If you reflect on the novels and films where a teacher is the hero, or at least an important character, you will see just how often this figure turns out to be a teacher of English. Now, this may well be because the creators of such works were pretty good at English at school, maybe even spending some time teaching their favourite subject before becoming successful writers, but there is, perhaps, something in the idea that English teachers tend to be particularly inspiring figures.
In the English Department at St. Catherine's, we may not be the heroes of narratives on the page or screen, but we do harbour some hope that we will remain in the mind when schooldays are ended – remembered for passing on some of our own knowledge and love of a language and literature of unparalleled richness. A taste of what we do to bring this about may be had by roaming around this website.
Mr Jonathan Worthen: Head of Department MA(Oxon), PGCE (Oxon)
Has taught in both the state and independent sectors. Literary interests are diverse, rooted in the classic canon of Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer, and ranging through writers as varied as the Metaphysical poets, Doctor Johnson, the Romantic poets, Jane Austen, Orwell, Larkin and Kingsley Amis. Occasionally chooses a Stephen King for bedtime reading, and, as is the case with King, Amis and Orwell, finds the English language a subject of continuing fascination.
Mrs Hannah Simcock: Second in Department BA (Oxon), PGCE (Sussex)
Taught English as a second language in Spain and China prior to joining St. Catherine’s. Current literary heroes are Jane Austen, Chimamanda Ngozie Adiche, E M Forster, C J Sansom and Sally Rooney. Cannot walk past a second-hand bookshop without buying at least a couple more novels. Reads fiction for enjoyment and relaxation every day, curates an ever-growing reading list, and is always open to recommendations of new titles and authors.
Mrs Sophie Hay: BA (Hons) (Kent), PGCE (Canterbury Christ Church)
Started teaching at St. Catherine's in 2010 and is now Musgrave Housemistress. Loves literature in all its forms but main areas of interest include Shakespeare, Keats, Hardy, Dickens, and Modernist Literature. Takes particular enjoyment from reading and teaching an appreciation of poetry, as well as seeing the works of the bard performed at The Globe.
Mrs Deborah Kitchen: BA (Oxon), PGDip
Joined the English Department at St Catherine’s in 2014: a change in career direction from legal practice. Thoroughly enjoys sharing her interest in the intricacies of language with others and has a particular regard for the social commentary of Dickens, as well as the poetry of World War I. Enjoys spending time with family, reading historical fiction, and has taken up the saxophone again, after a break of many years.
Ms Louise Robson: BA (Hons), PGCE (Distinction) Hull
Has taught since 1997 in both state and private sectors; previously employed as Head of English at the British School of Barcelona, Spain. Areas of literary interest and specialisms include post-colonial literature, Romanticism, twentieth century drama and the Gothic tradition.
Other teaching staff:
Mrs Elizabeth Kermode, (Teacher of English & Psychology)
Mrs Sarah Small (Teacher of English & Academic Mentoring)
Mrs Caroline Warren (Teacher of English & Head of Academic Mentoring)
Miss Grace Whittingham (Teacher of English & Classics)
Examination Board: Cambridge International Examinations
Why study English?
A Level English Literature is a very popular academic subject, highly regarded by universities and employers in a variety of careers.
It is a good companion to studies in History and in Languages both Ancient and Modern, though it may profitably be taken in conjunction with a range of subjects in both the Humanities and Sciences. Like any academic subject, English naturally makes demands upon those who study it: you should come prepared to work diligently, to read both extensively and with close attention to detail, to think hard, and to discuss your ideas in the classroom and beyond. The rewards lie in the enriching of your mind that comes with encountering a variety of great literature, in the sharpening of your ability to express yourself clearly and coherently in speech and writing, and in the sheer pleasure that reading and discussion provide. By the end of the course, the books you have read, discussed and written about will ideally be part of an unfolding lifetime’s enjoyment of literature.
The L6 of 2019-2020 are taking two AS Level papers, one on poetry and prose, and one on drama. The set texts on the former paper are Howards End and selected poems from the CIE anthology Songs of Ourselves Volume 2. The drama set texts are Much Ado About Nothing and All My Sons.
The U6 of 2019-2020 are taking one A Level examination paper on The Winter’s Tale and Northanger Abbey. There is also a coursework paper, for which the girls write an essay on each of two texts: the combinations will be Doctor Faustus and Heart of Darkness for two of the three teaching groups, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Great Gatsby for the third group.
The full A Level course, therefore, requires the detailed study of eight texts, covering drama, poetry and prose, and ranging across several centuries.
NB: The AS Level is carried forward to contribute to the A Level.
AS Level: Two two-hour papers. These same two papers make up 50% of the full A Level.
A Level: One two-hour paper and two coursework essays, each of about 1500 words.
Examination Board: Cambridge International Examinations
CIE English Language IGCSE and English Literature IGCSE are taken by all girls.
English Language (Syllabus 0990, First Language English)
There are two examination papers, each of two hours:
- Paper 1 (Reading) consists of three unseen prose passages, which provide the material for short-answer comprehension questions, summary, language analysis, and extended writing.
- Paper 2 (Directed Writing and Composition) consists of a piece of directed writing (e.g., letter, report, journal entry, interview) based on two unseen prose passages, and a creative writing composition of a narrative or descriptive kind.
English Literature (Syllabus 0992, Literature in English)
Again, there are two examination papers, each of one and a half hours. Each paper consists of two essays, each essay on a different text:
- Paper 1 (Poetry and Prose) comprises the CIE Poetry Anthology (fifteen poems by different poets ranging across a period of about two centuries) and Orwell’s 1984.
- Paper 2 (Drama) comprises Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy.
Both IGCSE courses are taught concurrently, with each one assisting the other. The courses are taught over the two years of the L5 and U5 (Years 10 and 11), both for public examination at the end of the second year.
Work in the Middle School years (U3, L4 and U4, Years 7-9) can be divided into three areas: literature, writing, and grammar/language work. All of these are designed to make the girls ready to tackle their IGCSE courses in the L5 and U5 (Years 10 and 11) and to lay a strong foundation for work at A Level.
From the U3 onwards, the girls are gradually introduced to major authors and literary texts, including Shakespeare (our own Shakespeare anthology in the U3, and a complete play in each of the years above), Jane Austen, Chaucer and Dickens. Poetry, drawn from a range of poets and periods, in a variety of forms and dealing with various themes, is studied in each year. In the U4 especially, teaching is designed to lead up to the two years of the IGCSE course.
Throughout the Middle School Years, girls are taught to have a regular concern to achieve clarity, correctness and coherence in all their writing. The types of composition to be taught and practised include writing that explains, describes, evokes, narrates, reflects, expresses thoughts and feelings, advances and opposes arguments, persuades and analyses. Naturally, the level of complexity in each of these will increase each year. The norm is handwritten work in exercise books, but, at the teacher’s discretion, some writing may be typed and printed off by pupils for sticking into exercise books or for display purposes. Our overall aim is that the essentials of good writing are grasped securely before the IGCSE courses begin.
We teach our own course in grammar, punctuation and correct usage, which aims to cover the essentials in these areas by the end of Middle School. In the U3, we teach the following: noun, pronoun and verb; subject, verb and direct object; full stop, question mark, exclamation mark, comma, apostrophe and inverted commas; and various fundamental aspects of correct usage. In the L4 and U4, the previous work is consolidated and revised, and the following are added: adjective, adverb, conjunction and preposition; main clause and subordinate clause; active and passive voice; colon and semi-colon; and further fundamentals of correct usage.