English at all levels revolves around the three key skills of reading, writing and speaking and listening: skills for success in life, rather than merely in examinations. The English department has a long and vibrant history of innovation, creativity and exceptionally high achievement, aiming to inspire and motivate boys by sharing with them a love of the very best literature from around the world. Students will study an enormous range of poetry, drama and prose, exploring the parameters of human experience through reading, writing and discussion with teachers who are passionate and imaginative professionals. In Drama, students will explore the world of performance and stagecraft, including speech and movement, direction and backstage work.
In the first three years of English study, from Years 7-9, we aim to enthuse your son with the endless possibilities of literature in English. He will study an enormous range of texts in these years: from Chaucer in translation to the latest West End play, via Shakespeare and Steinbeck and Orwell, as well as many others. Teachers are encouraged to respond to their classes’ interests in choosing texts for study: there is a departmental stock of more than 10,000 books to challenge and extend the interests of every age group, to stimulate critical response and to encourage reading. All classes in Years 7-9 have regular timetabled lessons in the excellent School Library, to encourage students to read for pleasure and to offer sessions on research skills.
The writing process often begins with reading, and ideas are teased out, developed and challenged through discussion and debate in pairs, groups and as a whole class. Fostering students’ skill in using the English language forms a crucial part of the curriculum, and literacy skills are taught both implicitly and explicitly; students are encouraged to plan their work carefully before writing and check and improve their work meticulously after writing, and teachers mark for literacy in students’ written work. Results at GCSE are exceptional, with 99% of boys receiving A* or A for English Language and 95% for English Literature; in both subjects, nearly two-thirds of boys received the top grade possible. In years 10 and 11, all boys follow IGCSE courses in English Language and English Literature with a folder of coursework and examinations set by CIE. Coursework is also a vital component of the specifications for OCR English Literature at AS and A2 level, and boys are encouraged to read a wide array of criticism relating to the set texts for examinations. The School also offers AQA English Language as an A-Level, which allows boys to investigate areas of linguistic interest and produce professional quality pieces of original writing. Last year, 86% of boys received A* or A for Literature A-level, and 12 students went on to pursue English-related degrees at universities as diverse as Oxford, Edinburgh, KCL, Leeds and Trinity Dublin.
To broaden the boys’ interest, the department offers an array of co-curricular activities, which in recent years have included residential creative writing trips and school-based competitions, performance poetry competitions and theatre trips, among many other opportunities. Many of the boys are debaters, often succeeding at the highest level in national competitions. The School LitSoc, organised and run by Sixth Form students in collaboration with teaching staff, manage a lively programme of visiting writers, performers and speakers, with events open to all students. There is also a thriving culture of creative, critical and journalistic writing in the school; the English Department magazine, ‘Scribe’, and the School magazine, ‘Skylark’, features original pieces by a variety of students and staff.
Habs has a long history of producing plays of exceptionally high standards and senior students regularly have the opportunity to perform on the Edinburgh Fringe. Recent productions have included “Amadeus”, “Antigone”, “Around The World in Eighty Days” and “Romeo and Juliet”. There are three major Co-curricular productions a year involving the Senior, Middle and Junior schools, a weekly Drama Club for boys in Years 7 and 8, as well as annual House Drama Competitions for all boys.
All boys in Year 7 and 8 take Drama for half a term as part of the School’s Key Skills course. Drama can be taken as an option in Year 9 and again at GCSE in Years 10 and 11. Theatre Studies at AS and A2 level is also offered in the Sixth Form. Boys who opt to take the subject at examination level, study all aspects of practical theatre from the perspective of the director, designer and actor including the principles of lighting, sound, set design, costume and make-up.
The boys are well aware of the value of Drama in providing transferable skills (in presentation and communication; resilience and confidence; creative thinking and teamwork) which are relevant in all careers from Law to Medicine, from Engineering to Business. Boys who study Drama (many of them up to A Level) go on to study a wide range of courses at universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. Recent Drama students have taken up courses in Maths, Medicine, Law, English, Politics and History. The Department comprises three specialist teachers, one of whom is the Lead Teacher for Academic Drama, a Head of Performance Drama, and a Theatre Technician who provides expert support as well as overseeing set construction and prop-making for Drama lessons and School productions. The department also appoints annually a graduate Director-in-Residence who assists in all aspects of co-curricular Drama.
The department takes full advantage of its proximity to London and there is a considerable programme of visits to plays in the West End, the South Bank and Stratford-Upon-Avon for boys studying Drama at all levels.