The Ferrers School is an 11–18 co-educational comprehensive in Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire, which opened in 1980. In September 2016 there were just over 1,000 students enrolled including over 170 in the sixth form.
The combined A Level English Language and Literature course is well established at The Ferrers School, having been running successfully for a number of years.
The school switched from AQA to OCR following the reform of the qualification in 2014, attracted by the straightforward and coherent design of the specification and the non-themed anthology of non-fiction texts which enables more choice in how to approach this exciting element of the Lang-Lit course.
Paul Hanson, Deputy Head of English, explains that "students have the option of following either the Literature or combined Language and Literature courses. Both courses attract a mixed ability cohort, and are equally accessible to the students, but the Lang-Lit course tends to attract the more creatively-minded students who are interested in pursuing a career in writing or the media."
Paul feels that the Lang-Lit course offers students a unique opportunity to extend their understanding of texts and their study of English: "My background is as a Literature teacher and since teaching Lang-Lit my own appreciation for literature has grown. I think the stylistic analysis is more armoury in the analysis of texts than straight literary analysis. Students find far more to appreciate, evaluate and analyse when you look at the language stylistics. I think sometimes students aren’t even aware when an author is playing around with grammar, for instance, which is something they are now able to analyse confidently."
As well as the skills that the Lang-Lit course helps to develop the variety of texts covered by the OCR Lang-Lit specification is a real pull for students and teachers alike.
Paul notes that, "the writing element pulls in more creative students and there’s a genuine opportunity for students to develop their creative writing skills through producing an original piece of non-fiction writing for the final non-examined assessment Lots of students who want to go into the media or journalism are attracted to a rounded English course that offers them the opportunity to write English as well as read it."
I feel that the OCR A Level Language and Literature (EMC) course really stretches the understanding of students in a way that the straight Lit course does not necessarily do.
"The added bonus is that students are building on the non-fiction element of the GCSE English Language course which again leads to an overall greater appreciation of both language and literature elements. Students tend to enjoy this and I don’t think that they miss out from not doing Literature A Level and in fact get so much more by studying the combined course."
"The non-examined assessment, creative writing and reading as a writer."
"This specification offers an opportunity to reinvigorate what we were doing and add rigour to the course. Students can study more than one poet, one playwright etc. over the two years. We wanted to avoid repetition and offer breadth. This helps students in the exam but also gives them a wider experience of studying English. We want the students to enjoy studying English as much as possible and offering greater breadth of texts enables us to do that."
"I look back at my A Levels and remember doing many, many texts and really enjoying the breadth it offered. We would cover stuff that would ‘just about’ link into the exams to shed light on the genres we were covering. Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for example, covering absurdist theatre. We didn’t want students to think A2 would be a repetition of the AS course and that the A2 year would genuinely build on the skills they learnt in the previous year. This was a bit of an issue with the last specification we used from a different exam board and something we wanted to avoid."
"Year 12 doesn’t stop after AS exams and teaching and learning carries on straight away. That momentum is kept up with the work set over summer to ensure no drop off in student learning."
"There is no doubt that any advanced study of the way we communicate is going to be beneficial to many aspects of a person’s future. Beyond continuing the study of a degree in English Language and/or Literature, the skills of analysis, argument and communication are going to benefit any academic pursuit, as well as preparing students for the demands of employment."
"I also like to think that English students are key to the cultural life of a university and are those who are likely to be involved in student publications, performances and debates. The study of Language and Literature thoroughly prepares them for these and I am sure that university tutors appreciate the flair and originality demonstrated by such students when they submit their assessments. Part of the joy of reading a great academic text is the style and polish of a great, and distinct, communicator."