“Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.”
William Wordsworth, ‘Tables Turned’
The Department vigorously and collectively pursues the following Academic Aims:
- 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, spiritual, philosophical, cultural and historical contexts and influences in their study of literature.
- To promote an international perspective through the study of works from the pupils’ own and other cultures.
- To develop pupils’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the local, regional and national literary heritage.
- To enable pupils to listen attentively and to speak with confidence in a wide variety of circumstances.
- To enable pupils to recognise and use the grammatical structures of Standard English.
- To encourage pupils and foster the ability to read accurately and fluently, and evaluate a wide range of texts.
- To develop pupils’ ability to write clearly with accurate spelling, punctuation and a wide vocabulary in a variety of forms.
- To encourage and promote pupils’ interest in creative writing.
- To develop and promote literary and oracy throughout the school.
- To develop and promote the reading culture throughout the school.
- Year 9 — our aim is to foster a love of literature and to equip pupils with the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills to succeed at GCSE and beyond. We teach a thematically structured course and pupils develop their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills through the exploration of the three major genres of literature: prose, drama and poetry. Texts currently studied include John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a wide of range of Romantic, Victorian, modern and contemporary poetry. Independent reading is fostered and developed through the Reading Programme. Pupils are timetabled to have one Library lesson a fortnight and follow the Year 9 Reading Programme. To further support and develop the culture of reading within the school, two half hour reading sessions are also now built into the prep schedule for Year 9.
- Year 10 and Year 11 — our aims are the same as in Year 9 but with a greater focus on the criteria for success in the GCSE examinations and beyond. Years 10 and 11 follow the new Edexcel GCSE (9-1) courses in English Language and English Literature in September 2015. The English Language course comprises two papers: Paper 1 (Fiction and Imaginative Writing) and Paper 2 (Non-Fiction and Transactional Writing). The English Literature course is also comprised of two papers: Paper 1 (Shakespeare and Post-1914 Drama or Prose) and Paper 2 (19th Century Fiction and Poetry). Pupils are currently studying William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and an anthology of 19th and 20th century poetry.
- Year 12 and Year 13 — our aims are as in Years 10 and Years 11 but with a greater focus on the criteria for success in the AS Level examinations and beyond. We currently teach the OCR A Level course in English Literature. This course comprises three components: Paper 1: Drama and Poetry Pre-1900; Paper 2: Comparative and Contextual Study; and an internally assessed unit: Component 3: Literature Post-1900. Pupils study a wide range of canonical and contemporary literary texts and over the two year course they will engage in detailed study of the following group of texts: William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Books 9 & 10; Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway; and Wilfred Owen’s War Poems, Pat Barker’s Regeneration and Owen Sheers’s Pink Mist.
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.
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 society takes the form of Dinner Debates, held every half term in the Michaelmas and Lent terms. These have proved extremely popular and will result in a Grand Dinner Debate to be held at the beginning of the Summer term in the School Library.
The Brantwood Society is the school’s literary society and is named after Brantwood House which lies on the shores of Coniston Water. Nestled among the wooded fells, this house enjoys commanding views of the lake and the imposing Old Man of Coniston. In 1871 the house was bought by the Victorian writer, critic, artist and social reformer, John Ruskin (1819-1900), who lived there until his death. Today the house and its gardens are a living museum dedicated to the life and work of one of England’s most important and extraordinary cultural and intellectual figures. In establishing Sedbergh School’s new literary society in September 2012, whose aim is to promote and encourage an enthusiastic, informed interest in literature, culture and art and to foster intellectual enquiry and curiosity—particularly by connecting with the major literary and intellectual figures of the North of England—it seemed entirely appropriate to the name the society after the house of this Victorian sage. The Society meets several times a term for readings, lectures and talks.