Our Vision: All students at Nailsea will achieve or exceed national progress expectations in English, with a high proportion going on to exceed expectations in the Sixth Form. They will leave with humane, reasoned values, and a love of English, fostered through a rich and challenging curriculum.

We will work to ensure our curriculum is stimulating, well-taught and leads to outstanding outcomes for all students, regardless of external factors.

During Years 7, 8 and 9 students have seven hours of English lessons a fortnight. Throughout the year, students study five different units that develop their writing and reading skills and once a fortnight, students spend time in the Library, where we aim to foster a love of independent reading. We also have dedicated skills lessons where students continue to practise the key skills needed to succeed in English. Our focus throughout Key Stage 3 is to encourage students’ enjoyment of the subject, whilst also equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in the years to come.

Year 7
The year begins by studying a range of poetry, including Ted Hughes, Emily Dickinson and William Blake. Students learn how to analyse poetry and write about construction of meaning. They craft their own poems, linked to the themes and concept of the cluster being studied. Towards the end of term, we focus on poetry in performance, with each class performing a poem to the year group, building our confidence and celebrating our first full term in secondary school by working together and creating something exciting and memorable.

In November of Year 7 we study a range of speeches, from the demotic to the highly formal. It includes ‘classics’ like Martin Luther King, but also modern examples like Greta Thunberg, Maya Angelou, and Barack Obama, looking at the value of speaking in different contexts and above all, how we can make our voices heard above the ceaseless clamour of modern life.
Next students study Bone Talk, a class novel, which develops reading for meaning. We look closely at rites of passage and the idea of turning points in our lives. Assessment tasks include a focused assessment of character across the whole text and is the first of many opportunities to explore our sense of self.

Then we move on to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This lovely unit is a full exploration of a classic Shakespeare play. We look at A Midsummer Night’s Dream and get to grips with characters, setting, Shakespeare’s wondrous use of language and the fantastical nature of both plays. Drama and role-play is at the centre, with some epic stand-offs between the warring couples.

We round off Year 7 with a detailed and at times scholarly look at ancient Greek myths. We get acquainted with monsters and mythical beasts, meeting the Minotaur in the labyrinth among many others. This unit culminates with students exploring the genre creatively, crafting their own myths using the many stylistic features we’ve discovered along the way.

Year 8
At the start of Year 8 our focus is short fiction as a distinct literary form, looking at classic narratives from Dickins, Maupassant, Perkins Gillman, Katherine Mansfield and Kate Chopin. The idea of the twist, foreshadowing and the immediacy of the form are all untangled, so students can identify patterns and tropes, writing about meaning and producing their own re-creative versions of classic tales.

Then we move on to Gothic writing. Take: an old castle, half of it ruinous. A long gallery, with a great many doors, some secret ones. Three murdered bodies, quite fresh. As many skeletons, in chests and presses. An old woman in the attic. Assassins and desperados, a vaguely villainous, swarthy patriarch. Noises, whispers and groans, three-score at least.  Mix them together, in the form of three volumes, to be taken at any of the watering-places before going to bed. PROBATUM EST. Students explore this rich genre creatively by crafting their own Gothic description.

Next, we get stuck into literary non-fiction. The theme is adventure, risk and the sublime, seen through extracts and full articles by Robert MacFarlane, Dervla Murphy, Emily Chappell, Joe Simpson and Ellen MacArthur. It builds on the rites of passage elements from Year 7 but looks at how people ‘write the self’ as well as encounters with nature, landscape and the oceans. Students get the chance to create beautiful reflective writing.

Our fourth unit takes us to The Globe with Romeo and Juliet. We take a comprehensive look at Shakespearian tragedy, how it works, why it is important, the roots in Greek tragedy where concepts sound like diseases (A case of anagnorisis anyone?) and a detailed study of key scenes and characters throughout Shakespeare’s classic romantic tragedy.

Finally, students look outwards, away from Nailsea and the North Somerset landscape to take in different identities, exploring the tensions between place and self, written in the words of Thomas Hardy, Grace Nichols, Ted Kooser and other poets. Students think about and articulate what ‘here’ means, juxtaposing it with a notional ‘elsewhere’ and explore the importance of place to human existence.
Year 9
The year starts with a class novel and Of Mice and Men is arguably the best book we study and the one students love the most. I suspect parents studied it and even grandparents, with good reason, because it has a timelessness of meaning. The unit explores companionship, loneliness, racism and life in 1930s America, and we practise our tracking skills, seeing how ideas and characters develop across the novella before writing about it.
Next we move on to study modern short stories. The routes through to GCSE become steadily clearer throughout Year 9 – it is a crucial bridge to higher study. Much of this unit prefigures the paper 1 content of the GCSE where students study a short story. We up the challenge, bringing in Isabel Allende, Graham Greene, Zadie Smith, Mildred Taylor and Alex Wheatle. The aim is two-fold; enjoyment and joy in rich, luminous prose, and an expanding toolkit with which to deconstruct meaning – all of this as a launching pad for our own creative writing.
Our third unit, an exploration of poetry, provides a detailed look at poetic form and function in an exploration of the theme of power. By exploring the context of poets such as Wilfred Owen, Maya Angelou, Imtiaz Dharker William Blake and more, students consider the power of voice culminating in a thematic comparison that paves the way for their study of GCSE poetry.
Things start heating up towards the end of the year with a non-fiction unit aimed at the skill of comparison. It means studying texts separated by time, looking at how language and mode of address has changed and why. It broadens cultural capital and strengthens our subjectivity – who we are and how we have changed. Language is a cultural memory bank and, in this unit, we bring the past to life through careful contrasts.
Our final unit at KS3 is an exploration of modern tragedy. The change is a gradual one, but students by now are building up their grasp of how whole texts work, the way themes and ideas twist throughout like a double helix. We extract this DNA and write about it, identifying intention and meaning, adding our thoughts as we begin to develop a personal response. A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller makes this process a joy; a devastating character study of ‘the little man’ railing against external forces, of love, family and despair.
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