Senior School

GCSE English

All Birkdale pupils are entered for two courses in this subject:

GCSE English Language

We use the AQA course:

GCSE English Literature 

We use the AQA course:


GCSE English Language

Over the two years of the course you will do a lot of speaking and listening, reading and writing.

Skill in oral work is now separately credited on GCSE English Language certificates. We believe that this is a key area for all students to develop.

It includes taking part in a group discussion, and participating in role play exercises. We are fortunate in being able to assess these in S4 (Y10) in small groups taken out of normal lessons, so when you are taking part in an activity the teacher will be concentrating on just four or five pupils. This is obviously a big advantage.

Over the two years of the course, a number of Controlled Assessments are set. We aim to allow all students to word-process these, though anyone who prefers to handwrite is welcome to do so. You are told the task in advance and given plenty of time to plan and prepare. You then write up your answer in class over a number of lessons, but you are not allowed to discuss what you are writing with the teacher or any other pupil in the class.

GCSE English Literature 

GCSE English Literature requires the study of a number of set books some of which have to be assessed in public examinations.

The AQA course currently offers two possible routes and, along with the majority of schools, we have chosen the poetry examination paper with Shakespeare as the controlled assessment option.

For the latter module we believe that studying two Shakespeare plays allows our students to gain the highest marks.

For the 2014-16 course the texts we have chosen are as follows:

Paper I

William Golding: Lord of the Flies

John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men

Paper II

AQA Poetry Anthology: Moon on the Tides

Unseen poetry

Shakespeare Controlled Assessment

Richard III & Macbeth

There is a good staff:pupil ratio at Birkdale and our GCSE classes generally have no more than 18 or 19 pupils. Since we plan to enter all pupils for the higher tier examinations in both subjects we don’t set our classes by ability. After all, someone who is excellent at responding imaginatively to a poem may not be good at giving a class talk; conversely, someone who makes a lot of spelling mistakes may be a superb public speaker. GCSE English involves such a very wide range of skills overall that it is extremely rare to find a pupil without at least one area of strength, and just as unusual to find someone who is equally talented in all of them.

Looking ahead: GCSE courses will be changing very significantly for those who begin the two years of study in September 2015. Here at Birkdale we have yet to decide on the precise courses we shall be offering.

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