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The vision of the English department at Harris Academy Orpington is to offer a programme of study that is exciting and engaging, promoting a love of literature and the English language from the beginning of their Key Stage 3 learning journey with us. We aim to teach students to be independent readers, and creative and competent writers, presenting them with a wide range of texts that increase in difficulty as they progress through Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.
Whilst the English curriculum at Harris Academy Orpington reflects the broadness of the National Curriculum, we promote a thematic curriculum at Key Stage 3 that is knowledge-rich, focusing on the literary canon, on understanding different forms and genres, and importantly, topics that are socially, morally, spiritually and culturally relevant.
Once students reach Key Stage 4, they are encouraged to consider the big ideas within and across texts, linking this to the writer’s intentions; it is at this point that they will be explicitly introduced to the specifics of GCSE questions and examinations.
What is the intention of the curriculum?
At its core, our curriculum intends to:
- Challenge students’ ideas and perspectives, creating independent learners who actively question how the knowledge they acquire is relevant to their own lives.
- Develop independent readers who have an appreciation for reading, writing and spoken Standard English.
- Feature diverse texts that explore different cultures, while addressing gaps in cultural capital.
- Grow and cultivate central skills for future English study at GCSE, A-Level and beyond.
- Foster students’ creativity in extended writing, refining their drafting and editing skills and developing resilience. Pupils should understand and appreciate writing as a craft both outside of and within the confines of assessment.
At Key Stage 3, our curriculum is deliberately designed to build upon the foundation of reading, writing and spoken Standard English skills established at Key Stage 2. We avoid rigorous GCSE examination-style questions and instead develop and cultivate central skills for future English study.
Students are exposed to diverse, challenging and exciting texts that aim to explore different cultures alongside British values, current affairs and important issues such as homophobia, racism and gender equality; we intend to address gaps in cultural capital and enable our students to mature into active citizens.
Lessons and text choices aim to challenge students’ ideas and perspectives, building independence and promoting enquiry. We strongly believe that the Key Stage 3 curriculum should foster an appreciation and passion for reading, writing, debate and intellectual discussion.
As our students move into Year 9, we expose them to more challenging texts to begin to prepare them for GCSE but we are careful to ensure that we allow time to slow down and deepen the learning; we want our students to be on their way to mastering a range of reading and writing skills before they transition to Key Stage 4.
It is in Year 9 that we also dedicate curriculum time to fostering students’ creativity in extended writing, refining their drafting and editing skills and developing resilience. Students should understand and appreciate writing as a craft both outside of and within the confines of assessment.
At Key Stage 4, the focus shifts to introducing students to the specifics of the GCSE examinations for the first time. This includes texts, timings and assessment tasks in the format of the final examinations. When reading and exploring fiction and non-fiction texts, students are encouraged to consider the big ideas before finding textual evidence to support their critical analysis. We hope that our independent readers will have become critical thinkers by the end of Year 11 so that they are able to create conceptualised responses that show insight into the writer’s intentions and clear links to the context of the writing.
How will this be implemented?
At Key Stage 3, there is no separation between Literature and Language in the curriculum until Year 9, as we strongly believe that reading and writing should be taught alongside each other for the majority of Key Stage 3, albeit assessed separately.
Every scheme of work is driven by key themes which are explored through prose, poetry or drama; we believe that any texts being studied should be viewed as springboards. That is to say that they should allow for, and encourage, a range of exploration beyond just the text itself, encompassing related non-fiction reading and, speaking and listening tasks.
Our GCSE curriculum is delivered over two years, allowing time to study all Literature texts in detail alongside honing Language skills such as analysis, evaluation and comparison. In Year 10, students will study a Shakespeare play, a 19th century fiction text, and a modern text; in Year 11, they study poetry before moving onto revision lessons. These are planned in response to the emerging needs of individual students as well as the whole class.
How will we judge the impact of this curriculum?
Across both the Key Stages 3 and 4 curriculums, there will be two termly assessments to measure student progress. These have been carefully designed to match with the new curriculum intent and provide more opportunity to test and demonstrate impact:
The Year 7 and 8 reading assessments start with a series of comprehension questions that are created using the skills acquired by the end of Key Stage 2 in order to measure students’ ability to read and understand a text. These also include a universal, more challenging question that tests students’ understanding of the ideas, methods and context. In order to allow students to craft their responses and cultivate their communication skills, writing assessments are not completed in timed conditions.
The Year 9 assessments use an adapted version of the Key Stage 3 mark scheme in line with this being taught as a transition year. However, we ensure that assessment tasks (e.g. choice of extracts for Language questions or knowledge required for transactional writing) are age-appropriate and not simply a ‘dry run’ of GCSE tasks. The Year 9 autumn and spring Language assessments focus predominantly on writing; the rationale behind this being that this an area where the least progress was made at both GCSE and Key Stage 3.
In Year 10 students complete both Language and Literature assessments. These focus on AQA GCSE Language Paper 1 and AQA GCSE Literature Paper 1 throughout the year, culminating in a full mock exam for both at the end of the summer term.
In Year 11, students complete an AQA GCSE Language Paper 2 and AQA GCSE Literature Paper 2 in the autumn term before sitting all four exam papers required for both GCSEs in the spring term.
As a part of the Harris Federation, we can standardise the assessment process, with students across academies sitting the same termly assessments two times per year. This means that students’ progress and performance is able to be compared so that they can be clearly guided to improved outcomes.
As well as completing Harris Federation assessments, students will also complete portfolio tasks every half term that are marked using the Key Stage 3 marking rubric and the GCSE mark schemes. Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time is then allowed in order for students to respond to feedback and work on the areas of development required.