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The members of the English department at St Paul’s form a diverse group but we share a profound love of literature and a passionate belief in its power to help human beings to understand the world, the past, other people and themselves.
We are unapologetically literary in our focus and we believe that students of all ages and backgrounds can respond to, and be delighted by, the works of the great writers in English from all periods and all parts of the globe. From September 2021, we will be following the Eduqas A Level in English Literature, an exciting and challenging course which will allow students to explore many of their own literary interests across the whole range of periods and genres. Current set texts include Paradise Lost, Hamlet, The Duchess of Malfi, A Streetcar Named Desire and poetry by Thomas Hardy, TS Eliot, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, but the nature of the course allows students to study a diversity of texts by writers from different periods as well as styles and traditions. The coursework component is an independently-researched extended essay on two novels of the student’s choice, one of which must be published since 2000, ensuring that students are engaging with literature of the present as well as the past. Discussion is the cornerstone of English lessons. We encourage students to explore a range of interpretations and approaches to literature and to find their own voice as readers and critics.
The school Literary Society is run by a group of Senior School students and meets weekly for speaker meetings, talks by students and student-led discussion with students of all year groups. A member of staff has responsibility for the development of extra-curricular creative writing and there are two weekly creative writing groups. We regularly host visiting writers and celebrate the work of our home-grown writers through our annual magazine, Words.
Paulinas are encouraged to enter essay competitions such as the Peterhouse College Campion Prize, the Newnham College Woolf Prize and the EMagazine Close Reading Competition. Paulinas have won prizes in all of these competitions in recent years. Paulinas are equally encouraged to enter local and national writing competitions such as the Tower Poetry competition and the Foyle’s Young Poets, often with great success. Recently a Paulina was accepted onto the Royal Court Theatre’s Introduction to Playwriting course.
Every year a group of students spend a week on a residential creative writing course led by published poets.
Studying English can lead anywhere. Every year, about 10 students go on to read the subject at university in the UK and USA. No doors are closed when you choose to study English.
Notable Old Paulinas who studied English at university include actress Rachel Weisz, and writer and presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell.
Mode of Assessment
80% examinations and 20% Coursework