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» The English Department Team
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About Us

Our over-riding aim is to ensure that each student, whatever their ability, should reach their full potential and aim to make four levels of progress at Aylesbury Vale Academy. Developing students’ English and Literacy skills is, of course, fundamental to unlocking their potential across the academic curriculum and beyond into the world of work. The English Department strives to foster a positive attitude towards English by presenting it as an interesting, creative, challenging and useful subject.

Students will become fluent, independent and critical readers of all kinds of texts, who question and reflect on what they have read and who enjoy reading for pleasure. Students will study a variety of texts to explore language and meaning, to acquire information, gain further insight into their own and other cultures, and to extend their personal and social awareness.

Students will become confident, articulate writers who understand that writing is a means of learning, shaping experience, exploring ideas and language, and expressing ideas and feelings. Students will be able to write for a variety of purposes and audiences and will learn to appreciate the benefits of drafting, redrafting and proof-reading.

Students will recognise the power of talk as a means of exploring language and ideas, persuading, and gaining confidence. Students will learn to be good listeners, able to appreciate the views of others as well as articulating their own.

On this page you will find the latest news about what the English department has been doing as well as some of our students' most notable accomplishments. Please check back regularly to see what's new.

The English Department Team

Curriculum Leader/Assistant Principal: Mr R Cooper 

“I remember loving books from an early age and being very happy listening to stories read aloud.  As a young teenager, that feeling slipped away… there seemed so many other things to want to do.  But then, an English teacher introduced me to the poetry of Philip Larkin and the short stories of Raymond Carver: since then, I’ve not stopped reading!

English encourages us to engage with thoughts and feelings, with Shakespeare being the undisputed master in my opinion.  In a world where today’s students have a 50% chance of living to the age of 100 and will likely have multiple careers as they adapt to compete with new technologies, empathy is going to be in high demand!”

Secondary Headteacher/Teacher of English: Mr G Gibson 

"I graduated from the University of Dundee 1997 with a degree in English Literature. After completing a certificate of English Language teaching to adults, I travelled to Japan where I taught in a private language school in central Tokyo teaching students with ages ranging from two to eighty two. 

After four years as a teacher and Director of Studies in Tokyo, I returned to the UK where I embarked on a PGCE at Goldsmiths, University of London.  I taught for ten years in schools in South West London before moving to an upper school in Leighton Buzzard.

I have held a range of roles including Head of English and more recently, Assistant Headteacher in charge of teaching and learning. My passion has always been the development of students as leaners and if my career has taught me one thing it is that we are all lifelong learners.

Away from school, I enjoy watching rugby and being with my family."

Assistant Principal/Teacher of English: Ms E Kitter  

“I have always been passionate about English; this is a subject where you can be both analytical and creative. Nothing beats sharing this passion with students and helping them to understand the true power of language.”

Teacher of English: Mrs L Henry-Cross 

"As a teacher of English, I believe students should be provided with the skills needed to express themselves creatively and confidently.  With my passion for Literacy and previous experience as Head of Literacy department, I am of the notion that students must be given the opportunity to develop and extend literacy skills in order to maximize their full potential.  I am guided by the philosophy of Nikos Kazantzakis which states 'ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then  having facilitated their crossing joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own."

Teacher of English: Mrs J Thomas 

"It is my personal belief that teachers create the life chances of students who come into their care. While many may say, all people who develop relationships with children are teachers in their own right. This is far from what maintains for teachers who interact with and impact the lives of children on a daily basis.  As a teacher, I strive to be committed to helping students’ holistic develop. This challenge comes in varied ways but I am not daunted by the circumstances. My pledge is to remain committed to the profession and in doing so, partner with others who champion the same".

Teacher of English : Mrs T Oldfield 

Details to follow.

Teacher of English : Ms M Nair 

Details to follow.

Teacher of English: Miss M O'Loughlin

"I graduated with a Masters in English Literature and Linguistics and have been teaching in a number of different secondary schools in Ireland, England and the Middle East since. I love the inspiration students get from books and the escapism that literature provides.  English is intertwined with the imagination and, really, it can become whatever they want it to be". 

Teacher of English: Mrs P Blackstock-Barnaby

"Reading has always been an escape for me. I can recall locking myself from the world and escaping into the mystery and fantasy of stories. This love for reading has propelled me into the field of teaching. As a teacher, I wish to inspire and inculcate in my pupils the same love for reading. 

This passion has proven beneficial to me since it has enhanced other subject areas while I was studying. My students likewise will benefit. Like Dr. Seuss I believe that, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you,ll go." 

Teacher of English: Ms D Clohessy

"I hold a Bachelors degree in English and Media and a Masters in English Language and Literature. I like to keep things fun and energetic for students in the classroom, I create a happy and healthy learning environment with a strong encouragement for independent learning. I also have a passion for creative writing and strive to create this same passion within our students. I host writing workshops with the aim of entering their completed work in national and local writing competitions. We have had ten students work published to date with many more to come."

Teacher of English: Mr R Duhaney

"A teacher without passion is as unstable as a tree without roots: it is this that anchors me to the profession. I have been serving in almost every capacity on the educational spectrum for the past 15 years - classroom teacher to Head Teacher – and I have been enjoying the journey. There is no greater service that I put above teaching; there is no greater passion that I have; and there is no greater joy than to see the mind of a child grow through learning. Nothing beats teaching!"

Teacher of English: Ms S Sullivan

"Growing up, I had very few opportunities to travel or do much at all but through the books I read and my inspirational English teacher, Mr Hotton, whole new worlds opened up before me: the hardship of Jane Eyre’s upbringing, the lost potential of Anne Frank, the hilarious humour of Roald Dahl, the tyranny of dictatorships in Animal Farm. I loved words and their power to make us laugh, feel and think.

I took my degree in English Literature at the University of Sheffield and then set off to explore the world that I had read so much about, living in five countries and learning the power of words in other languages too.

When I eventually returned to the UK, I trained as an English teacher. My job is to ensure my students are effective communicators with all the necessary technical skills of spelling, punctuation and correct grammar. However, I hope that they will also love language and literature so that they can travel distant roads, slip through time, walk in strangers’ footsteps, and, above all, so that they can dream and imagine themselves into a better, brighter future.

Outside work, I like running, travel, hot weather and banana sandwiches."


Key Stage 3

Year 7 English

Building on skills from Key Stage 2, year 7 pupils study a range of different texts include classic and modern texts, fiction and non-fiction writing and poetry. Students are assessed using Steps to Progress for reading and writing to determine whether they are emerging, developing, securing or mastering in each skill, and given clear targets to work on each half term.  One lesson per week is devoted to developing literacy skills and involves a visit to the library for reading time.

Half Termly Topics

  • Writer’s Workshop: Descriptive Writing
  • Frankenstein: Character analysis
  • Year 7 Novel: Extract and whole text analysis
  • Starting Shakespeare: Research Booklet
  • Poetry, please!: Analysis question
  • Power of Words: Persuasive writing

Year 8 English

The Steps to Progress model continues in Year 8 English, with much emphasis on developing the ability to critically evaluate texts and analyse how the writer creates effects for the reader. Pupils study Shakespeare in much more depth as well as extracts of 19th century writing.  To support pupils learning, the emphasis of homework is on researching the social and historical contexts of the writers and settings of texts to gain a deeper understanding of the themes and writer’s choice of language.  As with Year 7, a lesson per week is given over to working on literacy skills.

Half Termly Topics

  • Year 8 Novel: Extract and whole text analysis
  • Schools: Persuasive Writing
  • Much Ado About Nothing: Character Essay
  • Survival: Narrative writing
  • Creating Characters Poetry: Comparison
  • Our Day Out: Class Debate

Year 9 English

As pupils prepare for their GCSE courses in English Language and English Literature, the Year 9 curriculum aims to ensure they have secured all of the skills they need to be successful. The focus is developing examination skills and increasing the level of challenge in the texts they read. Pupils study a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts and a themed selection of 19th Century fiction and non-fiction. Detailed study of Shakespearean tragedy serves as preparation for the GCSE texts in Year 10.  Pupil performance is reported using the outgoing Key Stage 3 National Curriculum Levels for reading and writing but regular marking and feedback is given using the new GCSE grades 9-1.

Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE Enlgish Language and English Literature

English Language Paper 1:  Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45
  • 80 marks
  • 50% of GCSE

Section A: Reading - One literature fiction text

Section B: Writing - Descriptive or narrative writing

AO’s assessed: EngLang 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

English Language Paper 2: Viewpoints and Perspectives 

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45
  • 80 marks
  • 50% of GCSE

Section A : Reading - One non-fiction and one literary non-fiction text

Section B: Writing - Writing to present a viewpoint

AO’s assessed: EngLang 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Non-examination assessment: Spoken Language

AO7-9 (0% of GCSE)

  • Presenting
  • Responding to questions and feedback
  • Use of Standard English

Teacher set throughout course.

Separate endorsement.

AO’s assessed: EngLang 7, 8, 9

English Literature Paper 1: Shakespeare and the 19th-century novel

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45
  • 64 marks
  • 40% of GCSE

Section A :Shakespeare: Macbeth

Section B: The 19th-century novel: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

AO’s assessed: EngLit 1, 2, 3, 4

English Literature Paper 2: Modern Texts and Poetry

  • Written exam: 2 hours 15
  • 96 marks
  • 60% of GCSE

Section A : Modern Texts: An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley

Section B: Poetry: Power and Conflict from AQA Anthology

Section C: Unseen poetry

AO’s assessed: EngLit 1, 2, 3, 4

Assessment Objectives (AO's)

In Year 10 and Year 11, students study for the AQA English Literature and English Language qualifications.  These are two separate GCSEs.  The exact route through the course is adapted to meet the needs of each year group and the skills of the teaching staff.

The exact nature of the skills assessed are shown below:

GCSE English Language Assessment Objectives 

AO1 - Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas; Select and synthesise evidence from different texts.

AO2 - Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views.

AO3 - Compare writers’ ideas and perspectives, as well as how these are conveyed, across two or more texts.

AO4 - Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references.

AO5 - Communicate clearly, effectively and imaginatively, selecting and adapting tone, style and register for different forms, purposes and audiences. Organise information and ideas, using structural and grammatical features to support coherence and cohesion of texts.

AO6 - Candidates must use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation. (This requirement must constitute 20% of the marks for each specification as a whole).

AO7 - Demonstrate presentation skills in a formal setting.

AO8 - Listen and respond appropriately to spoken language, including to questions and feedback on presentations.

AO9 - Use spoken Standard English effectively in speeches and presentations.

AO7, 8 and 9 are assessed in Spoken Language only.

GCSE English Literature Assessment Objectives

AO1 - Read, understand and respond to texts. Students should be able to:

  • maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response
  • use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations.

AO2 - Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate.

AO3 - Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written.

AO4 - Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation.

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