English: Durham School: independent day and boarding school in the North East of England for boys and girls
skip to main content


Engage in the different aspects of studying English, be it reading, writing or speaking and listening.

Head of Department: Mrs Swan

Teaching Staff: Mrs E Melville, Mr S Thompson, Miss C O'Donnell


The English Department at Durham School engages pupils in the different aspects of studying English, be it reading, writing or speaking and listening.  Literature remains central to our teaching. We believe in the importance of studying whole texts and this is as true of our year 7 curriculum as of our year 13. Through Literature we encourage pupils to engage empathetically as well as critically; not just to feature spot, but to think about the purpose or values of a text both in itself and to us as readers. Where possible we see productions of plays we study or organise trips or events to support learning. We foster creativity in the ways pupils can produce their own writing in many forms without losing focus on the importance of accuracy.  The Durham Eye is the school newspaper which is run through the English Department; here the whole school is invited to air their views and write articles or submit pictures to our pupil editorial team.

During Reading Week, which is held to co-incide with World Book Day, pupils are also invited to attend creative writing workshops with published authors, talks from writers, poets and editors, discuss their favourite books and perhaps most visually rewarding, dress as a character from a book! Throughout the year we enter pupils for external competitions such as Mini sagas, poetry and story writing and speaking competitions.

The department runs  annual school Poetry Recitation competitions for the Removes, Juniors and Seniors, The Gough Prize for Verse and The Gawan Taylor Prize for English Essay. The Hodgson Prize for English is also offered for excellence at A level study.  These awards are held in school but we also enter open competitions against other schools. Recently we have held the best debater award at the Youth Speak debate competition and one of our pupils reached the regional final of the National competition Poetry by Heart.  

Year 7-8

In the Lower School pupils are introduced to our Reading Passport scheme. Pupils use the passports to record their private reading as well as the books they read in class. The idea behind the scheme is to encourage pupils to read across a range of genres and encounter books that they might not usually choose to read. We use parts of the Bramley spelling scheme and the RAWS technique to support spelling, and punctuation and grammar are explicitly taught using a range of resources including CPG work and study books. Over the course of the year pupils study a novel, a play, a selection of poetry and non-fiction texts.  Year 7s are introduced to Shakespeare through considering different interpretations of his work and drama. In year 8 the same approach is used but pupils are expected to respond in a more formal way writing literary essays or director’s comments.

Year 9-11

In year 9 pupils work hard on the skills they will need for iGCSE. They write a piece of coursework on a substantial text in preparation for the coursework element of the iGCSE course. Pupils are taught how to structure formal essays and write for different purposes.  Attention is also given to debating skills both through formal debates and more informal discussion.

Year 10 and 11:  In years 10 and 11 pupils follow CIE’s iGCSE syllabus for both English Language and English Literature. In Literature pupils read, interpret and evaluate texts. Pupils develop an understanding of literal meaning, relevant contexts and of the deeper themes or attitudes that may be expressed. Through their studies, they learn to recognise and appreciate the ways in which writers use English to achieve a range of effects.  The syllabus also encourages the exploration of wider and universal issues, promoting a better understanding of themselves and of the world around them. Texts are chosen from the traditional canon of literature, from the work of modern writers and from around the world. Candidates study a prose text, drama text and a selection of poetry. The two coursework texts and tasks may reflect the individual enthusiasms of staff and pupils.

In their study of English Language pupils are encouraged to read widely and write in different forms. A typical coursework portfolio may include a debate speech, travel or descriptive writing and a letter in response to a newspaper article. These different forms of writing require different uses of language. Pupils also develop their reading skills through reading and responding to texts in different ways. Pupils must comprehend a text as in a traditional comprehension task but for examination must also be able to develop on implied meaning present in the text.

Year 12-13

We offer two A levels in English; AQA’s English Language and Literature Spec A and CIE’s Literature in English. Studying English Literature allows pupils to evaluate their experiences and develop their opinions through a range of different texts.  The course and the methods of assessment; both coursework and exam encourage the development of skills such as: analysing, comparing, evaluating, structuring and supporting an argument.  The study of literature discusses the contexts of production of texts and the contexts of reception.  This makes us think about our role as readers as well as the authors’ role in writing.

A level English Language and Literature requires many of the same skills as Literature In English but also offers more opportunities for pupils to write creatively in response to texts, not just in essay form. This is a popular lively course for pupils who enjoyed both language and literature at GCSE. Students study literary texts; novels and poems in addition to transcripts of spoken language and representations of speech in texts.

After Durham

As the skills acquired are transferrable the study of literature can also aid the study of other academic subjects such as history, classics, art history and modern languages as well as possible degree courses in these subjects and psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, law and others. The course itself allows pupils to consider periods in history and consider different theoretical approaches to literature.


I love studying English at Durham School as it is the most fun subject here.  All of the teachers are so lovely and kind but at the same time you learn so many great things along the way that will help you in later life.  The teachers will help you reach your full potential and will always give you tips for you to improve!

Joe Brown, Year 8

The English Department at Durham School is truly exceptional.  The teachers are helpful, engaging and the loveliest people you could ever ask to teach you. They have inspired me to apply to study English at university and the support they have given me in achieving this aim has been indispensable.

Lexy Powell, Year 13

English A Level is extremely enjoyable but at the same time it provides me with valuable skills for university and beyond.  I love that the lessons are opportunities for discussion and group work to share our own ideas about poetry, plays and novels.  English lessons are made interative and interesting by the amazing English teachers at Durham School. 

Helen Clifford, Year 13

I really enjoy English at Durham School due to the variety of activities and possibilities there are.  Our teachers make every lesson fun and allow you to really express yourself. 

Ross Sime, Year 9

I haven’t been at Durham School very long but it won’t take anyone long to realise how good the teaching here is, it’s outstanding, especially in the English department. The interaction between teacher and pupil is excellent and you will never be able to stay in your comfort zone here at Durham School because the teachers will stretch you to your limit and beyond. I would like to thank the teachers here at Durham School for everything. 

Thomas Reynolds, Year 7

Personally I think English is exceptional. We work either as a team or individually on tasks. A team effort means lots of ideas and everyone gets their say and it challenges us to stretch our minds and brains. Individual work can be tough but fun. These tasks include essays and questions. 

Tadhg Burke, Year 7
Latest Tweet
Twitter Avatar Durham School