Departmental approach to the curriculum

In English at Rickmansworth School, we strive to enable our students to be intellectually curious, critical and creative in order to develop a deep understanding and passion for both English Language and English Literature. English provides constant opportunities for investigation, analysis and deconstruction. We challenge our students with difficult questions, concepts and engaging texts; extending the content and opportunity for academic growth, throughout KS3 to KS5.

Our curriculum at KS3 is fresh and creative, with students studying the literary canon, oral poetry and classical works of literature, alongside new, contemporary fiction. Students are encouraged to understand the shaping of literature over time and to explore the influence this can have on their own writing.  At KS3, we focus on embedding the key skills of evaluation and writing for different purposes. Students draw comparisons, consider the relationships between texts and cultural links, build their vocabulary and write for different purposes. 

In KS4 we build on these ideas in order to prepare students for their GCSEs. Students explore more Victorian texts, a range of poetry and drama and are encouraged to develop lines of argument in thoughtful opinion pieces and essays, while experimenting with their narrative style. 

At KS5 students study literary theories, linguistic terminology, a broad and challenging array of texts and becoming increasingly independent by asking their own questions of texts and writers.  This has meant we draw upon learning in other subjects such as history, politics and ethics (RS).

Students study topics based on their reading, writing and oracy skills which become progressively more challenging. They study texts which are both modern, classical and from other cultures to give them a broad and deep curriculum. This includes units with film studies and use of creative media, to provide both a broad curriculum and to introduce the alternative examples of literature in the modern-day. 


Long Term Curriculum Overviews

Year 7

In Year 7, we introduce students to the literary canon. Students are helped to understand the changing landscape of literature over time and the influences that historical events, different cultures and values can have on themes and reception of literature.

Students read Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful and consider the impact of war on society and on the individual. This is timed around Remembrance month and helps students to understand these events in history, on a more personal basis. 

Year 7 students also study units of work exploring both fiction and non-fiction reading and writing; analysing extracts and explaining the writer’s choices, their stylistic features and then employing these strategies in their own creative and persuasive writing. 

Students also study poetry as an oral art form and the way that this has evolved over time, from Chaucer right through to more modern examples of song lyrics that tell a story. Finally, students in Year 7 are introduced to the origins of genre through Greek mythology. This encourages creative thinking, an appreciation of how ancient texts shape our current world and helps to build understanding of genres such as comedy and tragedy.

Year 8

In Year 8, we encourage students to build upon their knowledge from Year 7. Students study Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream and use their knowledge of genre and the oral tradition to grasp the nuances of language that create comedy. 

Extract based analysis of both fiction and non-fiction writing helps to build the exam skills that are eventually assessed at GCSE; including synthesising information, comparing narrative perspectives and commenting on the effect of language and structure in texts.

Year 8 study a unit around short films and explore script writing and screenplays. This helps them to understand the many routes that English can lead into. Finally, Year 8 study the poetry of protest. This raises awareness of events around the world that have inspired academic and creative reactions and helps to encourage analytical and mature responses to current and past conflicts.

Year 9

In Year 9, students undertake a variety of studies that prepare them for the demands of the new GCSE specifications and study more challenging texts. They study 'Romeo and Juliet', aspects of Shakespearean tragedy, and War and Conflict Poetry, as well as more modern texts such as The Hunger Games. Students are also introduced to interesting and challenging non-fiction texts through transactional writing options and our Crime and Punishment unit where they debate, formulate arguments and look at a range of writing styles, in addition to writing creatively. Year 9 also explore links with Film and the year offers a good foundation to both the English GCSEs and the option of Film Studies.   

Finally, students study the literature of war; both from the perspective of soldiers and civilians. This helps to introduce the unit of Power and Conflict poetry studied at GCSE, alongside widening their understanding of issues in terms of politics, morality and the effects of war.

Year 10 and 11


Year 10 and 11

Please see the long term overview for what is studied in each year. 

Year 10 and Year 11 students study both English Literature and English Language at GCSE. Our chosen exam board is AQA and students achieve a GCSE in each subject.

Year 10

In Year 10, students study the majority of the English Literature course. In the final term, students transfer to explore language skills and this forms the final end of year exam.

Year 11

In Year 11, students study language skills predominantly, with literature recaps and revision woven into the planning of each unit of work. Mock examinations assess both literature and language and students are taught an interleaved curriculum, encouraging them to find common threads in their texts and in the double course.

A full overview of the exam requirements of this course is detailed here:

Paper 1: Shakespeare and the 19th-century novel 

What's assessed?

• Shakespeare - Macbeth

• The 19th-century novel - Jekyll and Hyde 

How it's assessed: 

• written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes, 64 marks, 40% of GCSE 

Section A Shakespeare: students will answer one question on their play of choice. 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 The 19th-century novel: students will answer one question on their novel of choice. 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

What's assessed?

• Modern texts - Blood Brothers / An Inspector Calls

• Poetry - Power and Conflict

• Unseen poetry

How it's assessed:

• written exam: 2 hour 15 minutes, 96 marks, 60% of GCSE

Section A Modern texts: students will answer one essay question from a choice of two on their studied modern prose or drama text.

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.

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

Paper 1: Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing

What's assessed?

Section A: Reading

• one literature fiction text (extract)

Section B: Writing

• descriptive or narrative writing


• written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes, 80 marks, 50% of GCSE​


Reading (40 marks) (25%)– one single text extract

• 1 short form question (1 x 4 marks)

• 2 longer form questions (2 x 8 marks)

• 1 extended question (1 x 20 marks)

Writing (40 marks) (25%)

• 1 extended writing question (24 marks for content, 16 marks for technical accuracy)

Paper 2: Writers' Viewpoints and Perspectives

What's assessed?

Section A: Reading

• one non-fiction text and one literary non-fiction text

Section B: Writing

• writing to present a viewpoint


• written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes, 80 marks, 50% of GCSE​


Reading (40 marks) (25%) – two linked texts

• 1 short form question (1 x 4 marks)

• 2 longer form questions (1 x 8, 1 x 12 marks)

• 1 extended question (1 x 16 marks)

Writing (40 marks) (25%)

• 1 extended writing question (24 marks for content, 16 marks for technical accuracy)

Non-examination Assessment: Spoken Language

What's assessed?


• presenting

• responding to questions and feedback

• use of Standard English


• teacher set throughout course

• marked by teacher

• separate endorsement (0% weighting of GCSE)

Year 12 and 13

English Language/Literature

In Years 12 & 13, students follow the OCR specification, provided with the knowledge and expertise of the English and Media Centre in Islington. On the language side of the course, they study a non-fiction anthology with a range of spoken word and written word texts. On the literature side of the course, they study The Great Gatsby, A Streetcar Named Desire and the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy. Students complete Non-Examined coursework pieces; both original non-fiction writing and an analytical essay.


A full overview of the exam and coursework requirements of this course is detailed here:


Exploring non-fiction and spoken texts (01)

• Component 01 focuses on an OCR (EMC) anthology of 20 non-fiction spoken and

written texts across different time periods and contexts.

• Comparative and contextual study based on the anthology and unseen texts.

Closed text, 32 marks

Written paper: 1 hour

16% of total A level

The language of poetry and plays (02)

• Component 02 focuses on one poetry collection from a choice of six and one drama text from a choice of six.

• Exploration of the texts through stylistic and dramatic analysis.

Closed text, 64 marks

Written paper: 2 hours

32% of total A level


Reading as a writer, writing as a reader (03)

• Component 03 focuses on exploring the nature of narrative in one prose fiction text from a choice of six.

• Writing as a reader develops the understanding of narrative technique through a creative writing task (500 words) and a commentary (250 words).

Open text, 64 marks

Written paper: 2 hours

32% of total A level


Independent study: analysing and producing texts (04)*

• Independent study allowing learners to pursue particular interests and develop their expertise through an analytical comparative essay on a set text from a list of 12 non-fiction texts and a second free choice text. One text must be post-2000.

• Learners also produce a piece of original non-fiction writing.


Non-exam assessment:40 marks

20% of total A level


English Literature

In Years 12 and 13, students follow the OCR qualification, focussing on dystopian literature (The Handmaid's Tale, 1984), Hamlet by William Shakespeare and the poetry of Christina Rossetti. Students also complete Non-Examined coursework pieces, based on texts they have personally selected from a range provided.

A full overview of the exam and coursework requirements of this course is detailed here:


Component 01 - Drama and poetry pre-1900

• Shakespeare

• Drama and poetry pre-1900


Written paper - 60 marks

Closed text

2 hours 30 minutes

40% of total A level


Component 02 - Comparative and contextual study

• Close reading in chosen topic area

• Comparative and contextual study from chosen topic area


Written paper - 60 marks

Closed text

2 hours 30 minutes

40% of total A level


Component 03 - Non‑exam assessment - Literature post-1900 

• Close reading OR re-creative writing piece with commentary.

• Comparative essay


40 marks

20% of total A level

How can you help your child succeed in English?

One of the most important things you can do is ensure your child has a rich and varied reading life, including fiction primarily, but also other sorts of texts. Talk to them whenever you can about their reading, and yours, take them to a local library to enrol for a reader’s ticket, and make time for library visits. Where you can, please take time to discuss issues with them too, for example current affairs, news stories, cultural events. Aim to make use of London’s free museums and galleries. The V&A museum or the Museum of London are brilliant places to enjoy and to find out about times past and social change, all topics that enrich our reading of English literature and non-fiction. On a more day-to-day basis, please still monitor private reading at home, or ask your child to read aloud if such practice has been recommended by his teacher or if you know it will help boost their confidence. Too often, such practices end far too early. Please do aim to help your child make sensible (and limited) use of computers/phones and games where they are not helpful to their work. Invaluable, too, is building in time to look through their exercise book with them, encouraging them to improve work or act on teacher feedback, or check and correct spellings (which you could help them to learn).

Helpful websites and further information


Sparknotes.com - text overviews and analysis

Engish Biz - website



Sparknotes.com- text overviews and analysis

Quizlets - website

BBC Bytesize

Youtube - Mr Bruff has tutorial videos for all aspects of GCSE 



Sparknotes.com- text overviews and analysis