Preparing students for life after school
At Trinity, part of our mission is to ensure that all students will ultimately be successfully and happily employed in a career with prospects, and we know that the better they’re able to read, write, speak, and listen, the more successful they’ll be.
Using knowledge acquisition as a measure of progress
While reading, writing, speaking, and listening may sound like simple skills, they’re actually very complex in the sense that they rely on a huge amount of background knowledge - whether that’s of letter sounds, word meanings, syntactical rules, or knowledge of text conventions and/or specific topics.
By assessing students on entry, we’re able to identify the knowledge gaps that may hold them back, and work out how best to close them; and by designing a spiral curriculum that revisits key historical periods and key literary genres each year, we’re able to broaden and deepen their knowledge throughout their time at the school.
Meeting the needs of our community
In a school like ours, which serves students from a range of social, economic, and cultural backgrounds, it’s vital that everyone feels seen, supported, and stretched in every subject.
In recent years, there’s been a big effort nationally to review and diversify the English canon, and at Trinity we’ve leant into that by ensuring that our curriculum features a range of texts by a range of authors from a range of different backgrounds, some of whom are local to Bristol.
That said, we don’t want to disadvantage our students by denying them the kind of cultural capital that has traditionally been taught in the independent sector, and that is still valued by Russell Group universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. For that reason, our choice of texts is also highly academic.
Teaching English for its intrinsic value
While part of our mission is to ensure that our students are ultimately employed in careers with prospects, we also set out to ensure that they’re becoming the best versions of themselves in terms of their heads, their hearts, and their souls.
And as an English team, we believe that our subject is uniquely placed to develop all three, in the sense that it’s academically challenging, emotionally enriching, and ultimately life-enhancing to engage with the stories of others, and to learn to tell our own.
What do we teach and why do we teach it?
In line with the National Curriculum for English, the Trinity curriculum covers a variety of plays by Shakespeare (including Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Othello and Macbeth), as well as a range of fiction and non-fiction texts from other genres, periods and parts of the world. Our choice of texts is driven by two key considerations. Firstly, which texts best enable students to explore and discuss different aspects of the human condition. For this reason we draw largely from the traditional canon - Shakespeare, Blake, Shelley etc - as these texts have stood the test of time when it comes to providing a lens into human emotion and behaviour. Our second key consideration is which texts will most meaningfully reflect our particular cohort of children. For this reason our students are exposed to texts by authors of varying gender, ethnicity and world view.
These texts are used as a vehicle to teach our students to comprehend and then to form and express opinions about the things they read. Verbal and written communication are central to the design of our curriculum, whether analytical or creative.
Why do we teach it in that order?
Our curriculum is organised first by genre, meaning Year 7 students will encounter the short story, novel, poetry, drama and non-fiction in their first year at Trinity. The focus of this year is primarily creative writing to build directly on the work done at KS2, while the focus of Year 8 is primarily analytical writing, with the two being combined in Years 9 to 11. Each year the six genres above are revisited, but in a different period and through an increasingly challenging lens. For instance, Year 7 students will study A Christmas Carol (a Victorian novel) and use this to develop the way they write description and dialogue. By Year 8, students will be studying Of Mice and Men (a Modern novel) and learning how to construct arguments and link the techniques used by the author to the intentions and context of the text.