To see a world in a grain of sand And heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour. William Blake's Auguries of Innocence


To enable pupils to listen attentively and to speak with confidence in a wide variety of circumstances.
To encourage pupils and foster the ability to read accurately and fluently, and evaluate a wide range of texts.
To encourage and extend an enjoyment and appreciation of the tradition of English literature based on informed personal responses.
To develop pupils' awareness of personal, social, cultural and historical influences in their study of literature.
To develop pupils' ability to write clearly in a variety of forms with accurate spelling, punctuation and a wide vocabulary.
To enable pupils to recognise and use the grammatical structures of standard English.
To promote an international perspective through the study of works from the pupils' own and other cultures.


In Year 9, the Department follows a foundation syllabus with the aim of producing a solid basis in the requirements of the Cambridge IGCSE course. As such, we develop the key skills of Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing in a manner which demands increasing sophistication and grammatical accuracy from our pupils. Close liaison with the Junior School, SJS, (in which some members of the Senior School Common Room also teach) ensures a smooth transition throughout the School as a whole, even though pupils are taken into Sedbergh from a wide range of Prep Schools. Full details of the specific aims and objectives are found in the Year 9 Scheme of Work.

In Years 10 and 11, since January 2007 we have followed the Cambridge (CIE) IGCSE Syllabus with separate courses for English Language and English Literature. The change has come about partly as a result of the desire to move away from coursework due to the disproportionate amount of time dedicated to it in relation to the marks received and partly because we feel that the course better reflects the needs of our pupils in both subjects. The skills developed during the course should logically follow those already acquired in Year 9, and provide a good preparation for those wishing to pursue the study of Literature into the Sixth Form and beyond. It is a much more traditional approach to English and provides a more enjoyable course for both staff and pupils.

The virtues and rigour of A' Level English Literature are well known. Although set sizes vary from year to year, a large number of pupils take AS English Literature every year. After a one-year trial of the new OCR Specification, the department made a decision to move to the International A' Level offered by CIE. This now forms a neat transition from the IGCSE course and gives the examination the desired focus rather than coursework. The text choices are traditional and offer a good balance of Pre and Post 1900 texts. A' Level English Language is not offered although some members of the department teach A' Level Theatre Studies and IELTS for our EAL pupils.

The Department endeavours to create a culture within the School which encourages reading and the enjoyment of literature, both at an academic and an extra-curricular level. We hope very much that, upon leaving Sedbergh, the experience of studying English will have helped all pupils mature and develop into enlightened citizens of the world.

Extra-curricular activities

The Department makes extensive use of a wide range of learning environments. Theatre trips are arranged to support the study of drama texts; lectures and study days are used to enrich the curriculum.

The Senior Debating Society holds two black tie dinner debates per term, each one hosted by a different House. The meals are superb and the debates hotly contested. Recent motions have included: This House would recognise the USA as the world's 'International Police Force' and This House believes that feminism has undermined the traditional family. The Society also participates in local and national competitions including the Cambridge Union, Oxford Union, the MACE and the Rotary Public Speaking Competition. Debating is encouraged lower down the School with the Year 9 Balloon Debate in the first few weeks of term and Junior Debates in the Lent Term.