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English plays a key role in promoting intellectual curiosity and academic attainment across the curriculum.

The philosophy of the English Department at The Oratory is to encourage a love of literature and an appreciation of imaginative, original, and expressive writing.


Beyond the course

English Literature is a highly regarded A Level, which can take students 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, and Drama and Theatre Studies. It can also open doors for those considering careers in industries such as Journalism, Media, Publishing, Teaching, Politics, or Business.


The English Department at The Oratory School is housed on top floor of the Morey building and the rooms command idyllic views of the school grounds and of rural Berkshire. The setting offers a civilised atmosphere which is conducive to the discussion and open enquiry that is characteristic of our subject. Our classrooms are well resourced with interactive whiteboards, full audio, and visualizers to aid creative teaching. We use a variety of approaches and texts in our teaching and while, we keep high academic expectations, we are also sensitive to the individual needs of our pupils.

We are lucky that the members of the department all have their own areas of subject expertise, while remaining experienced and grounded classroom practitioners. Our teachers take an active part in the co-curricular life of the school, contributing to creative writing, the school magazine, debating, and leading many trips and visits outside of school, as well as welcoming authors and speakers. This year the Department was proud to sponsor the Henley Literary Festival and to lead the delivery of the creative writing workshops.

Miss Catherine Curran - Head of English


Current Junior School Curriculum

1st Form


Poetry ballads


2nd Form

Creative writing

The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Nature Poetry


3rd Form

Dystopian Literature

Conflict Poetry

The 19th Century Novel

ShakespeareIGCSE English Language and English Literature – Edexcel

We offer two qualifications: English Language and English Literature. They are assessed separately and allow for two separate grades and certificates. Most of the boys take both qualifications, although a small number prefer to focus solely on the English Language qualification. 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)

Across the Fifth form students 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 an anthology of poetry, prose and non-fiction provided by the exam board,  which forms a platform from which we can explore English language in all its forms. It is important that the boys 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 on why these texts were selected.

Assignment B - Writing: one 30-mark imaginative writing task.

Coursework (40%)














Edexcel International GCSE in English Literature 9-1 (4ET1)

Throughout the Fifth Form, 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 the ways in which writers achieve their literary effects. We hope that, by exploring, through literature, the cultures of their own and other societies, they will find enjoyment in reading various set texts, as well as being able to read with an increasingly critical eye. Trips and visits to the theatre as well as NT:Live screenings are commonplace and help to bring texts alive for the students.


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.

This is a closed book exam. Only copies of the poems for Section A and B are provided.

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%)
















Sixth Form

English Literature A Level offers the opportunity to explore some of the greatest achievements in the literary canon, as well as examine lesser known works. The Edexcel syllabus has been designed for the breadth of experience it offers. Pupils will analyse plays, novels and poems emerging from a variety of genres and spanning across 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. Students will be expected to read widely in order to explore critical standpoints. The course encourages students 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. Students undertake independent study in the coursework component, where two linking texts can be selected from any genre. This gives them the opportunity to write on an area of interest ranging from Satire to Dystopian Literature. There are a variety of enrichment opportunities during the A Level course, including National Theatre Live screenings, going to the RSC in Stratford, attending lecture days in London, essay competitions and hearing 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



1 hour, 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)




Beyond the course: English Literature is a highly regarded A Level, which can take students 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, and 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.


Lower School Book Club – Tuesday lunchtime

Exploring lots of exciting novels together through reading and discussing ideas, as well as acting out scenes and watching film adaptations!

Tolkien Literary Society

The Tolkien Society is the school’s Sixth Form Literary Society. It is named after the novelist and old Oratorian, Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R Tolkien, who was famed for the epic Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Throughout the year, we will take part in a number of literary and social events to suit a variety of interests. These will range from lively discussions about books to spoken word nights, film screenings, theatre visits and even organising a Fitzgerald-esque Gatsby Ball. If you are interested in broadening your mind and encountering writing and ideas from the most classic to the most contemporary of writers, then this is the society for you.

Reading List


Aldous Huxley -  Brave New World

George Orwell - Animal Farm

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

Bram Stoker - Dracula

R.L. Stevenson - Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre

Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights

Jane Austen - Emma/Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Gaskell - North and South

Thomas Hardy - Far From the Madding Crowd

Laurie Lee - Cider with Rosie

Graham Greene – Brighton Rock

Charles Dickens - Great Expectations / David Copperfield

Jules Verne - Around the World in Eighty Days

William Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice / Twelfth Night

William Golding – Lord of the Flies

American Classics

F Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

Mark Twain – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men / The Pearl

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird

Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea

Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

JD Salinger – Catcher in the Rye

Modern Classics

Yann Martel - Life of Pi

Dodie Smith - I Capture the Castle

Marcus Zusak - The Book Thief

Maya Angelou - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Antoine De Saint-Exupery – The Little Prince


PG Wodehouse - Jeeves and Wooster

Jerome K Jerome - Three Men in a Boat

Evelyn Waugh - Decline and Fall / Scoop

Mystery / Thriller

John Buchan - The Thirty-Nine Steps

Ian Fleming - Casino Royale

Susan Hill - The Woman in Black

Daphne Du Maurier – Jamaica Inn / Rebecca

RL Stevenson – Kidnapped

Arthur Conan Doyle – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Fantasy / Science-Fiction

Frank Herbert - Dune

JRR Tolkien - The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Douglas Adams  - The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

HG Wells - War of the Worlds

John Wyndam - Day of the Triffids

Brian Jacques – Redwall

Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising

Jostein Gaarder – The Solitaire Mystery

Terry Pratchett – The Discworld Series


JG Ballard - Empire of the Sun

Erich Maria-Remarque - All Quiet on the Western Front

Michelle Magorian – Goodnight Mister Tom

Michael Ondaatje – The English Patient

Adeline Yen Mah - Chinese Cinderella


Alexandre Dumas - The Three Musketeers / The Count of Monte Cristo

Geoffrey Trease – Cue for Treason

Susan Cooper – King of Shadows

Jamila Gavin – Coram Boy

Kevin Crossley-Holland – Arthur and the Seeing Stone

Ian Serraillier – The Silver Sword

Jack London – The Call of the Wild

Sir Walter Scott – Ivanhoe

Rosemary Sutcliffe – The Eagle of the Ninth

Ann Holm – I Am David

Judith Kerr - When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Anne Frank – Diary of a Young Girl