Aim: To raise the status of English, and the Arts in general, in the school and to encourage students to pursue their passions.
Background: The Heathland School specialises in Science, and a large proportion of students are interested in medical professions in particular. Some pupils that are talented in the Arts do not choose to pursue their interests into Sixth Form and beyond. Although English is a popular subject, the department wishes to make studying English at A level more appealing and exciting.
Year 1: New Shakespeare resources were cascaded throughout the department and pupils in transition from Year 12 to Year 13 studied The Tempest and King Lear as additional texts at the end of the summer term. Attempts to set up a Shakespeare Summer School for primary pupils, to be led by these transition students, failed to gather enough interest, so the students took their production of The Tempest to three feeder primary schools and to the Shakespeare Schools Festival.
Years 2-3: Students performed King Lear at the Shakespeare Schools Festival and at school, and a Sixth Form book club was established. Lectures were held featuring guest speakers and trips for A Level students boomed, including going to see Malala Yousafzai speak. The student steering group organised a day of events for the school’s first Women of the World Day, inspired by a very successful trip to the WOW Festival on the Southbank.
Evidence: Attendance, recruitment and retention statistics, staff and student feedback.
Impact: Students found studying the additional texts rewarding, and a number of them were interested in taking this study further into Year 13. The book club was successful, with 5 regular members and up to 12 attendees at some sessions, as well as attracting staff from a range of departments. 75% of students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the book club had made them enjoy reading more. Students were inspired by exciting visits, and there has been an increase in the numbers going on to study English-related subjects at university. Attendance at lectures and revision conferences improved, and although there are no noticeable increases in retention, the students are more focused and results have improved.
Reflections: This project has allowed me to offer fantastic opportunities to our Sixth Form. I have seen a noticeable shift in terms of the status of English within the culture of the school and the department feels that there is more of a ‘buzz’ around English. There is a sense that KS5 English is blossoming at the Heathland, with many English teachers requesting to teach more AS and A Level. Data collection could have been better, but the feedback from students and staff has been really pleasing.
Contact: Natalie Cotterill, firstname.lastname@example.org