At all levels, the English curriculum at NLCS is centred around the study of literature, with work on the mechanics of the language integrated into this. The study of English at NLCS is less about acquiring a discrete skill, but more a means of engaging with fundamental ideas regarding what it means to be human.
We study literature as a means of questioning our deepest held beliefs, whilst also allowing us to empathise with situations and states of mind we are yet to encounter, so that when we do face them we are all the better prepared. The study of English leads us into diverse areas; philosophy, history, other languages, allied art forms, religion, social sciences, all have a part to play in the study of English.
In years 7 to 9 all girls study a range of poetry, prose and drama, with a Shakespeare text being studied each year. The curriculum in the lower years is always theme based so as to give a strong sense of coherence. Each year group also has its own extra-curricular competition aligned to what is being studied: in Year 7 all girls take part in a Poetry Recitation Competition; in Year 8 there is a Public Speaking Competition; and in Year 9 we have the Shakespeare Debates.
In the Upper School (Years 10 and 11), all girls take the IGCSE in English Language and the AS English Literature.
In the Sixth Form, girls can take the Cambridge Pre-U Literature in English Course, or if they decide to study the IB, English Literature is a compulsory component and girls can choose to take it at either a Higher or Standard level. English is very popular in the Sixth Form and both courses provide a sound grounding for those wishing to go on to study English or related disciplines at University. Around twenty girls annually choose to apply to read English and take part in an enrichment course during Year 12 and 13, which gives them a further opportunity to nourish their passion.
Extra-curricular provision in the department is diverse. Five Senior Societies have their base in the Enligsh Department: the Literary & Dramatic Society, which holds a weekly book group after school and runs theatre trips every few weeks; the Film & Media Society with its weekly Film Club; the Debating Society which runs high-profile weekly debates on Fridays and enters a number of national competitions; the Creative Writing Society, which publishes a termly journal called Weasel Words; and the Opera Club, which meets weekly and organises regular outings. Upper School Girls (Years 10 and 11 can participate in all of these societies that are run by the Senior girls. The Upper School also has their own literary journal and compete in an annual debating competition with boys from the John Lyon School.
There is a similar provision for girls in Years 7-9, with Debating Club, the Mad Hatter’s Book Group, Middle School Creative Writing Group with its own publication, Archipelago, as well as the provision which is linked to the curriculum. Girls from Year 7 also participate in the annual Spelling Bee Competition organised by The Times.
The Department also runs a number of partnerships with other schools. The T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize Shadowing for Year 11 (run by Year 12) with Queen Elizabeth Girls’ School runs during the Autumn and Spring terms where girls from the two schools meet at Canons after school to discuss the merits or otherwise of the short-listed poets. The English Department also has a longstanding partnership with Henrietta Barnett School, running days for both Years 7 and 9 on Shakespeare plays. Year 7 girls from both schools act out scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the grounds of Canons and Year 9 do an acting and theme workshop on The Tempest. Having run a web-based partnership with a school in India in 2010, this year the English department has developed its international partnerships by establishing a link with St Cuthbert’s School in Auckland. This link has provided the opportunity for Year 8 students to work with girls from St Cuthbert’s, on a cross-curricular English and History project that explores the theme of empire. The project was run through Kaleidos, which provided an excellent platform for the girls to discuss ideas with each other and display their work. We have been pleased to be able to incorporate video clips and picture libraries into the project this year, an enhanced benefit of Kaleidos which has helped to bring the project to life for the girls. We also use blogging as part of the forum for discussion for girls in Year 13 doing their Personal Investigation as part of their Pre-U Literature in English course.
We also run a biennial trip to Dublin alongside the History Department for girls in the Sixth Form, where we explore its rich literary heritage and political heritage and how these are inextricably intertwined.