The English Department

The English department at Putney High School is a popular and academically successful department.

We encourage our students to read as wide a variety of literature as possible. We seek to develop girls' own skills in expression and in the different types of writing. For study, we offer a full collection of texts from a range of cultures, genres and times and at all levels we aim to promote an understanding of the contexts - social, historical, political, philosophical and spiritual - in which words have been written.

Our students’ own writing and a sense of their own 'voice', is always encouraged and as a result students have been successful in many competitions. We have published and practising authors within the department and we hope to inspire by example, encouraging the writing of poetry and prose in and out of class. Miss Sharp's Poetry Walks in London, for example, are a way of joining with the girls in the act of writing outside of the four walls of the English classroom. Then there’s Anonymous, a popular creative writing group in which girls have enjoyed taking creative risks and enjoying the artistic freedom of writing under pseudonyms. More formal opportunities exist too and we have a poetry festival every year in which girls read their poems and have their work celebrated by friends, family and a renowned judge. 

Due to our geographical location, we try to make use of all that London has to offer: live performances, workshops, readings and lectures. We seize every opportunity to see plays in production, especially when there is the chance to see set texts in performance. This year productions seen have included The Globe's Anthony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Riverside's Othello where our sixth form also took part in an actor-led workshop on performance that fed in brilliantly to their coursework

Extension activities are available for those wishing to deepen their literary knowledge and we study a breadth of literature, encouraging students to engage with different texts in a variety of ways. We have several reading groups. Mostly these were breakfast meetings with early morning refreshments and texts ranged from short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Tolstoy to Charles Dickens and W. H. Auden. We have discussed broader issues such as kindle or paper bindings and the current trend in children's fiction to deal with dark subject matter and Gothic themes.

Our recent Activities Week showed that cross-curricular links are thriving. For instance, our Year 9s partnered with the Art and DT departments to explore memories of childhood. Our girls curated an interdisciplinary exhibition of their own work on that theme. With Year 7, a visit to the Foundling Museum and Coram Fields included a discussion with children's author Jamilla Gavin, whose novel they had studied, a workshop from the music department on Handel and creative writing based on their experiences.   

In fact the English department is always looking for ways for students to apply their literary skills outside the classroom and without boundaries. For example this year, Year 7 have written children's stories and read them to girls in Year 1 and for Year 9, this year 'doing Shakespeare' has meant animating and filming Macbeth or other Shakespeare plays using techniques ranging from shadow puppetry to plasticine modelling and stop-frame animation.

Key Stage 4

Our pupils study the Cambridge IGCSE First Language English and English Literature.

These courses require students to study a range of texts in depth, to write for a range of purposes and audiences, to analyse the use of language, form and structure in a variety of material and to continue to develop their own writing skills. A variety of speaking and listening tasks encourages students to speak confidently, argue powerfully and listen intelligently.

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