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Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity
- G.K. Chesterton

English at The Oratory promotes intellectual curiosity and encourages our pupils to explore the deeper mysteries of the human condition, in harmony with the school’s Catholic ethos.

We aim to promote a real love of literature and an appreciation of imaginative, original and expressive writing.


Beyond the course

English Literature is a highly regarded A Level that can take pupils on to many courses of study. With its emphasis on analysis, essay writing, communication and debate, it is an excellent choice for Arts and Humanities subjects such as History, Classics, Languages, Drama and Theatre Studies. It can also open doors for those considering careers in industries such as journalism, media, publishing, teaching, politics, business and law.


English at The Oratory promotes intellectual curiosity and encourages our pupils to explore the deeper mysteries of the human condition, in harmony with the school’s Catholic ethos. We aim to promote a real love of literature and an appreciation of imaginative, original and expressive writing.

Our rigorous syllabus spans the full breadth of literature, offering the opportunity to explore the greatest achievements of the traditional literary canon as well as examine innovative modern works.

The Department works closely with Curriculum Support in order to assist individual pupils with their English so that every pupil enjoys an equal entitlement to aspire and to achieve regardless of their ability level or age.

Miss Catherine Curran - Head of English

Follow English on Twitter @Oratory_English


Lower School
Throughout Forms 1st to 3rd, we expand pupils’ literary knowledge through exploring a range of genres and literary movements alongside building the technical foundations for GCSE and later life. The Department focuses on developing pupils’ abilities to communicate effectively and accurately as well as understanding, analysing and evaluating the spoken and written word.

Pupils are currently studying Myths and Legends: Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Animal Farm, Oliver Twist, Journey’s End, The Gothic and The Woman in Black. We also teach a wide variety of poetry to each year group, both traditional and modern. In the Summer Term each year group studies a Shakespeare play such as Henry IV Part I, The Tempest or Twelfth Night and there is an opportunity to see a live performance at The Globe.

We are keen to foster intellectual curiosity beyond the syllabus and so our pupils complete an Independent Reading Project, enter National Young Writers’ Competitions and our very own Oratory Short Story Competition.

Edexcel IGCSE English Language and English Literature  
We offer two qualifications: IGCSE English Language and English Literature. For both qualifications 60% of the course is externally examined and 40% is internally assessed through written coursework. Throughout the GCSE years we continue to develop the reading and writing skills learnt at KS3 as well as to continue to inculcate a love of reading and an interest in English language and literature in all its forms.

Edexcel International GCSE in English Language 9-1 (4EA1)
Throughout the 4th and 5th Form pupils will learn to read critically and use knowledge gained from their wider reading to inform and improve their own writing styles. We inspire them to acquire and apply a wide vocabulary alongside improving their knowledge and application of grammatical terminology, which now forms a large part of the reformed GCSEs. At the core of the course is a diverse anthology of poetry, prose and non-fiction provided by the exam board, which forms a platform from which we can explore English language. It is important that pupils continue to develop their love of reading and commit to reading widely in their personal time to support their learning in the classroom.

Course content


Non-fiction Texts and Transactional Writing

Section A - Reading: a mixture of short- and long-answer questions related to a non-fiction texts from Part 1 of the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE English Anthology and one previously unseen non-fiction extract.

Section B - Transactional Writing: one writing task involving a given audience, form or purpose.

Examination (60%)

2 hours 15 minutes

Poetry and Prose Texts and Imaginative Writing

Assignment A – Reading: One 30-mark essay question based on any two poetry or prose texts from Part 2 of the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE English Anthology, including a 6-mark commentary

Assignment B - Writing: one 30-mark Imaginative Writing task.

Coursework (40%)


Edexcel International GCSE in English Literature 9-1 (4ET1)
Pupils engage with and develop the ability to read, understand, and respond to a wide range of literary texts from around the world, as well as developing an appreciation of writers’ craft and the ways in which literary effects are achieved. We hope that by exploring various genres and cultures, they will not only enjoy the set texts but understand the influence of literature on individuals and societies. Trips and visits to the theatre as well as National Theatre: Live screenings are commonplace and help to bring texts alive for the pupils.

Course content


Poetry and Modern Prose

Section A - Unseen Poetry: one 20-mark essay question exploring the meaning and effects created in an unseen poem.

Section B - Anthology Poetry: one 30-mark essay question from a choice of two, comparing two poems from Part 3 of the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE English Anthology.

Section C - Modern Prose: one 40-mark essay question from a choice of two on your set text. This year we chose Of Mice and Men. Closed book exam.

Examination (60%)

2 hours

Modern Drama and Literary Heritage Texts

Assignment A – Modern Drama: one essay response on the studied text. This year we chose An Inspector Calls.

Assignment B – Literary Heritage Texts: one essay response on the studied text. This year we chose Macbeth.

Coursework (40%)


A Level
English Literature A Level offers the opportunity to explore some of the finest pieces of literature, as well as to examine lesser known works such as Poems of the Decade. The Edexcel syllabus is notable for the breadth of experience it offers. Pupils will analyse plays, novels and poems emerging from a variety of genres and spanning many centuries, in order to gain an appreciation of how traditions and culture have continually shaped literature.

Throughout the course, there is an emphasis on lively discussion and debate as well as producing a convincing written argument. Pupils will be expected to read widely in order to explore critical standpoints. The course encourages pupils to look at contrasts and connections across texts, whilst also considering the huge range of historical, social and literary contexts which may have influenced writers. Pupils undertake independent study in the coursework component, in which they create their own question on an area of interest for the two linking texts in the Faith and Modernity unit.

There are a variety of enrichment opportunities during the A Level course, including theatre performances in London and Stratford, National Theatre Live screenings, attending lecture days in London, essay competitions and listening to eminent guest speakers.

Course content



Paper 1 (30%)

• one Shakespeare play (Tragedy or Comedy) including specified critical essays on the chosen Shakespeare play
 • a second play from the Tragedy or Comedy collection


2 hours 15 minutes, open book examination




Paper 2 (20%)

• two thematically linked novels, at least one of which will be pre-1900. This year we have focused on ‘Science and Society’


1 hour 15, open book examination


Paper 3 (30%)

• an unseen poem together with a selection of post-2000 poetry from the ‘Poems of the Decade’ Anthology provided by Edexcel

• a range of poetry from a specified literary period or named poet


2 hours 15 minutes, open book examination

Coursework  (2500-3000 words)




Students of English at The Oratory are encouraged to challenge themselves outside the classroom, by being involved in initiatives such as the Man Booker and Carnegie Shadowing Schemes as well as external poetry and essay competitions.

We offer a wide range of enrichment opportunities for all ages and run a number of societies including The Oratory Book Club, Sixth Form Literary Society, The Oratorian Magazine Society, Creative Writing Club, Film Club and Linguistic Society.

The Department is committed to making the study of English come to life for pupils and so we take each year group on theatre trips and National Theatre Live screenings, as well as inviting in Guest Speakers to give lectures and seminars.

Reading List