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Welcome to

St Albans Girls' School


The English Department is dedicated to fostering both student success and a love of literature by developing confident and critical readers through study of a coherently planned, sequenced, inclusive, broad and balanced curriculum.  Our curriculum is ambitious and based on the evaluative skills developed from the outset of Year 7, building the learning journey towards Year 13 and beyond. Students are encouraged to be creative and take risks, to enable them to develop their resilience for life.  

English Literature and Language are subjects integral to students’ success across every curriculum area. All areas of English improve upon the ability to communicate, analyse and express an opinion through the written word or orally. The curriculum is designed across each Key Stage to inspire and engage students as well as promote improvement in this subject.



The Department

Curriculum Leader: Miss M Hall
Second in English: Miss K Keogh
Lead Practitioner of KS5 English: Mrs L Mathurin

Key Stage 3 - What will be studied? 

How will students be assessed?

Each of the modules listed above include a reading or writing assessment at the end of the programme of study. 

We currently offer a range of extra-curricular clubs through English. These run in addition to reading and writing competitions throughout the year. 

Recommended Reading lists are attached below.


Exam Board: AQA

Specification Number: 8700 (English Language) and 8702 (English Literature)

What will be studied?

Our department consists of professional, highly educated and dedicated colleagues, all of whom share a real passion for English Language and Literature.  Consequently, the lessons that we teach are consistently engaging, where valuable learning takes place in a warm and safe environment.  We are also fortunate enough to have interactive technology in every classroom within our department. This is put to invaluable use every day, ensuring that students have access to the most up to date resources and activities.

These factors enable us to deliver excellent results at all Key Stages and places us as one of the highest performing departments within our outstanding school. Our 2019 GCSE results saw our students achieving impressive results that are well above the national average.

Years 10 and 11

Language Paper 1

Language Paper 2

Literature Paper 1

Literature Paper 2

Spoken Language

Section A: 

20th/21st Century Fiction Reading


Section B: Writing to describe/ narrate

Section A: 

19th-21st Century Non-Fiction



Section B:
Writing to explain a point of view

Section A: Shakespeare: ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or 'Macbeth'


Section B: 
19th Century Novel: ‘A Christmas Carol’ or 'Pride and Prejudice'

Section A: Modern Drama: ‘An Inspector Calls’



Section B: 
Seen Poetry: Power and Conflict



Section C: Unseen Poetry

All students will present on a topic of their choosing to demonstrate key speaking and listening skills. This is a non-marked assessment with participation marks granted in the following categories: Pass, Merit, Distinction

Students will be taught the core reading and writing skills required in order to achieve or exceed their target grades in both GCSEs. Assessment will take the form of classroom based assessing, homework and mock exams to prepare students for the exams at the end of Year 11.

Students are grouped according to their externally set (FFT) targets, but all students are taught with the highest standards to exceed these targets.

To enrich and encourage relevant skills and textual comprehension, Spoken Language skills are evaluated alongside the GCSE courses, with pupils being assessed regularly in an individual, group and paired setting, as well as through class discussions to enrich and encourage these vital skills as well as textual comprehension.

Home Learning at GCSE level will always relate to the exam criteria.  These tasks will consolidate classroom learning and assess pupils’ understanding, whilst always stretching and challenging the minds of our girls.  Pupils are expected to undertake independent reading at home alongside their homework tasks.

Extra-Curricular Opportunities:

There are regular clubs and intervention sessions to both support and extend learning for KS4 students throughout the year. 

We also have visiting speakers and study days. Cinema and theatre trips, visits, creative writing competitions and reading groups all allow students to experience the world of Literature beyond the curriculum.

How is the course assessed?

GCSE English Language:
Language Paper 1: 50%

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • 80 marks
  • 50% of GCSE

Reading (40 marks) (25%)– one single text

  • 1 short form question (1 x 4 marks)
  • 2 longer form questions (2 x 8 marks)
  • 1 extended question (1 x 20 marks)

Writing (40 marks) (25%)

  • 1 extended writing question (24 marks for content, 16 marks for technical accuracy)

Language Paper 2: 50%

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • 80 marks
  • 50% of GCSE

Reading (40 marks) (25%) – two linked texts

  • 1 short form question (1 x 4 marks)
  • 2 longer form questions (1 x 8, 1 x 12 marks)
  • 1 extended question (1 x 16 marks)

Writing (40 marks) (25%)

  • 1 extended writing question (24 marks for content, 16 marks for technical accuracy)

GCSE English Literature:
Literature Paper 1: 40%

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • 64 marks
  • 40% of GCSE

Section A Shakespeare: students will answer one question on their play of choice. They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the play and then to write about the play as a whole.

Section B The 19th-century novel: students will answer one question on their novel of choice. They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the novel and then to write about the novel as a whole.

Literature Paper 2: 60%

  • Written exam: 2 hour 15 minutes
  • 96 marks
  • 60% of GCSE

Section A Modern texts: students will answer one essay question from a choice of two on their studied modern drama text.

Section B Poetry: students will answer one comparative question on one named poem printed on the paper and one other poem from their chosen anthology cluster.

Section C Unseen poetry: Students will answer one question on one unseen poem and one question comparing this poem with a second unseen poem

What websites are recommended?

BBC Bitesize and AQA for past papers

What equipment is needed?

An exercise book, blue or black ink pen, lined paper and a dictionary (optional). Students are advised to purchase their own copy of texts and/or revision guides once advised of the choice for their class by their teacher so that they can annotate their texts.

A Level English Literature

Exam Board: OCR

Specification Number: H472

What will be studied?

The course is now wholly assessed in Year 13 and consists of the following three components:

Component 1: Drama and Poetry Pre-1900

Students will study a Shakespeare play (Hamlet) with a focus on analysis of language, structure and form. The second part of the paper involves a comparison between a drama and a poetry text (The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster and The Merchant's Prologue and Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer) with a focus on the way texts and readers’ responses are shaped by contextual influences.  (2 hours and 30 minutes exam; 40% of A Level)

Component 2: Comparative and Contextual Study

Students compare two Dystopian texts in order to compare how texts relate to each other, to literary traditions and to contextual factors. Our chosen texts are The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and 1984 by George Orwell. The other part of the paper involves analysis of an unseen extract from the topic area (2 hours and 30 minutes exam; 40% of A Level)

Dystopian texts are recommended background reading for Component 2. For a list of suggestions please see the website here. 

Component 3: Non-exam assessment

The aim of this unit is to provide an opportunity for individual study and to allow students some freedom in pursuing avenues of personal interest. Students complete two coursework tasks on a variety of genres linked by a common theme, in our case the Great War. There is a 2000-word comparative essay involving a drama and poetry text, currently Journey’s End by R C Sherriff and the poetry of Wilfred Owen. The other task provides a choice of either a piece of recreative writing or a close analysis of an extract from a chosen novel, currently Atonement by Ian McEwan (20% of A Level).

Here is a general list of wider reading, including both texts useful for the course and other literary texts. Clearly this is not exhaustive, but it is important that students pursue their own interests; these are suggestions for getting started.

What websites are recommended?

The OCR English Literature website has information, exemplar materials and a copy of the specification. N.B. Please bear in mind that only resources for ‘A Level’ not ‘AS Level’ are applicable.

What equipment is needed?

A lever-arch folder, copies of set texts and expected KS5 stationery.

Get in touch

Mr P O'Neill

Sandridgebury Lane

St Albans



(To request a paper copy, please contact our Administration Department)

01727 853134