The English Department plays an important role in Canford’s cultural life whilst helping pupils to achieve their best result in public exams. The 2011 results were particularly strong at both GCSE and A2 Level and the new A* grade is a realistic target for our best students. A number of leavers go on to study English Literature at Cambridge, Oxford and other top Universities.
Both Fourth and Fifth forms are now preparing for both Cambridge IGCSE First Language English and IGCSE English Literature. Pupils are assessed through both coursework and exams in literary and non-fiction texts; part of the English Literature exam involves tackling an unseen passage which calls upon pupils' personal response and tests their literary analytical skills.
The AQA English Literature B Specification features a diverse range of texts and also allows pupils to follow their own interests in choosing a topic for coursework. AS students can expect to write a Coursework folder on one Shakespeare tragedy and select from modern dramatists such as Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, David Mamet, Brian Friel or an author in translation such as Ibsen. The AS exam features contemporary novelists alongside 19th and 20th century poets; A2 students have more freedom with their coursework and choose either Pastoral or the Gothic for the exam.
Literature and reading are central. Even before they arrive, Shells (Year 9) pupils are sent a book list and encouraged to take part in a summer reading project. We teach through discussion and participation: lessons are lively, imaginative and challenging. While paying due attention to accuracy in the use of spoken and written language, we want to foster a love of reading and self-expression. Shell pupils and their parents are invited to participate in an evening of poetry recital. This year, for the first time, it is to be a joint venture with the Music Department. To combat the potentially narrow focus of IGCSE preparation, the Fourths are involved in an inter-class debate in which they argue the merits of a wide range of Twentieth Century Literature, whereas, the Fifths have their cultural horizons broadened through Romantics Week.
Creative writing is very important to us: poems and prose appear in various Department anthologies, as well as in the school magazine, The Canfordian. A lively writers’ group — nick-named ‘The Dead Goats’ — meets weekly in the atmospheric Top Tower. Several Old Canfordians have gone on in recent years to do postgraduate degrees in Creative Writing - two of these, Henry Stead and Joanna Rees, visit the department regularly to share their ideas with pupils through workshops. In June 2010, a group of keen writers headed off to Salcombe for three days of writing under the expert tuition of Stephen Davies; in June 2011, sixteen Canfordians and two members of the English Department were lucky enough to experience a week's Arvon foundation course in Devon.
Canford pupils also take advantage of the many opportunities for producing and editing content of various school publications such as This Week, Canford Life and the Canfordian. We have regular visits from published writers who read and conduct workshops within the school. Highlights of our year will usually include the visit of a writer-in-residence - in 2011 it was the performance poet, Polar Bear.
Regular trips to the theatre and cinema form an integral part of the extra-curricular life of the department. We arrange annual pilgrimages to the Cheltenham Literature Festival and to the North Cornish coast where we follow in the footsteps of the young Thomas Hardy and Emma Gifford.
Caroline Barrett - Head of DepartmentBA (Oxon), MA (London)
Caroline came to teach at Canford in September 2000. Her responsibilities include running the department's Oxbridge programme, editing the school magazine and helping with cross-country running.
John James - Head of Cultural ActivitiesBA (Bristol), PGCE (Oxford)
John teaches English and is Head of Cultural Enrichment. He taught at Canford from 1993-2008, acting as Head of English and then housemaster of Monteacute House. He then spent four years at Harrow School as Head of English before returning to Canford to develop his present role of overseeing and developing the extracurricular cultural life of the school.
Sam EllisBA, PGCE (Southampton)
Sam worked for the Ministry of Defence before entering teaching, and has worked in a number of schools in both Hampshire and Dorset. She teaches part-time with Shell and GCSE English classes, and is charge of the Shell English Curriculum. Sam runs the horse riding activity and has created Community Service links with local primary schools.
Mike OwenBA, PGCE (Bristol)
Mike joined Canford in 1983. He was Housemaster of Court House from 1998 to 2005, when he became Registrar. Mike coaches cricket and is an officer in the CCF.
Kate OrpwoodBA (Manchester), MA (Leeds)
Kate joined the department in 2005 from an international school in the Gulf. She arranges theatre trips and runs the Literary Society as part of Canford's programme of academic enrichment. Kate's Games commitments are cross-country and athletics, and she is de Lacy's resident house tutor. Other projects have included partnership visits to Argentina and Kenya, as well as a cultural trip to Granada.
Sindre VandvikBA (Bergen/York), MA (Bergen/York)
Sindre joined the school in January 2006, having taught in London. He is in charge of Connections, as well as running This Week, the school 6th Form publication, coaching football and being a tutor in Court House.
Kathryn WattsBA (Sheffield), PGCE (Durham)
Kathryn graduated from the University of Sheffield with a first class degree in English Literature and studied for her PGCE at Durham. As well as a member of the English department, she also teaches Shell Classics and is involved in the orchestra, cross-country, The Literary Society and Dead Goats’ Society – the school’s creative writing group.
Patricia KnottMA (Cantab), PGCE (Open)
Patricia joined the Canford staff fully in September 2003, having previously helped part-time in the Support for Learning department. She now teaches Classical Civilization to the Shells and the Fourths. She is also Head of the Support for Learning Department and a House tutor in de Lacy House.
Sarah HollandBA (Hons), PGCE (University of Birmingham)
Sarah spent the first fifteen years of her teaching career in the Midlands, with the last eight at King Edward VI High School for Girls. Since moving to the South coast in 2004, she has worked at a number of local schools in East Dorset and Wiltshire. She has a particular interest in creative writing and is currently running the joint book group with the Bourne Academy.