skills.

It is important to us that students develop a lifelong love of reading and to support us in our quest at Key Stage 3, we use the Accelerated Reading Programme which motivates students to enjoy reading through fun quizzes and rewards. We celebrate our ‘Word Millionaires’: students of different abilities reading over one million words in the academic year and our top readers in special assemblies. The English department has close ties with the Learning Resources Centre and offer specialist reading support sessions: the ‘Lark’ and ‘Nightingale’ groups to encourage all students to improve their reading skills.

In Year 9 students will continue to develop key skills using a wide variety of texts to deepen their experience of literary genres laying the foundations for the GCSE curriculum. Lessons are divided into literature and language pathways so that students can hone discrete skills. In Year 9 students have time to immerse themselves into a range of literary texts and provide ample opportunities to perfect their writing skills.

At GCSE texts are made accessible in the classroom by our in-house specialist booklets, engaging teaching, ‘stretch and challenge’ opportunities and active revision techniques. There are ‘no hiding places’ in the English classroom as we expect students to fully participate in their learning at all times.

The GCSE courses will enable students to:

  • Read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts fluently and with good understanding.
  • Read critically, and use knowledge gained from wider reading to inform and improve their own writing.
  • Write effectively and coherently using Standard English.
  • Develop their skills in writing creatively and functionally.
  • Use accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  • Acquire and apply a wide vocabulary, alongside a knowledge and understanding of grammatical terminology, and linguistic conventions for reading, writing and speaking and listening.

For GCSE English Language students will be assessed through three components:

  • Component 1: 20th Century Prose Reading Study and Creative Prose Writing – 1 hour 45 minutes / 40% of the GCSE.
  • Component 2: 19th and 21st Century Non-fiction Reading Study and Transactional/ Persuasive Writing: – 1 hour 45 minutes / 60% of the GCSE.
  • Component 3: Spoken Language (non-weighted) – students are required to present one formal presentation or speech.

For GCSE English Literature students will be assessed through two examinations:

  • Component 1: Shakespeare and Poetry – 2 hours / 40% of the GCSE.
  • Component 2: Post-1914 Prose/Drama, 19th Century Prose and Unseen Poetry – 2 hours 30 minutes / 60% of the GCSE.

All the examinations for Literature are closed book examinations; this means that the students cannot take copies of the texts in the examinations.

We hope that students’ enjoyment of English will continue at A-level where we offer two courses: A-level Language (OCR) and A-level Literature (AQA).

Year 7 Curriculum

Our Year 7 Knowledge curriculum is designed to build on the skills taught at Key Stage 2 through the teaching of reading, writing and speaking and listening. As a department, we have created our own Knowledge Organisers and booklets to underpin the learning for each key unit. Students are actively taught key skills such as ‘active’ reading, taking notes, analysing language, comparing texts and writing for a specific audience and purpose. The key focus throughout the year is understanding and creating successful characters and characterisation.

Within each unit, several short assessments will take place and these will be used to build a profile of progress made by each individual student.

Students will work through the following units:

  • The Beginning of English and ‘Beowulf’
  • `Romeo and Juliet'
  • ‘Sherlock Holmes’
  • Different cultures poetry.
  • The modern novel – ‘A Monster Calls’

Home learning:

  • Knowledge Organiser revision.
  • Accelerated reader book and free choice.
  • Key spellings.
  • Short classwork tasks.

Year 8 Curriculum

In Year 8, we continue to offer a curriculum that is challenging and engaging. Honing good literacy and reading skills are still at the heart of our classrooms and this is why we continue with our Accelerated Reader Programme whilst exploring texts that will fire the imagination. 

Within each unit, several short assessments will take place and these will be used to build a profile of progress made by each individual student. We are working with the aim to ensure that all students are ready for the rigour of the GCSE courses by the end of Year 8. The year will centre around the use of rhetoric and developing persuasive arguments.

Students will work through the following units:

  • Rhetoric through Time
  • Protest and Conflict poetry
  • `Julius Caesar'.
  • The modern novel: `Animal Farm'

Home learning:

  • Knowledge Organiser revision.
  • Accelerated reader book and free choice.
  • Key spellings.
  • Short classwork tasks.

Year 9 Curriculum

In Year 9, students have lessons divided into English Language and Literature pathways. The year is centred around developing knowledge of key literary genres or themes throughout time. This enables students to develop a breadth of understanding of a variety of texts and key figures in literary history. Formative assessments are built into our curriculum design to enable us to monitor student progress, and trial examinations at key times to help support students. We are committed to developing students speaking and listening skills so that they are able to present articulate and carefully reasoned ideas.

Students will work through the following units:

  • Gothic fiction.
  • Non-fiction texts on the theme of Crime and Punishment
  • Dystopian fiction
  • The modern novel – ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’
  • Romanticism - poetry
  • The modern play: ‘An Inspector Calls’.

Home learning:

  • Knowledge Organiser revision.
  • Wider reading for pleasure and follow-up tasks
  • Key spellings.
  • Classwork tasks.

Year 10 Curriculum

Students will work through the following units:

  • Introduction to Component two – non-fiction texts and transactional writing
  • Spoken Language Assessment.
  • Introduction to Component one –fiction texts and narrative writing
  • 19th Century text: `A Christmas Carol'.
  • Anthology poetry: war/power, place and relationship themes
  • `Macbeth'.

Home learning:

  • Knowledge Organiser revision.
  • Wider reading for pleasure following a half termly library visit
  • Key spellings.
  • Classwork tasks.
  • Learning quotations.
  • Revision and re-readings of Literature texts studied so far.

Year 11 Curriculum

Students will work through the following units:

  • Revision and regular testing of all Literature texts.
  • English Language GCSE Components: revision and practice.
  • Writing units: narrative/recount writing and transactional writing (letters, article, speeches, reviews).
  • Trial Exams: English Language Component 1 and Component 2.

Home learning:

  • Knowledge Organiser revision.
  • Classwork tasks including timed essays.
  • Key quotations off-by-heart.
  • Revision and re-readings of Literature texts.

A-level Language (OCR H470)

If you are fascinated by language and are keen to know how language works, changes and what influences it, then A-level English Language is the course for you. It offers a very different experience from your GCSE English, with linguistic terminology, including grammar, underpinning A-level. The course enables students to learn how children acquire language; how language use is affected by power, gender and technology; and how language changes over time, amongst other topics. Students can expect a wide range of learning activities, with discussion and presentation central to their experience. A-level is assessed by examination with an additional coursework component which is an independent investigation.

Why Study English Language A-level?

A-level English Language is a highly-prized qualification and offers a clear link to a wide range of first degree courses and career opportunities. Critical reading, data analysis, evaluation, the ability to develop and sustain arguments and a number of different writing skills are invaluable for both further study and future employment. Students could go on to take a specialist degree in English language, language and communications or linguistics, or other courses such as Law, Drama, Education, History or any of the Social Sciences. Career possibilities include journalism, publishing, teaching and speech and language therapy.

Component 1: Exploring Language (40%): Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes.

  • Language under the microscope.
  • Writing about a topical issue.
  • Comparing and contrasting texts.

Component 2: Dimensions of Linguistic Variation (40%): Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes.

  • Child language acquisition.
  • Language in the media.
  • Language change.

Component 3: Non-exam assessment: Independent Language Research (20%)

  • Language investigation.
  • Academic poster.

A-level Literature (AQA 7717)

A-level English Literature focuses on a range of wider reading, thus extending students’ experience and appreciation of literature. Offering clear progression from GCSE, A-level English Literature allow students to build on the skills and knowledge already gained and prepare for their next steps. The variety of assessment styles used, such as passage-based questions, unseen material, single text questions, multiple text questions, open- and closed-book approaches, allows students to develop a wide range of skills, such as the ability to read critically, analyse, evaluate and undertake independent research which are valuable for both further study and future employment

Why study A Level Literature?

A-level English Literature is a highly prized A-level and offers a clear link to a wide range of first degree courses and career opportunities. It is especially sought after by Russell Group Universities. It is also very useful if you are considering degrees in English-related courses, Education, Law, Media Studies, History, Drama, Creative Writing, Journalism or any of the Social Sciences. Employers value English literature as it demonstrates the ability to synthesise information, explore different points of view, develop a critical approach and express ideas clearly and cogently.

Paper 1: Literary genres (40%) - Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes, closed book.

  • Aspects of tragedy.
  • Study of three texts: one Shakespeare text.
  • A second drama text and one further text, of which one must  be written pre-1900.

  Paper 2: Texts and genres (40%) - Written exam: 3 hours, open book.

  • Elements of political and social protest writing.
  • Study of three texts: one post-2000 prose text; one poetry and one further text, of which one must be written pre-1900.
  • Exam will include an unseen passage.

Non-exam assessment: Theory and independence (20%)

  • Study of two texts: one poetry and one prose text, informed by study of the Critical anthology.
  • Two essays of 1,250–1,500 words. One essay can be re-creative with a commentary.

Extra-curricular Activities

The English department offers students a range of extra-curricular activities: A-level taster sessions; theatre visits; English themed competitions; enrichment clubs such as creative writing; author visits and links with the Oxbridge universities to offer English seminars.  Visits to the theatre are also very popular and recently, students have had the opportunity to visit the theatre to watch ‘Macbeth’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’.

K SOMEL, Subject Leader for Englis