By the end of their first year students at Ampleforth will have explored at least one Shakespeare play in detail as well as one or two novels, collections of stories and a wide variety of poetry, both traditional and modern. They will have developed their ability to write in a variety of forms: imaginative stories, more formal essays on their texts, their own poetry as well polishing their technical writing skills.
Drama is an integral part of our course during the year; all students participate in drama workshops. Using Shakespeare's plays as a focus they cover a range of theatrical skills: acting, directing and production including staging and lighting.
Examples of texts read in the first year:
- The Merchant of Venice
- The Taming of the Shrew
- Julius Caesar
- Henry IV Part I
- A Tale of Two Cities
- To Kill A Mocking Bird
- Of Mice and Men
- Brighton Rock
- Old English Poetry
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
- Ted Hughes
- Les Murray
- Derek Walcott
The English department follows the AQA English language GCSE syllabus and the CIE English literature IGCSE syllabus. Students will finish Y11 with two English qualifications: a GCSE English language qualification and an IGCSE English literature qualification.
The English language syllabus is assessed by means of two written papers of 1 hour 45 minutes that test students’ ability to read for explicit and implicit meanings, compare and contrast a range of literary fiction and non-fiction texts written during the nineteenth century and after, and comment on the ways in which writers generate meanings. The papers also require students to produce imaginative, argumentative and discursive writing in a variety of forms and for a range of audiences. In addition to their written papers, students sit an oral assessment comprising a brief presentation on a topic of interest and a short question and answer session with an examiner. Student performance on the oral assessment does not contribute towards the final GCSE English language grade but is reported on a separate scale upon the final certificate. A high-grade English language pass is a core admissions requirement of UK universities.
The English literature syllabus (0486) is examined by three papers: the first is called Poetry and Prose and is a paper of 1 hour 30 minutes, requiring written answers to questions on texts from the genres of poetry and prose. The choice of texts includes poetry by Romantic, Victorian and modern poets and novels such as The Secret River and Hard Times.
The second paper is Drama, for which students study one of Shakespeare’s plays; the exam requires a 45-minute written response to a choice of questions focused on a set extract from the play or a global essay question considering the whole play. In the third paper (1 hour and 15 minutes), candidates write an appreciation of either an unseen poem or an extract from a piece of prose fiction.
The teaching in preparation for both these syllabuses gives the students experience of a wide range of reading in literary and non-literary texts. Central to both the English language and English literature exams is the ability to close-read and to understand how language and structure are employed by authors to generate meanings. These are essential skills that contribute to the students’ life-long use of language and their proficiency as writers.
The English department offers the AQA English Literature Specification B of the two-year English Literature linear A level, introduced in September 2015. This new and exciting specification provides students with the opportunity to explore, study and enjoy some of the best works of poetry, fiction, drama and criticism produced by British and non-British writers since the Renaissance.
The course comprises four units, assessed at the end of the second year by two written examinations and a portfolio of two critical essays, one produced in response to a collection of poetry, the other produced in response to a work of prose fiction.
Two examination topics are studied in Year 1:
Literary Genres: Drama (Aspects of Tragedy), which involves the study of a Shakespeare tragedy (Othello), a twentieth-century tragedy (Death of a Salesman) and their different contexts
Texts and Genres: (Aspects of Tragedy), which involves the study of a nineteenth-century novel (Tess of the D’Urbervilles) and the work of a nineteenth-century poet (John Keats) through the lens of the tragic.
During the first year summer holiday, work is commenced on the portfolio of non-examined assessment tasks described below.
A third examination topic is studied in Year 2:
Texts and Genres: Elements of Crime Writing, which involves the study of one nineteenth-century poetry text (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner), one novel published after 2000 (When Will There Be Good News?), and one additional text (Hamlet /Oliver Twist / Brighton Rock / The Murder of Roger Ackroyd).
Work is completed on the portfolio of two non-examined assessment tasks, which comprises one essay applying a literary critical theory (e.g: Marxism) to the independent reading of a work of poetry, and a second essay applying a literary critical theory (e.g: environmental criticism) to the independent reading of a novel. The texts for each task will be selected by the student, in consultation with departmental teaching staff.