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Mission statement

Challenging students to become independent, creative, ambitious language users and thoughtful communicators

The link below allows you to see when topics may be covered; this is a guide for information only and has the potential to change as the year progresses.

Years 7-8 Reading list

Years 9-11 Reading list

Years 12-13 Reading list

Complex Issues Reading list

KS3 and KS4 Stretch and Challenge

Key Stage 3

 'What is Accelerated Reader (AR)?' to access more information please click on the link: Parent's Guide to Accelerated Reader

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.

Year 7

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. They will study a range of topics, including poetry, a modern novel and an introduction to the work of Shakespeare.

Year 8

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. 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. Students will also tackle an entire Shakespeare play to enhance their understanding of the Bard’s language and dramatic methods, as well as a classic novel.

Year 9

Year Nine is the year that lays the foundations for GCSE. Units are designed to focus on developing the core skills that will be needed for Key Stage 4, whilst also drawing links back to studies from the previous 2 years. As such, students study poetry (including classic and contemporary war poetry), a full Shakespeare play and a 20th Century modern classic. Comprehension and written skills are also built upon through our study of rhetorical texts and assorted literary fiction.

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. To this end, 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, rather than having specific Language and Literature lesson timetabled separately.

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.


English at St Mary’s is an enjoyable experience. From Year 7, teachers encourage you to learn in a variety of ways, from group discussion to independent research. The topics and texts studied are engaging, whilst also helping to build understanding of the wider world, which helps us to draw links with topics studied in other subjects. The teachers are welcoming, approachable, supportive and with you every step of the way. English lessons always challenge us and cater for different learning styles. We are always encouraged to be ambitious and get the most out of our time in the English classroom. 

- Year 12 student