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The English Department plays an important role in Canford’s cultural life whilst helping pupils to achieve their best result in public exams. Our results are consistently strong at both GCSE and A2 Level and the 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.
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
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. A group of keen writers headed off recently to Salcombe for three days of writing under the expert tuition of Stephen Davies, while sixteen Canfordians and two members of the English Department were lucky enough to experience a week's Arvon foundation course in Devon.
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.