News and blog

English in the Senior School and Sixth Form

English in the Senior School and Sixth Form

‘The best way out is always through’ Robert Frost

This has undoubtedly been the strangest year in education in living memory. The English department feels that if there is to be a highlight, it is simply that somehow, despite all the challenges, the year happened.

Novels and plays were read, poems written, speeches delivered, ideas discussed, scenes from Shakespeare acted out, and essays completed – all whilst meeting the demands of remote learning and social distancing, as well as coping with the sense of uncertainty and precariousness that the pandemic has brought with it.

Where there is a teacher, a text and young minds, there is a lesson. Whether it is on a laptop or tablet, or taught from behind a mask and at a distance, the lesson remains!

This calm determination that the girls displayed was evident in so many places – too many to list them all – but we were particularly struck by Year 8 producing incredibly imaginative short stories and losing themselves in character and plot during their short story unit in the early stages of the January lockdown; girls from across the world joining lessons remotely (there is something incredible about discussing a poem with a class and hearing the thoughts of a student in Hong Kong who is 8 hours ahead of UK time and then a response to that comment from a student in Cambridge!); the school debating team taking part in a remote competition on Zoom organised by the English Speaking Union; and our Creative Writing Scholars producing some fantastic pieces of writing throughout the year.

... there is something incredible about discussing a poem with a class and hearing the thoughts of a student in Hong Kong who is 8 hours ahead of UK time and then a response to that comment from a student in Cambridge!

Outstanding student achievements this year include:

  • Samskriti P. (Year 7) - A celebration of spring, Samskriti’s poem is full of optimism, light and new beginnings

Spring poem

  • Nadine M.-K. (Year 8) - ‘Flannan Isle Journal’ Nadine produced this haunting and atmospheric journal based on the poem ‘Flannan Isle’, in which three lighthouse keepers mysteriously disappear without explanation. Read Nadine's Journal
  • Grace P. (Year 8) - ‘A Song of Somewhere’  tasked with writing a short story of her own, Grace produced this absorbing and atmospheric piece of fantasy writing. We loved the narrative detail and the ending which brought things to a satisfying conclusion but also cleverly ‘left the door ajar’ for further adventures... Read the story
  • Cecilia V.-F. (Year 9) - ‘Filming the opening to Great Expectations’ After studying the opening chapter of this classic Dickens novel, and watching the famous David Lean film, Year 9 were challenged to create their own opening on camera using a range of different camera angles and shots. Lockdown meant that the girls had to think creatively and imaginatively about how they would recreate the Kent marshland and Pip’s encounter with Magwitch at home. Cecilia managed to capture the dark and brooding atmosphere of the novel perfectly using some familiar figures:
  • Jenna K. (Year 11) - ‘Lady Macbeth Speaks...’ Jenna wrote this empathetic piece from Lady Macbeth’s perspective in response to our study of the play at GCSE. She brilliantly captures the paranoia and despair that descends upon Lady Macbeth and her husband in the second half of the play and the disintegration of their relationship. Read Jenna's work

I think it is fair to say that any student (or teacher!) who knows what it is like to spend the best part of two months engaged in remote learning knows the meaning of resilience! It was remarkable to witness the determination of the girls to continue with their studies throughout this challenging period. The subject of English is all about communication and emotion, and despite the obvious limitations of being apart from each other, we saw so many examples of the girls expressing themselves confidently through essays, stories, poetry and the spoken word (or through the ‘Chat’ function on Teams!). 

‘If we can winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.’ Seamus Heaney

Mr Walker and Ms Cottingham

Return to Magnolian 2021