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All Birkdale pupils are entered for two courses in this subject: AQA English Language and AQA English Literature.
Boys are taught in mixed ability classes of around sixteen to twenty students. In classes of this size everyone is able to make a significant contribution. We encourage the students to discuss everything in small groups so they develop their own ideas and become more confident in tackling challenging texts without a teacher telling them what to think. This independence is important to foster as there are three ‘unseen’ texts to tackle in the English Language exams and two unseen poems for Literature. As every English teacher is a specialist in the subject, we also make sure that each student, once they have had a chance to develop their own understanding, is given clear guidance about what else they can look for. Students are given useful frameworks to follow for each element of the exams.
In S4 (Y10) we cover the three main Literature texts (a nineteenth century novel, a Shakespeare play and a twentieth century text) so students have a decent amount of time to get to know each text and build up a bank of key quotations. The skills they develop here are also useful for English Language, for which we prepare in S5 (Y11). Once the students have developed all their skills we are able to revise the Literature texts once more; it is always a pleasure to see how their confidence has grown and to discover how valuable their insights have become.
Though the courses may seem daunting at first, we have found that our careful support of each individual, with clear guidance on what is expected for each question of the exams as well as our determination to make the study of great literature enjoyable and relevant, has meant that students have approached the exams confidently and with a clear sense of achievement.