Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School

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There are eight members of the English department at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. The department has enjoyed considerable success in achieving the highest grades possible for the students of the school. At GCSE, our English grades put us in the top 10% of schools nationally in terms of pupil progress, and at A level a third or more of our students gain A* grades every year (against a national average of 7%). Our approach is very traditional: it is our aim that students who study English at The Vaughan should be given a good grasp of the skills needed for accurate, and eventually eloquent, written English. In the Lower School, we focus on the basics of grammar and punctuation, and writing for different audiences and purposes, before encouraging them to craft effective and dynamic creative writing. We encourage analytical and interrogative reading of a variety of different texts, and hope to engender a love of literature, stretching our pupils by introducing them to some of the finest writing in the English canon. Throughout the key stages, the courses promote understanding of the influences of history and diverse cultures on the texts studied.

Key Stage Three

The aim of the first year in English is to consolidate and extend boys' knowledge about language, to develop their skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing, and to introduce them to a variety of literary texts. Knowledge about language and how to spell and punctuate correctly is developed through analysis of what the boys write, formal grammar exercises and the use of reference books. Speaking and listening is practised in a variety of ways, such as debating, small-group discussions, drama and discussion in class. Reading involves the study of texts by the class as a whole - plays, poems, novels and short stories - and of guided individual choices. During the Lent term, all classes study a Shakespeare play. A large part of our work is the continual promotion of wider reading: pupils are encouraged to keep records of their private reading in logs and rewarded with house points for this; they also participate enthusiastically in our accelerated reader scheme. There are weekly or fortnightly library periods for each class, and every class begins with ten minutes silent reading.

Key Stage Four

We deliver two GCSEs to all pupils, English Language and English Literature. Pupils are taught for four hours a week.

Examination Board: AQA


Literature Spec: 8702

Language Spec: 8700

Qualification: GCSE


English Language

English Literature


  • Written exam: 1 hour 45minutes
  • Unseen texts
  • 80 marks: 50% of GCSE

Section A: Reading

one literature fiction text

Section B: Writing

descriptive or narrative writing


  • Reading (40 marks) (25%) - one single text. Pupils will answer four questions on an unseen extract from a fictional text, testing their understanding, evaluative and analytical skills.
  • Writing (40 marks) (25%)


  • Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Unseen texts
  • 80 marks:50% of GCSE

Section A: Reading

one non-fiction text and one literary non-fiction text

Section B: Writing

writing to present a viewpoint


  • Reading (40 marks) (25%) – two linked texts. Pupils will answer four questions on two unseen extracts, testing their understanding, evaluative and analytical skills.
  • Writing (40 marks) (25%): 1 extended persuasive writing task.


  • Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • 64 marks
  • 40% of GCSE

Section A Shakespeare:

Pupils will answer one question on Macbeth. They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the play and then to write about the play as a whole.

Section B The 19th-century novel:

Pupils will answer one question on either Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or Dickens’ A Christmas Carol . They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the novel and then to write about the novel as a whole. 


  • Written exam: 2 hour 15 minute
  • 96 marks
  • 60% of GCSE

Section A: Modern texts: pupils will answer

one essay question from a choice of two on

their studied modern prose or drama text.

Section B: Poetry: pupils will answer one

comparative question on one named poem

printed on the paper and one other poem from

their chosen anthology cluster.

Section C: Unseen poetry: pupils will

answer one question on one unseen poem

and one question comparing this poem with another poem from the anthology.



Sixth Form

Our current text choices are underlined and in bold:

Exam 1: 40% of total A level.

Section 1: Shakespeare                               



Measure for Measure

Richard III

The Tempest

Twelfth Night.

 Section 2:  Drama and Poetry Pre-1900


                        Marlowe – Edward II

                        Webster – The Duchess of Malfi

                        Goldsmith – She Stoops to Conquer

                        Wilde – An Ideal Husband

                        Ibsen – A Doll’s House.


                        Chaucer - The Merchant’s Prologue and Tale

                        Milton – Paradise Lost Books 9 & 10

                        Coleridge – Selected Poems

                        Tennyson – Maud

                        Rossetti – Selected Poems.

Exam 2:  40% of total A level.

Comparative and Contextual Study, Topic Areas and Core Set Texts

American Literature 1880-1940, The Great Gatsby and The Age of Innocence

Component 3: Coursework: 20% of total A level.

This consists of a 2000 word essay examining The Selected Poetry of TS Eliot alongside the either A Streetcar named Desire or Waiting for Godot, and a 1000 word close analysis of an extract from McEwan’s Nutshell.

Outside the classroom

The English Department runs various trips in order to enrich the curriculum. Our students visit the theatre as often as possible to see the works they study, or works of the same genre, performed. Where this is not possible, we invite actors to the school to perform here. Each Fifth Form group enjoys the tremendous experience of seeing the country’s premier poets perform the poetry studied at the ‘Poetry Live!’ conference, where the boys have the opportunity to ask the poets questions about their work. Sixth Form students, in preparation for exam and also for university study, are taken to conferences on their set texts, and, if ever possible, to hear the authors speak. In the Sixth Form, we also run a debating society, and each year students are entered for the English Speaking Society’s Mace competition. Various writing competitions are also run throughout the Lower School.

In the summer term, the English Department, in conjunction with the Music Department, stages a large scale musical production involving large numbers of students in a show which is always very successful and hugely enjoyed, by those involved and audiences alike.