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. 


Year 7


In Year 7, we introduce students to writing from both the literary canon and more contemporary, diverse texts. Throughout the year, our focus is on building students’ confidence in dealing with a variety of texts and teaching them how to think about language and structural choices in depth. We also introduce the idea of how context (be it historical, social or cultural) influences both the literary choices that authors make, and how texts are received.


Students begin with an introduction to Shakespeare, exploring extracts from works of comedy, history, and tragedy. We begin with this level of challenge to set the tone for our expectations of students as they move through the school. In the lead up to Christmas, students read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which exposes them to complex use of language alongside powerful contextual influences. 


Year 7 students also study units of work exploring non-fiction travel writing and persuasive devices. These offer students the opportunity to analyse extracts and explore writers’ choices, as well as employing them in their other creative and persuasive writing. 


Later in the year, students study an introduction to poetry where they learn the form’s key techniques and which they will encounter throughout their English studies. They also read a variety of extracts from contemporary writers such as Angie Thomas and Jamila Gavin. This offers students the chance to engage with literature from other cultures and perspectives, as well as strengthening their understanding of how language and structure work in texts. As with all the units and texts studied in Year 7, this is designed as a building block which will provide them with an excellent foundation for their English journey.

Year 8

In Year 8,our curriculum is designed to build on students’ prior knowledge. Students begin with the study of Julius Caesar, learning about how rhetoric is used effectively in the play - extending both their knowledge of persuasive devices and their experience of Shakespeare.


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. These texts are chosen to expose students to high quality writing and include gothic extracts and non-fiction texts covering a wide range of social issues and points of view.


Finally, Year 8 study a unit of poetry, again building on their knowledge from the previous year. This unit has the theme of ‘poetry of protest’ and students consider how the form has been used across time to challenge and dissent. Students are required to analyse how literary and structural devices convey powerful messages and ideas. By the end of Year 8, our students will be able to approach a range of texts with confidence and adapt this understanding for their own, original writing.

Year 9


In Year 9, students undertake a variety of studies that continue to prepare them for the demands of the new GCSE specifications. They study 'Romeo and Juliet'  as well as more modern texts such as Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.These texts provide many opportunities for rich discussion and debate, with complex language to stretch our students’ knowledge and understanding.

They then study a unit of War Poetry, including works from Wilfred Owen and Siegfriend Sassoon. Students are able to comment perceptively on these poems, using their prior knowledge from Year 7 and 8. This also 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.

Students are 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. Again, this provides excellent experience of the skills that will be required in Years 10 and 11.

Finally, Year 9 also includes an introduction to Film with an in-depth study of a film text. This offers an excellent insight into the option of GCSE Film Studies however it also has many links with GCSE English. As such, all students benefit from this wider study.#

As such, students will finish Key Stage 3 having sampled many rich and provoking texts, which reflect both literary history and our modern, diverse society. They will also have had many opportunities to produce their own texts and improve their own expression through language. Of course, given the careful planning and progression model, they will also be in an excellent position to achieve the best possible results at the end of Year 11.

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 second half of the year, students transfer to explore language skills and this forms the final end of year exam.


Year 11

In Year 11, students finish the Literature course and then focus on language skills, 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 20th century texts which may include The Great Gatsby or Atonement; A Streetcar Named Desire; and contemporary poetry. 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 selected from a range provided. This provides students with the opportunity to direct their own studies, reflecting their own literary interests.

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

Long Term Curriculum Overviews

'The Big Picture' Curriculum Map

'The Big Picture' Curriculum Map

This document will provide a visual overview of the department's curriculum from Key Stages 3 to 5. This is in a student-friendly format to support them in their understanding of the department's curriculum. 

Big Picture Curriculum Map - English


Department Assessment Matrix

This document will provide an overview for assessment for Key Stages 3, 4 and 5.

Assessment Matrix - English 

Key Stage 3 Judgement Descriptors

These documents give you an overview of the criteria for Emerging, Developing, Secure and Mastery judgements at KS3 for this subject.

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - English - Year 7

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - English - Year 8

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - English - Year 9

Home Learning

Home learning is used to consolidate learning and develop relevant subject knowledge and skills. Home learning is usually related to the current unit being studied but may also be used to revisit previous work and topics.

Home learning may include extended writing tasks or independent reading, comprehension and analysis. If a unit is focused on writing, it is likely that home learning tasks will include reading and analysis so that skills / knowledge areas are frequently practised and revisited. The reverse will occur if the unit is focused on reading.

Home learning is set weekly across the Key Stages. Rewards and consequences are used to support completion of home learning. Students are also encouraged to read regularly for pleasure and will be rewarded for completing whole books and reading logs in library lessons.

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 - primarily fiction, but also other sorts of texts. Talk to them whenever you can about their (and your) reading; take them to a local library to enrol for a reader’s ticket; make time for library visits. Where you can, please take time to discuss issues with them too: 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


Careers in English




English UK poster