English & Film Studies

Key Stage 3

To access recommended reading material please click on the link: KS3 Reading Recommendations

The Key Stage Three curriculum at St Mary’s is a deft blend of the exciting, stimulating and challenging; with schemes of work designed to motivate and inspire and as well as equip the younger members of our community with the requisites for the rigours of GCSE. Our experienced teachers design and write the schemes of work themselves and all groups are taught the same topics at the same time. Our staff follow detailed plans so that students across all groups are ensured the same basic diet of English skills. Individual teachers do however also recognise the need to differentiate the work for the myriad personalities and learning styles reflected in the students before them. As in the school as a whole, we employ successful quality controls in the department to ensure that we maintain the high success rate and standards of teaching and learning that have become synonymous with the school’s name.

Students are taught in mixed ability groups in each of the three years, though we have always retained a flexibility in our approach, and this results in the implementation of a small Progress Group for students with SEND if and when it is required. In addition, we have flexibility within classes so that for designated periods in the academic year, we can ‘fast track’ all students. No two cohorts are the same, so we ensure that we are free to adapt the structure of our KS3 classes as necessity dictates.

Our Year 7s learn about new ways to write to imagine, explore and entertain. They produce their own original work but also begin to analyse the work of others. Our Year7s also experience learning beyond the classroom and our annual trip to Shakespeare’s Globe is a timely reminder for students and staff alike that the Bard is too significant a literary force to be confined to the classroom; his work needs to seen and heard, and the experience that the Globe players offer us is thoroughly enriching.

We recognise the need to promote reading: the most successful students are those who read outside the classroom. We also study at least one novel each year at the school, perhaps our most popular KS3 novel being the deliciously dark and brooding The Woman in Black.

One of the highlights of the Year Eight curriculum is our poetry unit, with authors both ancient and modern being studied, beginning with Chaucer’s Miller from The Canterbury Tales: a deliciously funny and grotesque character that reminds us once again of the wealth of weird and wonderful characters to be found in literature. Our studies bring us right up to date by exploring contemporary giants like Simon Armitage. Ultimately, the students will need to work independently to find a poem of their own that engages and inspires them, and then write analytically about their choice.

Year Nine is the year that lays the foundations for GCSE, including studying the GCSE text Animal Farm. Orwell’s novel is something of a hardy perennial on the English curriculum: even those who don’t consider themselves ‘readers’ usually end up finding plenty to enjoy about this enduring tale.

We also provide students with a comprehensive study of non-fiction and media texts, from Bill Bryson or Michael Palin, to electronic texts such as blogs and online news, with everything in between. The students are prepared for their exam in the Spring Term, when they sit a GCSE paper on non-fiction texts that is designed to prepare them for the rigours of GCSE. We always ask parents support students in their endeavours by reading and discussing with them news texts including online news stories and longer news articles in the papers. Also, if you see a leaflet in the shops – grab it: your son or daughter will know how to analyse it for language and presentation.

Each year group has a programme of continual assessments as well as an end of year exam. Parents often query how and when decisions are made about the GCSE setting, and a range of data is drawn on to create careful sets: exam results of course play a part, but so do results from continual assessments as well as teacher assessments and behavioural issues.

Key Stage 4

Assessment Methods English

Assessment Methods English Literature

The GCSE English course provides students with two qualifications: Literature and Language. We follow the AQA specification. Students in Yr10 will begin a two year programme in which they sit their exam at the end of the course. The demands of the subject are such that we are allocating all students four teaching hours per week in order to cover the material in sufficient depth and pace. The courses are taught in parallel, with a particular focus to the non-fiction and media element over the two years.

As parents may know, Speaking and Listening is no longer a percentage part of the qualification for the GCSE Language and this is reported separately, though it is still a requirement that speaking and listening skills are taught. Indeed, at St Mary’s we believe that ‘if students cannot say it, they cannot write it’, and the skills in discussion and presentation are the fundamentals of life in the wider world. Should you have any specific questions about the GCSE course, please do not hesitate to contact the school and your query will reach the right member of staff.

Key Stage 5

A-Level Literature at SMCS for teaching from September 2017

Key Stage 5 Assesments


 Aspects of tragedy 

At the core of all the set texts is a tragic hero or heroine who is flawed in some way, who suffers and causes suffering to others and in all texts there is an interplay between what might be seen as villains and victims. Some tragic features will be more in evidence in some texts than in others and students will need to understand how particular aspects of the tragic genre are used and how they work in the four chosen texts. The absence of an ‘aspect’ can be as significant as its presence.


4.2.2 Elements of political and social protest writing 

Although it could be claimed that all texts are political, what defines the texts here is that they have issues of power and powerlessness at their core, with political and social protest issues central to each text’s structure. The political and social protest genre covers representations of both public and private settings. All set texts foreground oppression and domination and they all look at the cultures we live in and have lived in over time. A crucial word in the title of this option is ‘Elements’ and students need to consider the specific elements that exist in each of their texts. 


5.2 Assessment objectives

Assessment objectives (AOs) are set by Ofqual and are the same across all AS and A-level English Literature specifications and all exam boards. The exams and non-exam assessment will measure to what extent students have achieved the following AOs:

A-Level Film Studies

“Film Studies? Do I get to just watch films all day?”


Many consider film to be the main cultural innovation of the 20th century and a major art form of the last hundred years. Those who study it characteristically bring with them a high degree of enthusiasm and excitement for what is a powerful and culturally significant medium, inspiring a range of responses from the emotional to the reflective. Film Studies consequently makes an important contribution to the curriculum, offering the opportunity to investigate how film works both as a powerful medium of representation and as an aesthetic medium.

Learners at St Mary’s will be introduced to a wide variety of films in order to broaden their knowledge and understanding of film and the range of responses films can generate. This specification therefore offers opportunities to study mainstream and independent American and British films from the past and the present as well as more recent global films, both non-English language and English language. The historical range of film represented in those films is extended by the study of silent film and significant film movements (such as European avant-garde and new wave cinemas in Europe) so that learners can gain a sense of the development of film from its early years to its still emerging digital future. Studies in documentary, experimental and short films add to the breadth of the learning experience.

St Mary’s will enable learners to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

It also aims to enable learners to:

We also aim to develop candidates’ understanding of the world around them, and how this is represented - and often misrepresented - in film. In its broadest sense, this course demands that candidates consider the nature of film in their society and the world around them.

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