Aim: To increase the number of students taking English at KS5 and continuing on to university.
Background: While numbers of those studying A Level Literature were steady at between 70 and 80 (as well as 60 students who study English as part of the IB), only around 10% of these pupils were going on to study the subject at university. This was frustrating, as results were excellent and the department was enthusiastic and dynamic.
Year 1: A ‘We Love English’ group was created for students who were interested in studying English at university and attendance was regularly at 50%-70%. All staff contributed to extracurricular events, including curriculum and beyond the curriculum lectures, and pupil questionnaires were used to adapt Key Stage 4 provision for the following year.
Year 2: Links were established with the University of Kent and activities were broadened to all students, not just KS5. Lectures held for Year 11 students on World Book Day were very well received and an English Conference was run with a focus on journalism and creative writing in response to the number of students taking Joint Honours with English at university or pursuing careers in journalism. 94% of students judged this ‘very useful’ or ‘useful’.
Year 3: The uptake of IB English increased from 68 to 80 and visiting lecturers, including Professor A C Grayling, were hosted at the school with high attendance. A ‘Broadening Horizons Information Afternoon’ was held in which former students with English degrees spoke about the different directions their degrees had taken them. 80% of attendees judged this ‘very useful’.
Year 4: A KS4 English group was led by Year 12 English prefects who organised a spoken word workshop and a trip to the Tate Britain to explore the relationship between visual art and literature. The success of the club meant that planning for the following year could begin. Staff led further events and one student made it to the national final of the Poetry by Heart competition in Cambridge. KS5 lectures continued to widen students’ perspective and enjoyment of English – 82% rated the lectures at more than 7/10 in terms of interest and enjoyment.
Evidence: Attendance data, baseline data, student questionnaires.
Impact: The ‘Broadening Horizons’ conference has helped overcome the perception that English degrees don’t lead to defined career paths or well paid jobs. The school’s decision one year into the project to offer only IB at KS5 threatened to undermine the project, but in the coming years the department will teach 200-250 students English at KS5, so the provisions already in place will hopefully see more students enjoying the subject beyond KS4 and going on to study it at university.
Reflections: At times we tried to offer too much. Doing a few things well, on a consistent basis with proper evaluation of results is far more rewarding for staff in terms of the outcome, and also much more useful for the students.