“A man can't soar too high, when he flies with his own wings.” William Blake: poet, artist, visionary.
Read, write, speak, listen, think.
My name is Chris Davenport, a self-confessed Wuthering Heights and Keats addict and leader of the English department at Sutton Valence School since 2009. I am the Housemaster of Beresford (Junior Boarding House) and heavily involve myself with School sports. The rest of my team includes: Sally Rose, a member of the pun appreciation society and grammar guru, a member of the Games department, the School’s Child Protection Co-ordinator and Senior Tutor to the Junior section of the School; Fiona Porter, Head of Sixth Form, fierce theatre-goer and Shakespeare fanatic; Fiona Gosden and Laura Williams, our part-time job sharers; Lilla Grindlay, our resident doctor and expert on all things Austen; Becci Ball, the Academic Deputy Head and Charlotte Westlake, who is rather excitable about Victorian literature and First World War poetry.
Down in the depths of Lambe's, the historical heart of the School, the English department is always a hub of activity. A journey through our realm would probably reveal fierce debates in full flow, pointed questioning, engrossed, shared reading - and often laughter.
Literacy though remains at the heart of what we do. We are passionate advocates of developing the skills that will enable our students to live full and successful, happy lives. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are taught and regularly tested. We encourage students to think critically, creatively and independently; communicate precisely and simply try their hardest.
Junior curriculum English is evolving, 2014 saw the advent of topic-based study in the department for our junior years to spark creativity and enable staff and students alike to investigate ideas and themes, both with more freedom, but also more support and guidance. Our cunning plan is to support students towards making the move to becoming independent and intrinsically, motivated learners, keen to engage, ready to commit and eager to think. Together, we will be embarking on an exploration of ‘myth and legend,’ ‘heroes and villains’ and ‘adventure and exploration’ to name a few – and who knows where that will lead us? A drop of Shakespeare’s Iago, a pinch of Almond’s Skellig and just a dash of Shelley’s Frankenstein perhaps? The links and connections that can be made, spanning time, space and genre are infinite – and that is what excites us most.
Junior English staff are driven by the desire to unlock the avid reader inside, as we firmly believe that reading has the power to transform our children’s potential across all subjects in School. As they join us in the First Form, all students will begin to build their ‘personal library', ably supported by the prizes and presents given away by the department all year around.
Junior preps are often exploratory and investigative in nature. Two extended projects undertaken in the first years are designed to challenge and stretch students and to promote independence of thought and action.
At GCSE we follow the Edexcel iGCSE English Language and English Literature courses. This means that most sets will tackle two coursework-based units spanning both GCSE English Language and Literature, as well as key texts (for examination) selected from some of the very best of modern and classic literature. Department results are excellent, but we are rarely satisfied. Traditional essay-writing skills are developed in the Fourth and Fifth Form, as are the skills of close, critical analysis and précis. Both transactional and creative writing play their part and speaking and listening skills still remain a cornerstone of what we do.
English A Level is thriving at Sutton Valence. Many students are inspired by their success at GCSE to join our small team of subject specialist staff to explore how writers construct narrative and to dissect the inner workings of modern dramatic comedy and our personal favourite, naturally, Shakespeare. We follow the OCR specification which provides students with a fresh and rewarding way of exploring how texts work and this broad thematic approach complements the skills of close analysis developed in junior and senior years.
Our proudest achievement came in 2014 when the English Department moved from ranking nationally in the top 14% for value added at A Level (in 2012 and 2013) to ranking in the top 6% for value added at A Level.
"I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Mr Chris Davenport
Head of Department