English Literature

Key Stage 3

The curriculum has been carefully sequenced to introduce students to a variety of literary genres and forms, including different writing forms. Each year has a key theme: Conflict in Year 7; Social Justice in Year 8; Relationships and Identity in Year 9. The ideas and themes and the ways they are explored become increasingly challenging.

We support our curriculum with reading for homework and use of Bedrock, an online platform that helps students develop their vocabulary.

We want our students to love literature in all its forms and to see its importance in their everyday lives.

Key Stage 4

We follow the AQA GCSE English Literature syllabus.

Paper 1: Shakespeare and the 19th century novel

Section A: students will study Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the play and then to write about the play as a whole.

Section B: students will study Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the novel and then to write about the novel as a whole.

Paper 2: Modern texts and poetry

Section A: students will study Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls and answer one essay question from a choice of two. Students are NOT given an extract to focus on in this exam.

Section B Poetry: students will answer one comparative question on one named poem printed on the paper and one other poem from their chosen anthology cluster of Love and Relationships.

Section C Unseen poetry: students will answer one question on one unseen poem and one question comparing this poem with a second unseen poem.

To prepare for all of the exams above, students will explore the context of the literature texts they study, focusing on the authors’ intentions for their readers (their big ideas) and how each author delivers those messages through their choice of plot, their characters, the structure of their texts and the methods an author chooses to use to support their messages (metaphor, simile, pathetic fallacy, foreshadowing, to name a few). Class discussions will feature around the problems and solutions these texts offer to their readers and how pertinent these messages still are today. Students will be taught explicitly how to plan essays to answer exam questions with a strong focus on clarity of expression and the formation of logical thoughtful arguments that are supported with extensive reference to the texts.

The best way to prepare for these papers is for students to read widely in their own time so that they are able to recognise the complexities of characterisation and plot and to engage with a wide range of different authors’ ideas. Students need to have a thorough and in depth knowledge of the texts studied in class and will need to revisit them many times so that they can write confidently about each text without having the text to refer to in the exam themselves.

Students will be expected to work in groups or pairs as well as individually, present information to the class, use drama and role-play, and to contribute to discussions.

Most importantly students learn to read widely and perceptively, they develop the ability to form arguments and to support those arguments with evidence from their text. Students learn the power of literature to comment on social ills and to consider what it is to be human. 

Curriculum Overview

In Year 7, our central theme is Conflict. We begin with an adventure novel, Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson, and follow this with another more modern adventure novel, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. An anthology of conflict texts follows the novels with our main text being a diary, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. This is followed by a poetry anthology examining conflict in warfare primarily and then our Shakespeare text for this year is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We finish the year with a modern adventure novel The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

In Year 8 our central theme is Social Justice. We begin the year reading excerpts from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This is followed by Shakespeare’s Richard III. In the third half term, we explore a range of texts on the Social Justice theme using I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai as our anchor text holding all these ideas together. This is followed by a selection of Dystopian short stories. In our final term, we explore an anthology of Social Justice poetry and finish with the satire Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

In Year 9 our central theme is Relationships and Identity. We begin the year with The Crucible by Arthur Miller and follow this with a series of short stories that explore relationships and identity. In the third term, we study an anthology around the theme with We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as our anchor text. This is followed by a series of short stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. The final term is a focus on a poetry anthology exploring a variety of relationships and we finish with Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet.


Students are assessed in class regularly with live marking and use of the visualiser. Every two weeks, the class receives some Whole Class Feedback where a teacher assesses students’ work and reports common misconceptions to the class displaying model pieces of work. Students then get the chance to improve work submitted using this feedback.

Each academic year, Year 7 to Year 9 students will sit mid term exams and end of year exams.

As well as whole class feedback, at KS4, students will be given GCSE grades each half term based on practice GCSE questions completed in class. At the end of each term, Year 10 students sit a practice Literature exam on the text they have studied with their Year 10 exams in the summer term. Year 11 have two sets of mock GCSE exams, in November and in March.

Extra-Curricular Opportunities

We often run trips to Cambridge Arts Theatre to support our students’ study of texts.

Our debating club helps students form arguments and counter arguments orally in preparation for their written work.

Our book clubs held in our library encourage reading and particularly, a reading of diverse voices.

Future Careers

Good employers, sixth form colleges and universities understand and appreciate the skills students acquire when studying English Literature. They seek students who can analyse and understand information and can read perceptively; students who can think independently, make balanced judgements about people and the society in which they lived, and produce well written arguments based on textual evidence. These are all transferable skills learnt in English Literature.

Some possible careers include: teaching; journalism; law; social work; the media (e.g. TV / Radio); the military; security services; police and politics and medicine.

Useful Links

BBC Bitesize for AQA English Literature texts

Mr Bruff - English teacher YouTuber with short videos to support text study

Pre-learning activities

If in London, the tour at The Globe Theatre is great for widening students' knowledge of Shakespeare or pay a visit to the Dickens Museum

More locally, going to the Cambridge Arts Theatre is a fantastic way to encourage children to engage with literary texts. Shakespeare in the Park is also a cheap and fun way to see Shakespeare productions performed by college students during the summer months.