NRC Secondary – English

Key Stage 4

About the Course 

At New River College we aim to support and challenge students within their studies in English by making English lessons relevant, interesting and dynamic. The curriculum is carefully planned so that students experience a range of texts, both from fiction and non-fiction; they learn the skills needed to be successful in giving presentations, as well as developing enquiring minds to ask questions and listen carefully to information. In addition, we aim to develop students’ interest in reading, which can provide lifelong enjoyment and support them in their next steps after school. Students develop their skills in writing for different purposes and audiences. We place emphasis on quality and accuracy, as well as helping students learn strategies to make them successful in their written work in English and beyond. Students also learn strategies to help them become effective readers so that they can make sense of what they read in any subject or situation, in school and beyond.  

Students experience a rich and varied curriculum in English, studying diverse texts such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, conflict poetry, modern plays, and the classic novel Frankenstein. Students also explore a range of extracts from non-fiction and fiction. They learn the skills needed to read for meaning and how to write in a similar style. Our curriculum is robust and ambitious meaning that students are experiencing the full range of topics at this level. We believe they can do well in English and strive hard to help them fulfil their potential.  

We aim for students to leave with at least one qualification from a range offered here to suit different abilities and learning styles. These include: Edexcel GCSE English, Edexcel GCSE English Literature and Pearson Functional Skills Levels 1 & 2. We value Functional Skills accreditations highly as they provide real-life skills that employers, apprenticeships and colleges require.  

What will students learn? 

Key Skills 

  • Read a wide range of texts, fluently and with good understanding. 
  • Read critically, and use knowledge gained from wide reading to inform and improve their own writing. 
  • Write effectively and coherently using Standard English appropriately. 
  • Write successfully in a range of forms. 
  • Use grammar correctly, punctuate and spell accurately. 
  • Acquire and apply a wide vocabulary, alongside a knowledge and understanding of grammatical terminology, and linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language. 
  • Use discussion, drama and formal presentation to improve their speaking and listening skills. 
  • Learn how to write real life texts i.e. emails, letters, articles, leaflets and speeches.  

Year 10 

In Year 10, all students follow the Edexcel GCSE English Literature course. The texts chosen reflect what we consider are the most exciting and relevant texts for our students. The course helps students to learn about our cultural heritage as well as developing a range of English reading, writing and speaking and listening skills.  Homework is set and is expected to be completed in order for the students to consolidate skills and develop their independent learning strategies. 

Paper 1: Shakespeare and Post-1914 Literature  

  • Macbeth – by William Shakespeare 
  • An Inspector Calls – by J.B. Priestly 

Paper 2: 19th Century Novel and poetry since 1789 

  • Frankenstein – by Mary Shelley 
  • Conflict Poetry & Unseen Poetry  

Access our curriculum map for Year 10 here…. 

Year 11 

In Year 11, all students follow the Edexcel GCSE English Language course. The course is skills based and students learn how to read for meaning across a range of fiction and non-fiction extracts, as well as write creatively and for specific purposes e.g. articles, speeches. Each half term there is a different focus to develop the skills. Students work with real life exam papers to learn how to respond to them effectively and with confidence. There are also opportunities to practise the skills in exam conditions, including a walk-through mock and a full mock exam.  

Students will re-visit some of the skills learnt in KS3 and Year 10 during this final year, such as reading for meaning, using accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar. In addition, we expect students to demonstrate progress in their writing and analysis by working more independently in preparation for the examinations, as well as developing a more extensive vocabulary and more confident use of literary techniques in their writing. We help students learn strategies for exam success e.g. timings, using acronyms to remember techniques. We also endeavour to support their personal interests in English by enabling them to choose topics for their speaking and listening assessments. Homework is set and is expected to be completed in order for the students to consolidate skills and develop their independent learning strategies.  

Paper 1: Fiction and imaginative writing  


  • Students prepare to approach an unseen Victorian story text, practising the skills of inference, analysis and evaluation regarding language form and structure  
  • Students learn about Victorian life and how to apply this to understand a text.  


  • Students prepare to write a description or story based on a title or picture  
  • Students learn how to plan work, make it interesting and engaging, use a range of punctuation and vocabulary and proof read for accuracy.  

Paper 2: Non-Fiction and transactional writing  


  • Students prepare to approach two unseen extracts of 20th and 21st Century Non- Fiction, practising the skills of inference, analysis, evaluation and a comparison of ideas and attitudes in texts.  


  • Students prepare to write a newspaper article; a magazine article; a guidebook or a speech on a non-fiction topic.  
  • Students learn how to plan work, make it interesting and engaging, use a range of punctuation and vocabulary and proof read for accuracy.  

Access our curriculum map for Year 11 here… 

Additional Support 

Students are given the opportunity to seek additional support in a catch-up English session every Monday after school. We also ensure that all students have the correct access arrangements to support them with exams. Learning Support assistants may also support students in class with tasks like scribing, reading texts aloud and gathering ideas for writing tasks. Detailed and regular marking also provides students with personalised feedback on their work including strategies to help them develop further.  

Qualifications and accreditation 

Further information about these courses can be found at the following websites: 

Edexcel GCSE English Language  

Edexcel English Literature  

Edexcel Functional Skills & Edexcel Entry Level 

Extra-Curricular Opportunities and Trips 

Students have the opportunity to complete extra work in English during the Monday catch up session after school. They may also request additional homework linked to their learning.  

We offer a range of trips for students to extend their learning beyond the classroom, for example we have arranged for students to see a performance of ‘An Inspector Calls’ at the theatre, there is also an opportunity to see ‘Frankenstein’ both at the theatre and on DVD. There are frequent visits from local theatre companies which enhance our English curriculum by providing topics relevant for speaking and listening assessments, as well as inspiring students to write creatively. Students are invited to participate in out of school theatre classes e.g. at The Big House where they develop skills in speaking and performance which can support them in their next steps at college or in employment.  

Topics covered in English can be challenging and relevant to everyday life in modern Britain. Some topics include terrorism, knife-crime, disasters, scientific experiments and achievements. These topics provide students with information about the world around them and support them in being safe within their community.  

How will students be assessed? 

Students are assessed on entry to New River College via a reading paper and a writing paper, both of which use similar question styles to the GCSE papers. Students also have the opportunity to take their Entry Level Functional Skills Level 3 paper on induction and are given a reading test using STAR reader.  

In each topic, students are assessed in their reading and writing skills. These more formal assessments are combined with the progress they make in individual topics to make a judgement on their progress each half term. These are reported to parents and students as a GCSE grade.  

English work is marked on a regular basis, with teachers giving full formative feedback on their work. Students are encouraged to use their feedback to take the next steps in their learning. They are also encouraged to re-draft work to develop their resilience and skills in crafting written work. Marking is thorough and detailed. This helps teachers to build a full picture about the progress being made by each individual student. Unit progress sheets are attached to each topic’s work in order to track progress against the skills assessed in each topic.  

The GCSE English Language qualification is assessed by two end of year exams, and a short formal presentation for speaking and listening. The GCSE English Literature GCSE is assessed by two ‘closed book’ end of year exams (students are not allowed to bring texts into the exam). Functional Skills Level 1 and Level 2 are assessed through two written exams in reading and writing, and several speaking and listening coursework tasks. Level 1 focuses on discussion; Level 2: discussion and a formal presentation. Entry Level qualifications can be taken in ‘chunks’ and students have opportunities to re-sit modules. We ensure that all students have the correct access arrangements. 

There are mock exams throughout Year 10 and Year 11. Some of these exams are ‘supported mocks’ with guidance on how to approach longer answer questions. These supported mocks are withdrawn the closer students get to the end of Year 11 so that they can prepare more effectively for the real exams where they must complete tasks independently.