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I Am Known: I Am More


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

English at The Oratory promotes intellectual curiosity and encourages our students to explore the deeper mysteries of the human condition.

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


Oratory English

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


Lower School
Throughout Forms 1st to 3rd, we expand students’ 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 students’ abilities to communicate effectively and accurately as well as understanding, analysing and evaluating the spoken and written word.

Students 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 students 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 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 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 students 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)
Students 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 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. 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%)


English Language A Level is a fascinating introduction to the ways in which language varies, depending on the contexts of production and reception. The Edexcel course gives students the opportunity to explore how language choices can create personal identities and critically evaluate how language changes over time from 1550 to the present day. Students will have the opportunity to develop their research and investigation skills, by exploring specialist topics in depth such as ‘Language and Journalism’ or ‘Language and Power’.

Students develop their skills as producers and interpreters of language and lessons are epitomised by discussion and debate, regarding the history, current use and future of the English language. Students will be expected to read widely and independently investigate language in use. A real draw of the course is the fact that for coursework, students produce a creative writing folder on any genre and write a commentary which reflects on the process, whilst being encouraged to explore a range of forms ranging from dramatic monologue to travel writing.

There are a variety of enrichment opportunities during the A Level course, including writing workshops, trips, attending lecture days in London, competitions and hearing eminent guest speakers.

Edexcel 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. Students 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. 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, 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.

Find out more about English Language and Engish Literature at A level here: 6th Form Options Booklet


English as a Second Language (IGCSE)

For students whose first language is not English the EAL Department offer the option of the Cambridge board IGCSE ESL (English as a Second Language). This is a two-year course focusing on the acquisition of grammar and vocabulary to IGCSE level, and the development of the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

The exam has dual tier entry options, core and extended, but the majority of our students will take the extended paper, which makes grades all the way up to 9 accessible to them. The exam consists of a 40 minute listening exam, a 2 hour reading/writing exam and a 15 minute speaking exam, which is included in the grading of the exam. All students are entered at the end of the 5th Form year.

Course costs: 4th Form coursebook with online component, approximately £40. This coursebook will be sufficient for both 4th and 5th Form study. 

Students are able to take the Cambridge First (B2) exam at the end of 4th Form, or the easier Cambridge Preliminary (B1) exam. These are entirely optional and incur an exam cost of £160.


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 students 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.

Beyond the Course

English Language equips students with a range of transferable skills which can lead to a variety of degrees such as Linguistics, Politics, Journalism, Law, Media Studies and Communication Studies at degree level. Many who study the subject go on to careers in Journalism, Publishing, Teaching, Law, Advertising, Television and Media.

English Literature is a highly regarded subject that 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, 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.



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The Oratory School

Tel: +44 (0)1491 683500