Welcome to the English Department!
The Notre Dame English department is one of the most successful in the school. Our English teachers are passionate about the subject and deliver it in an interactive and exciting way.
St Julie Billiart said that we should teach our students “what is necessary for life.” In English lessons we believe this means that students should study the best that has been said and thought. We also believe that our students should have access to a curriculum that reflects the wonderful diversity of life at Notre Dame. The two are not mutually exclusive. Books create belonging. It matters profoundly that the books our students read in their formative years reflect the rich diversity of the school we inhabit and the mission for social justice of the Sisters of Notre Dame.
In KS3 students study a spiral curriculum where we return to the key writers and literary periods each year. Each text is carefully chosen so that, over the three years, we provide students with the opportunity to study some of the most challenging content. By the end of KS4 pupils will have studied four Shakespeare plays in-depth and a selection of classic texts, poems and plays. The sequencing of English is carefully planned so that, by the time the new cohort of students arrives in 2022 and we have added the final units to the curriculum, we will begin each year with the foundations of storytelling, moving on chronologically through to Shakespeare, the Romantics, Victorians and modern texts each year. This allows us to make connections not only chronologically throughout the year but between texts studied in different years to help students to retain more of what they learn. Students are taught to understand literary periods and movements, the relationship between texts and their historical context, and the process of intertextuality that forms the discipline of English at A-level and beyond.
Most English lessons include an opportunity for extended writing. During this silent time, students can receive feedback at the point of action rather than in written comments added days later when work has been forgotten. This live feedback allows teachers to respond to and direct students in real time, correct misunderstandings as they occur and prompt students to consider new ways forward.
The school library is the beating heart of the English department. Pupils look forward to their reading lessons in the library and events celebrating literature that reflect the diverse backgrounds of the students are often over-subscribed. We also regularly take students to the Globe Theatre as part of the Deutsche Bank Playing Shakespeare initiative. Debate Mate and the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge are key ways we develop oral literacy across the school.
Students leave Notre Dame thoughtful and perceptive readers and confident, fluent writers. The English department is one of the strongest in the school, and in the borough. Our examination results speak for themselves. In 2022 we achieved:
English Language, Grades 9-4 - 81%
English Literature, Grades 9-4 - 82%
Some of our further successes can be viewed in the below document
Meet the Teachers
Hello, My name is Mr Charalambos. I studied English & American Literature at Brunel University and I have been at Notre Dame for over seven years. As you might have guessed from the name there is a Greek connection, so I am really looking forward to teaching you Homer’s classic tale the Odyssey, following the adventures of Odysseus. I love stories from the ancient world as it reminds me of my father and his story telling of mythical creatures and fierce beasts. I hope you will join me at our weekly program, Debate Mate, where you can learn the art of debating and improve your communication skills.
My favourite Writers
On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac
On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States. It is considered a defining work of the post-war Beat and Counterculture generations, with its protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz and poetry. The novel, published in 1957, the idea for On the Road, Kerouac's second novel, was formed during the late 1940s in a series of notebooks, and then typed out on a continuous reel of paper during three weeks in April 1951.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) Play by Tennessee" Williams
An American classic, Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which premiered in 1955, has since become a classic of the American stage. Through the creation of such iconic characters as the wealthy southern patriarch, Big Daddy, his middle-aged football hero son, Brick, and Brick's beautiful but frustrated wife, Maggie (a.k.a. Maggie-the-Cat), Williams examines the bitterness that comes with being untruthful, the complexities of family life, the disappointments of aging, and pain of confronting one's own mortality.
The Happy Prince by writer and playwright Oscar Wilde
The Happy Prince and Other Tales (sometimes called The Happy Prince and Other Stories) is a collection of stories for children by Oscar Wilde first published in May 1888. It contains five stories: "The Happy Prince", "The Nightingale and the Rose", "The Selfish Giant", "The Devoted Friend", and "The Remarkable Rocket".
In a town where a lot of poor people suffer and where there are a lot of miseries, a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt for the winter, meets the statue of the late "Happy Prince," who in reality has never experienced true sorrow, for he lived in a palace where sorrow was not allowed to enter. Viewing various scenes of people suffering in poverty from his tall monument, the Happy Prince asks the swallow to take the ruby from his hilt, the sapphires from his eyes, and the golden leaf covering his body to give to the poor.
I am Miss Johnson and I have taught at Notre Dame for 20 years. I have always been a prolific reader and read English Literature at degree level. During lockdown, I read 3 books a week! I believe that reading unlocks a whole world of language and imagination.
As a very young child, my favourite books were the Ladybird books which I still hold affection for when I see the old covers.
At primary school my favourite book - which I read more than once - was ‘Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier.
As a teenager, a book that transported me to the 17th century was ‘Forever Amber’ by Kathleen Winsor. This instilled in me an interest in historical fiction and I read it at lest three times when I was at secondary school.
Hi, I’m Ms Zwies. I teach English and Media Studies. I’m originally from New Zealand, but I’ve lived in London for 12 years now. My favourite texts to teach are poetry and Shakespeare because I enjoy exploring the language and deeper meanings with students.
My favourite genre to read is magical realism – in these books you can expect surreal, strange and unexplained things to happen. One of my favourite books, 'Kafka on the Shore' by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, has a talking cat and fish falling from the sky! It follows the intertwining stories of Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging man called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction.
A book that I have re-read over and over again is ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen. It is a story of second chances which may lead to life-long love and happiness. Captain Wentworth, the hero of the story, writes the most romantic letter to the heroine in which he declares: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” This wonderful romance was written in 1817 and still feels modern today.
My favourite book when I was a younger was 'The Little White Horse' by Elizabeth Goudge. It follows the adventures of Maria Merryweather in Moonacre Valley - if you like fantasy, adventure and strong female characters you will enjoy this book!