English language and literature are at the heart of the way our students see and understand the world around them. We seek to introduce students to a range of texts, authors and ideas to challenge and stimulate debate. As they develop their own more nuanced appreciation of the subtleties of language and literature, students become equipped with better communication in their everyday lives, from improving their connections with their friends to critiquing the words of politicians.
Around a core of classic and modern literature, the diversity of our curriculum is the product of the scope of personal interests of our passionate and experienced teaching team – from world myths, social linguistics, metaphysical poetry and women’s middlebrow fiction, to sci-fi, graphic novels and Medieval verse. Students are encouraged to join us in developing their own unique literary journey and to share that with each other.
9–7 at GCSE English Literature 2023
9–7 at GCSE English Language 2023
A*–B at A level 2023
"I always look forward to English – it’s so different from my other subjects. I feel inspired by the enthusiasm and energy of discussions we have."
"If you read a book on your own, you see it on one level – and then when you study it in English you see it on five, ten different levels, and I really, really enjoy that."
"I’ve found English lessons broaden my reading horizons. I’m reading books from different genres, and I’ve just read a book in verse, which I never would have picked up but I really loved."
Our popular Literary Societies extend students’ experiences of literature and language, with the senior society operating jointly with Abingdon School. We explore all and everything – comics, Old English, crime novels, linguistics – and students learn to undertake their own research projects. Creative writing clubs give space and focus for students to develop their craft and share their work, either informally or to enter competitions. Students from Years 7–10 take part in external public speaking competitions, and we hold an annual debating dinner.
Students in Year 10 and Lower Sixth have the opportunity to join us on our annual Literary Retreat to Bath, where we learn Regency dancing in a stunning ballroom, complete a creative writing scavenger hunt, create our own gothic stories in the style of Mary Shelley and have costumed guided tours of the city.
Our much-coveted Creative Writing Cup has been a focal point for our young writers, with the winner being invited to be the next year’s St Helen’s Laureate, charged with producing poetry or prose to mark significant school, national and global events.