Millais School

In Pursuit of Excellence


In English we want pupils to be encouraged to explore their creativity, read widely and learn to communicate effectively.

In Year 7, we begin with a whirlwind tour of a faraway island, where pupils learn to use writing to explore the feelings, thoughts and experiences which come with being shipwrecked far from home. We study plays and novels as a whole class and work on our reading and performance skills through these. There is an introduction to Shakespeare which picks up on his life, works and language, as well as the story of Macbeth in some detail. Finally, we look at myths, legends and imaginary worlds. All of these themed units teach pupils the vital skills needed to make progress in separate skill areas of reading and writing. We cover a wide range of writing tasks so that pupils feel they have improved in both creative and more formal styles.  Pupils also have Grammartime lessons, focusing on the accuracy of their written English and key concepts of grammar.

Year 8 builds on the skills pupils have developed in Year 7 and we move onto plays and novels which are a bit more demanding – but no less enjoyable! We also develop pupils’ knowledge of Shakespeare further by using A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the basis for some very creative writing! We study a poetry unit in depth which allows a lot more analysis in detail of how language affects meaning, as well as the importance of the context of a writer and how this affects their work. Finally, we look at film from a media student perspective, learning about key terminology and film theory and how this ties into the way that a film can be ‘read’ like a book. Grammartime lessons are taught to some groups, focusing on the accuracy of written English and key concepts of grammar.

Year 9 takes our pupils on a journey which is closer to the tasks and depth required of Key Stage 4 study. We begin the year with an extended look at aspects of a modern novel, using this as a basis for practising a variety of writing styles and reading skills. We then go back in time to an in-depth study of one of Shakespeare’s plays, using a combination of reading, film and drama to explore the play fully. Creative writing is the focus of the next unit, using the film Titanic as an inspirational source.  This unit culminates in a writing assessment, similar to that of the new GCSE, enabling the girls to experience this kind of timed assessment.  This preparation for the new GCSE is also incorporated into a study of a 19th century novel.  As well as a variety of reading and writing tasks, including textual analysis, this work forms the basis of the Year 9 exam in an assessment based on the new GCSE format.  Pupils then have an opportunity to give a presentation based on poetry of their choosing, and finally things turn dark at the end of term as we look at gothic traditions in literature and how these have impacted on the representation of women in texts, both traditionally and in more modern literature and media.  This certainly gets our pupils fired up about the way gender can affect character roles and how women are presented in film!

GCSE English language & literature is taught as a combined course. It builds on all the areas which pupils have touched on at Key Stage 3 and we feel our curriculum lower down the school prepares them really well for what comes next!  Our GCSE course is designed to allow the pupils to practise the skills required in the new GCSE exams, with frequent mini mock assessments and tests to aid memorising quotations.  All our texts are chosen with pupils' abilities and interests in mind and we study a wide variety of novels, plays and poems.  Pupils study non-fiction and literary non-fiction from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries as well as practising writing for a variety of audiences and purposes.  In Literature, pupils study literary fiction from 19th century to modern works.  Pupils engage with the texts through detailed exploratory tasks, presentations, hot-seating, group work and more formal essay practice.  Students will develop skills in understanding, analysing, comparing and contrasting texts from different time periods. They will master different written communication forms and develop the accuracy and precision of their use of written English.  In speaking & listening, tasks will develop their confidence and articulacy.  We try to make the lessons enjoyable as well as purposeful and hope that our students leave us feeling equipped to communicate successfully in the modern world!

Pupils' experiences of English at Millais are enhanced by a wide range of enrichment opportunities.  We take groups of pupils in all years to the theatre, seeking out new productions and experiences which we feel will enhance their studies.  We arrange theatre visits depending on available performances and the texts we are teaching, but we always take pupils to experience open air theatre at Regents Park in the warmer summer term. We work with The Rotary Club in public speaking competitions; whenever we can, we book visits by poets and writers.  For pupils who love Manga and Graphic novels, there is a Manga club run weekly where activities include creating characters and storyboards, tutorials on drawing styles and sharing favourite texts.

We will leave you with some comments from the people who know most about English at Millais - the pupils themselves!

I have really enjoyed English this year. It has been great fun and I have learnt lots. My favourite topic was probably when we did the Tulip Touch as it was a great play and it also brought up some great ideas and questions to think about. I have definitely gained so much more knowledge and learn different writing techniques. This has been an amazing first year at Millais.

The teachers are very kind and pick books to suit our interests.

Overall, Year 7 English has been incredible! Although I struggled to choose, my favourite English lessons have to be Grammar Time, as they are fun and make a change to the usual routine! I definitely feel I have improved on "often mistaken words" and grammar in general. Of all the topics, I enjoyed learning about Skellig the most; my highlight of the book is when curious Michael discovers the mystical creature slumped in his rotting shed! This subject improved my technique in reading in between the lines and analysing text. Making our own puppet plays and scripts (based around Macbeth) was a favourite lesson of mine; I particularly enjoyed putting on voices for the witches. Furthermore, I found learning about the plot and each character very interesting, especially as I hadn't read Macbeth before. To conclude, Year 7 English has been a great experience, the numerous skills (such as defending a suspect in the Rubin Carter topic) will be useful in later life. I'm now looking forward to Year 8!

English is really fun and I like it when we do different activities to do with our topic. It makes it exciting when we have challenges in our work.

In English you can go crazy with your imagination and make stuff up! We have also found out about different types of punctuation and the writing skills help us in other subjects.