Education is that which remains after that which has been learned has been forgotten.
B. F. Skinner
Skinner’s famous reminder looms large in the English Department. Our mission is to ensure that pupils leave this school as equipped as they can be to engage with the world beyond our gates. At the core of our working practice is an unswerving commitment to the importance of key transferable skills; and because we are a small school, we are better able to build on prior learning through strong collegiate practice.
Pupils and parents can be confident that transitioning across year groups and indeed from teacher to teacher is characterised by continuity of method and approach to learning.
Organisation and strategy are important but pupil progress is, above all other considerations, the consequence of the pleasure, indeed joy in learning. We are constantly sourcing texts that will speak to pupils in a personal, often challenging way. Our resourcing is often culled from commentary on important events in the week (even on the day) of teaching.
So our reading activities simultaneously develop language skills and raise pupil awareness of the world. Nonetheless, our literary studies embrace fully the rich heritage of the past: literature, as Ezra Pound reminds us, is ‘news that stays news’. Younger pupils study Shakespeare through the excellent ‘Animated’ series, whilst Ibsen remains a great departmental favourite for older pupils.
Finally, we come right up to date with contemporary greats such as Tim O’Brien and Cormac McCarthy. We often build continuity across the age range into our selection processes: so a class might study ‘Private Peaceful’ (a novel set during The First World War) in S1 and work on ‘The Things They Carried’ (set before, during and after ‘Vietnam,’ in S4 or S5.
Our resourcing is often culled from commentary on important events in the week (even on the day) of teaching.
Our approach to the certification stage is particularly innovative; we ensure, insofar as is possible, that pupils retain the same teacher in S4 and S5 - the two most common certificate stages. This approach reinforces continuity and allows teachers to build optimum working relationships with pupils when they are needed most. Our public exam results are testimony to the strength of this arrangement.
For those who wish to continue their studies beyond Higher, we offer what must be the most pupil-centred arrangements in the country for Advance Higher. The class decides on the texts to be studied and the creative writing tasks to be explored.
Teachers advise and guide; but at this stage we see ourselves as facilitators of student enthusiasm: provided that the proposal is consistent with the learning outcomes we will, if necessary, create new resources around texts we have not yet worked with. Our aim is to involve students as far as possible in building the Advanced Higher curriculum. This approach has been warmly embraced by pupils; the last few years have seen our Advanced Higher numbers soar into double figures.
…we offer what must be the most pupil-centred arrangements in the country for Advanced Higher.
Finally, we are lucky enough to work on a day by day basis with a hugely talented and committed Support for Learning Department. We liaise with SfL in relation to screening, personal learning plans, classroom support, reading, scribing, pupil placement and a range of additional learning transactions. We consult with them fully on matters of individual learning. They are, in short, the central mechanism, via which we ensure that the needs of learners are optimally met at all times.
I think I speak for everyone in the department in saying that we all feel a great sense of pride and responsibility in what we do. Above all else we are readers and enthusiasts; we would hope that these important truths are self-evident to our pupils and their parents.
Head of Language Faculty