English is at the heart of everything we do at Concord. It is the language of communication, of instruction and of exams, but it is also a vitally important qualification in its own right. The work of the English Department reflects this diverse range of demands. We do not believe in ‘one size fits all’: our philosophy is that we craft and engineer our materials and courses to suit the individual. Concord receives students from a very wide range of different language contexts and we look to respond to these diverse backgrounds. In Form 3 (Year 9), students might study English as a First Language or one of the English as a Foreign Language exams (PET or FCE). In Form 4 & 5(Year 10 & 11), most students will study IGCSE English Language and, for the top groups, English Literature. In the Sixth Form, students either study FCE or CAE and then IELTS, or perhaps study AS Language or A Level Language and Literature. The department prides itself on the excellent results students gain in all these exams.
We recognise the huge importance that extra-curricular and cross-curricular activities play in the development of students as independent and confident learners of English. Over the past few years we have had great success with our public speaking and debating teams; reaching a number of national finals. We also run book groups, theatre trips, poetry and creative writing competitions; we host visiting authors and poets and work closely with the library in developing a ‘reading culture’ across the school. A key aspect in this reading focus is the wider reading programme that students in the Lower School participate in: The Big Read. Students choose 2 texts to read each term from a wide range and are then tested on what they have read. The aim is simply to get students reading and to enjoy and talk about what they have read. We purchased 12 Kindles in 2012 to allow students to access the texts digitally and this has added to what has been a very successful initiative.
In order to support or stretch students in their speaking skills, we have introduced English Speaking Board exams across college. Through this course, students work on their presentation and pronunciation skills, compete in internal and external competitions and move through a series of graded exams. The provision of speaking support by a specialist teacher also provides the opportunity for students with weaker English language skills to work on their pronunciation and accuracy as well as improving their confidence and general English skills.
Regardless of the level of English students have when they arrive at Concord, the English Department looks to support, encourage and develop them to reach their full potential - in their English exams, in their use of English in other subjects and in their confident and fluent use of English in all other aspects of their college life and beyond.