Headington School is new to OCR. The move to linear A Level for first teaching in 2015 offered an opportunity to evaluate the specifications produced by all major exam boards.
"After careful review, our English Department was unanimous in choosing OCR." Explained Stephen Burley, Head of English. "We offer the linear A Level but not AS Level English Literature. Our first cohort will sit their exams in the summer."
Stephen Burley, Head of English explains: "When we reviewed the specifications and sample assessment materials from all the major exam boards, we were excited by OCR’s offering for a number of reasons."
"Firstly, the exam questions were sensibly worded and there was a clarity and concision that was appealing. There was a good balance between close textual analysis, using passage-based assessment, and critical essays that focused on knowledge of the texts and the development of a convincing argument. Furthermore, the text choices were excellent: there was a range of challenging and stimulating works that would be inspiring both for students and teachers."
"The comparative and contextual component was impressive as it encouraged deep understanding and wide reading beyond the set texts. In the end, and after much debate, we chose Women in Literature as our topic area: as a girls’ school, this has worked very well and our students have enjoyed making connections between the texts they study in class and wider issues relating to women’s role and representations in society and the media. Our student-led literary society has taken up this theme and each week students and teachers present on different texts and topics relating to Women in Literature."
"Finally, OCR’s pre-course training sessions were very reassuring: emphasis was placed on holistic marking and a range of excellent materials were produced to support the delivery of the course."
The interest sparked by the Women in Literature topic area inspired Headington to explore the idea of hosting a conference in which sixth-form students, teachers and university lecturers would come together to share ideas and insights. The conference took place on 3 November 2016 and they were delighted to welcome students from eight schools as far afield as Leicester and London.
The primary focus was on women in literature in the 19th and 20th centuries and the presentations explored the work of Charlotte Brontë, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Elizabeth Jennings, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Maya Angelou, to name but a few.
Women in literature has encouraged me to read widely and has inspired me to research and develop my own interest within a broad time period. I have been exposed to a range of novels and critical material that I would not have discovered otherwise.
I have loved teaching the course. It’s a huge improvement on our previous A Level with an exciting selection of texts and a focus on knowledge and understanding; of course, all of the assessment objectives are important, but it feels as if there is far less ‘jumping through hoops’. Our students need to know the texts well and write on them with genuine critical insight.