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.
Through the study of English Language and Literature pupils gain linguistic knowledge as well as historical, geographical, political, social and philosophical knowledge. Pupils are provided with equality of opportunity to achieve their full potential, academically, spiritually and socially whilst also understanding fundamental British values and appreciating the breadth of cultural diversity and values within Britain.
- To enrich the cultural, emotional and literary understanding of our pupils by exposing them to a diverse range of literary texts, which enable them to encounter and empathise with cultural, social, moral and historical contexts they may never otherwise come face to face with.
- To enable pupils to develop a thirst and passion for rigorous literary analysis through the study of literature in all its forms, from the canonical through to the contemporary.
- To encourage pupils to develop a love of reading widely and often, for pleasure as well as education.
- To give pupils the cultural capital and power to confidently express themselves in written and oral contexts.
We attach equal importance to developing students' skills in reading, writing and speaking and listening. Teachers regularly introduce concepts on a breadth of different texts which are then revisited throughout the course of study. Teachers seek to establish a dialogue with individual students to help them to assess their own progress, set goals and achieve them. The English department regularly assess using a range of formative strategies and summative assessment is used to inform and plan lessons to ensure progress. As a department we make the most of our resources and facilities through creative collaboration and consistency of approach and, in doing so, we aim to establish enthusiastic pupils of English and confident, independent readers and writers. Pupils participate in reading lessons and the school library is a valued resource. Furthermore pupils’ experiences are complemented by a wide programme of extra-curricular activities. These include theatre trips, visiting speakers and workshops, and involvement in Debate Mate and the Jack Petchey Award.
By the time pupils leave Notre Dame they will have read a variety of different kinds of texts, both fiction and non-fiction. They will also be fluent readers and confident writers and should be able to clearly express their opinion on a range of topics through the lexical set they would have developed in English lessons.
GCSE learners, in particular, will become critical thinkers who are able to analyse language and the structure of writing in detail.
Ultimately, the impact of our English curriculum will see our pupils leave to go to college or participate in apprenticeships, ultimately entering the world of work with the necessary communication and literacy skills to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable world.
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've been teaching at Notre Dame for 6 years and I'm proud to work in a school that is committed to social change and opportunity. At university, I studied English and Politics and I’m very passionate about both subjects. I run the “Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge!” at Notre Dame and we have recently enjoyed 3 years of incredible success in the competition. I look forward to getting some of you involved in Year 10.
I have loved reading since a young age. My favourite childhood book, the text that cemented my passion in this area, was undoubtedly 'Holes' by Louis Sachar. I adored the characters and slowly unfurling plot. I vividly remember reading it late into the night and first thing in the morning, unable to put it down!
In adulthood, Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' stands out. A fascinating critique of colonialism, it has provided food for thought years after I initially read it.
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!
Key Stage 3
All pupils study a varied curriculum at Key Stage Three. In each year pupils study a minimum of one novel, one play, a selection of poetry, a Shakespeare text, non-fiction and media texts as well as engaging in group and drama focused activities throughout the course. Each unit will build on the foundations of skills needed for key stage 4.
Year 10 and 11: GCSE
We follow the AQA Syllabus, Specification A. The curriculum enables pupils to study texts from the English Literary Heritage as well as modern texts and both twentieth century poetry and pre-nineteenth century poetry. All pupils are entered for GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature.
Mrs. J. Okosun
Head of English