English is simply the most important subject of all through most of the secondary education period, because it is used to do all the other subjects too. It is the biggest help for all exams, and all higher education and training. Its importance in modern bureaucratic society is enormous, so much so that to be poorly equipped in English is a modern disability and very serious one.
In the UK today 40% of young people leave school at 16 functionally illiterate. This is a national disgrace because it is not that complicated to teach the basics even with a student who finds English challenging. British employers say that young people cannot read and write enough to get the jobs on offer.
First College graduates do not have these problems. English is always a Required subject taught with two hours tuition a week until IGCSE when it splits into English Language and Literature.
Students are taught a very strict standard of formal written English, including formal standards of quoting, research, answering questions in full sentences, and never using any short forms at all. Essays are taught in a lego-like step by step method which makes each step easy to do.
The most common reason why we block a student moving up a level is inadequate skills in English.
All materials necessary are provided throughout for English Language.IGCSE exam level Literature requires two DVD films and optionally two paperback books.
NOTE ON SPELLING Our policy is not to make a big fuss about spelling.
Spelling is something that depends largely on natural talent. Painful drills and boring exercises do little good for those who lack it, except to distress the student by convincing them they are inferior.
The brain mainly absorbs spelling by simply seeing correctly spelled words, over and over again. How efficiently the brain does this varies a lot depending on the individual. But the more a young person reads, the better their spelling will be.
Reading can be gaming related, or anything the young person is willing to read, such as comics. Parents can do a great deal to help in this area by accepting and supporting what the student wants to read.
In our English teaching we have a shortlist of the most common items which do tend to stand out because they crop up frequently so they make writing appear as 'bad English.' Examples are ITS, HERE/ HEAR and the apostrophe, This core list is kept small, and covered regularly. Ability to write an answer or essay, without these common mistakes spattered throughout means the writing then gives a reasonably good impression. These few items do affect how we give grades.
It is essential that the most struggling or resistant student is made to understand that this handful of items MUST be learned, and used properly.
Other less common words are corrected in marking, but without comment, so as to demonstrate the correct version and help the brain notice. This wider range of words corrected does not affect grades.
FIRST CLASS (Junior + Assessment class) 2 hours weekly.
At this level the English requirements are minimal - but vital.
We want to see correct use of capital letters and full stops.
The student is strictly taught to use much shorter, simpler sentences to avoid rambling muddle and grammar complications. A basic use of paragraphs is trained.
All slang and all short forms, including instances such as 'I'm,' 'didn't,' are banned from homework.
Answers to questions must be written in fully formed sentences.
Formal quoting is taught which prepares for more advanced work, but also clarifies what exactly is the difference between research and plagiarism.
We train a thorough preparation for essays which breaks them down into a step by step technique. This deals with the frequent 'essay panic' many experience by feeling lost, without a structure to follow. But with clear steps to follow each task is small and manageable.
The aim is 250 words of clearly organised English.
The greatest study barrier at this stage is learning to check work over to thoroughly check all the above are covered. We give exercises in doing this in its own right.
In addition to the above 'nuts and bolts' students do some lively work in comprehension on news articles, poems and stories. There is also a Storytelling hour which looks at how stories are created and discusses them.
SENIORS (Intermediate) 2 hours weekly.
At this level all the items of First Class are reinforced and extended. The above rules are applied more strictly.
The art of analysing questions and building answers from the question itself is taught.
There is more emphasis on preparation of structured essays, and presenting research. Report and review writing, and business letters are covered.
Interpretation of language is explored, including persuasiion and subtext. Literary forms are explained and exercised.
Longer items of text are examined: news articles, speeches, stories and reviews. More than anything we push for critical thinking, logic, and clear explanation.
The same technique of essay writing is continued, with a target wordcount of 500.
The skill of story writing is explored, and short items of literature: examples are poems, and excerpts from Brave New World, and The Machine.
The art of summary, both precis and paraphrase, is taught.
SCHOLARS (IGCSE Exams) 1 hour weekly
At this level we prepare for the IGCSE exams.
English splits into English Language, and Literature. English homework becomes lengthy, between 1.5 hours and 2 hours a week.
The English Language exam requires firstly preparation of 20 texts so that questions on them can be answered in depth, with close accuracy.
The 20 texts are provided in documents by us. They include news items, information articles, excerpts from books of fiction, and poems. The student must answer questions logically, and clearly, showing a confident grasp of the text, without waffle. Training in formal quotation is given and required in many answers.
Secondly the student needs to cope with answering questions on an unseen passage, but using comprehension skills learned in the set texts. These skills by the time of the exam have become very familiar.
Thirdly the student must learn to write essays in the strict style we have already trained al along. The classic three types of essay are trained: Description, Narrative, and Argument, with their different structures. The three Voices are practised.
The arts of summary both precis and paraphrase, is revisited.
Note taking from a voiced lecture is practised.
Finally at this level we also teach exam timing.