Aim: To raise the profile of English within the school through a more exciting, dynamic and challenging experience of studying English.
Background: Mathematics and Science tend to be favoured by pupils, meaning that many very able students were dropping English after GCSE. The department wanted to enthuse them to continue to A Level and university.
Students across Key Stage 3 and 4 answered questionnaires over the three years of the project about their enjoyment of the curriculum and extracurricular activities, and what they felt they had learnt.
As a result of these questionnaires, the department established a creative writing club and entered students into persuasive writing and poetry competitions. Catch-up sessions were introduced for struggling students, who were invited personally to attend. A theatre visit was begun for each year group and teachers went on training courses to reinvigorate their teaching.
Extension sessions were made more exciting with visits from academics, and partnerships with other schools allowed students to meet authors and receive prizes. Fundraising for the library was very proactive, and culminated in an evening with author Zadie Smith who addressed students on what can be achieved by reading and taking an English degree.
Evidence: Student questionnaires, university application data, KS5 uptake data
Impact: Questionnaires showed that students have a richer experience of studying English and they are generally more positive about the subject. There is now a more sustainable programme of extracurricular activity at all key stages. There has been a steady increase in the numbers going on to study English-related degrees, from an average of two at the beginning of the project to six by the third year.
Reflections: It is worth spending time in the classroom enthusing students about what to read and sharing personal recommendations, as well as enlisting older students to help run clubs for younger year groups. I would recommend introducing internal and external competition elements and getting interesting people into school to reinvigorate staff and students. Establishing partnerships with other schools and universities is important, as is staff training.
Contact: Eve Meyers Belkin, firstname.lastname@example.org