“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below; Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” – William Shakespeare (1564-1616
I never wanted to be a teacher. I needed to be an English Teacher. The moment I watched Robin Williams appear on screen and start to interact with the pupils in The Dead poets Society, it was over for me- I was all in! My school was challenging (to say the least). It was knocked down 2 years after I left. I was the only pupil to achieve A-levels that year. It was a tough place to teach, yet my teachers tried their best to control and educate us. The best of them were my English teachers. They were not the only ones to have real impact on me. Many adults in that school took more time to help me than I deserved. It saved me. I became a teacher to repay the favour.
Mr Robinson, Head of English
My intention when planning our curriculum, is to engage and challenge. We use narratives in their entirety to teach everything we need, to ensure progress is made and pupils thrive. Stories are the common ground on which we build complexity and nuance. We understand them. We learn from them. We all love them.
In our English lessons, communication is key. Talk and discussion are the foundations for writing and critical thinking. Reading and writing are tools for communication. If we are communicating, we are moving forward.
Our curriculum is challenging. Our choice of texts are chosen by looking at their engaging qualities; richness of language (if we want pupils to talk and write well, they must be exposed consistently to great language use) and their potential to develop specific skills in our pupils. From classics such as Dracula to modern classic such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time we ensure the challenge is present. Our teachers ensure we deliver lessons which allows literature to enhance understanding of the world.
KS4 is the next step in development for our pupils. I see secondary school as a 5 year programme rather than jumping from one Key Stage to another. We have been building complexity and challenge throughout our time at Northgate. We now spend the next 2 years adding more complexity, control and nuance to our pupils’ literary toolkits. We use the GCSE format as a means of focus rather than a goal in itself. It provides the necessary challenge and structure to ensure we maintain an aspirational level of potential outcomes. Shakespeare is one of the challenges set. We revisit the play for study in year 11 to increase depth of language and understanding and to utilise another year of development. A Christmas Carol is another favourite for pupils- the narrative helping them to overcome the significant challenges of language and context. Lord of the Flies is a brutal piece of literature, which stays with you long after the final page has been read.
Our pupils love these books, and this love and appreciation of disciplinary and substantive language study allows us to challenge and push, so that our outcomes are the best they can be.
It is not about GCSEs. We are not an exams factory. It is about the challenge, and knowing that all pupils – despite their needs and ablities- deserve to access language and the richness of good quality text.
Our pupils deserve our best. Therefore we will give them every opportunity open to them, regardless of their additional needs.
“The mainstream school experience had made our child sad, unhappy and alone. Her school life was transformed almost overnight here at Northgate. She was able to enjoy attending school, to learn and achieve her potential.