Glenalmond College English Department News Page

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Everybody Writes

On Thursday the Third Form participated in what has become our annual 'Everybody Writes' Day. They were off-timetable all day with the task of producing their own newspaper but first the pupils received an introductory lecture and workshop from journalists working for The Saint student newspaper in St Andrews. Although all those involved in this newspaper are students, they are not affiliated to the university, and the pupils were given some real food for thought about both the journalistic and the business side of running a newspaper. We are very grateful to Elliot and Rachel for giving up their time to help out. Yet there was no time to rest as then it was straight up to the English classrooms to work on their newspapers in their groups under the direction of the pupil-editors. However, soon they were called away to an emergency press conference to disseminate some (fictional) 'breaking news' whilst other pupils undertook a research project in the school archives with Mrs Mundill. This left only two hours in total for the writing and producing of the newspapers. The six editors did a great job to manage their teams and get this turned around in time. With everyone working ferociously all morning, six newspapers were hot off the press that evening to be distributed to boarding houses. For those who thrive on pressure and deadlines, journalism is a great career and we hope that some of the pupils will now be seriously considering this as an avenue to explore.


everybody write photo 1everybody write photo 5



Sixth Form trip to Frankenstein 

As Shelley's reflections on the dangers of science and the perils of man playing God - Frankenstein - is a set text at AS Level, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss when the National Theatre screened the show in cinemas across the land. Mrs Youlten and Rosanna Single took the Lower Sixth to see the staged version of the text starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee-Miller who, as you might recall, swap roles on alternative nights as Frankenstein and his monster showing and demonstrating the duality of mankind and how the human can become monstrous and the monstrous can learn to be human. As Hannibal Lecter said: "It's not what you appreciate, it's that you appreciate it" and, as Gothic texts go, this - with possibly Wuthering Heights and Dracula, is a gem amongst gems proving that it's British writers who have the say on what is and is not chilling. No blood-soaked shock fest here (although - to be fair - there's some of that), no easy resolution at the end either - "darn those pesky kids"; this is psychological and gripping throughout. As Mrs Youlten said "Frankenstein was powerful stuff - a really worthwhile trip and huge thanks to Miss Dryden for making it happen. The kids, as ever, were wonderfully behaved and respectful. They literally did not move for 2 hours and the cinema was absolutely packed which added to the atmosphere. Many thanks to Rosanna for stepping in at the last minute."

Pupils travel to Endinburgh for day of Scottish Literature researcb

On Tuesday 8th October a small party of  students headed to Edinburgh to do some research for their English A2 coursework essay. They have been studying Scottish Literature and in the run up to the Referendum are considering the Scottish national identity and the 'Scottish Voice'. We began our day with a 'Trainspotting' tour of Leith, ably lead by academic and Irvine Welsh scholar, Tim Bell. We took in the 'banana flats', the canal, 'The Dockers' Club' and 'The Foot of the Walk' and Tim, a local historian, was able to bring the social history of the area to life. From there we travelled to the bottom of the Royal Mile and after some fresh air by Salisbury Crags, we visited the Scottish Poetry Library. The librarian showed us their extensive collection and we spent a peaceful hour researching Liz Lochhead and Robert Burns. We were able to borrow book and they were happy to photocopy relevant articles from the press so that we could bring some useful research material back to Coll. From there we headed up to the top of the Royal Mile to pay a visit to the Writer's Museum, snuggly nested into Lady Stair's Close. Their Burns archive is interesting and the pupils were able to contextualise his work by seeing paintings, letters and artefacts. All of these fabulous resources were only an hour away and it was well worth the short trip to help us understand more about scotlands rich Literary Heritage.


edinburgh english trip Oct 2013



Scotland - A Literary Nation written by Joshua Wakeman

Last Wednesday, half of the Upper 6th English group embarked on a trip to Edinburgh to enrich and expand our knowledge of Scotland's legacy as a literary nation through insights into the lives and writing of three writers whose work we are studying this year; Irvine Welsh, Liz Lochhead and Robert Burns. Firstly, we set off on a tour of Leith see for ourselves the environment in which Irvine Welsh wrote his novel, Trainspotting, which we are studying as part of our A2 coursework. The walking-tour took us round the town through the eyes of not only Welsh himself, but also Spud, Sick Boy and the other characters of his novel and culminated in a question and answer session with our expert guide in "The Dockers'" social club. From there we went to The Scottish Poetry Library, a nest of anthologies and criticism nestled away on a narrow street behind the Scottish Parliament where we studied some of Liz Lochhead and Robert Burns' works and wider reading from critics and the press. Having broadened our minds with regards to Burns' own writing and the reaction of some prominent readers, we headed to the Writers' Museum just off the Royal Mile to peruse some artefacts pertaining to the life of our nation's poet such as his writing desk and original copies of poems and letters written by Burns. We then discussed and mulled over our thoughts and findings from the day over a hot cup of tea (or coffee, in my case) at "The Hub" at the top of the Mile - all in all an excellent day which will prove to have been immensely helpful and inspiring when it comes to writing up our coursework next term.


English trip to edinburgh for website



 cinema and drama photo                     Pupils enjoy a cinema trip to see Othello   


The Fifth Form travelled to Perth Cinema to watch a live screening of the National Theatre's production of 'Othello' straight from the stage of the National Theatre in London. Playing on the popular idea that Shakespeare is timeless, this modern re-working of Shakespeare's original play saw the ensemble as part of the NATO forces in Cyprus and clad in modern army uniforms.

The fantastic cast really brought the story to life and the pupils were all in agreement that the experience had made the play make so much more sense. The National Theatre: Live screenings are also particularly good because they include an interview with the director in the interval which focused on the character of Iago and the way that the director had chosen to represent his personality through his dress code. All interesting food for thought as they turn their attentions towards comparing it with 'Lord of the Flies' for their GCSE coursework piece.





The English Department are having a massive clear out of books this term to make room for new editions. Ms Dryden has selected a good variety of titles that are appropriate for primary school level, to  send to a primary school 5,000 miles away in Lesotho.  Ms Dryden was keen to offer these books to a couple from her home village who have dedicated their retirement to going out and helping the Masite Nek Primary school in Lesotho for over the last ten years.  The school was in need of serious help in funding and equipment and this is where the couple got involved.  The school is now a thriving success allowing young people to have access to, three new classrooms, a kitchen, new toilet block and water pump on site, plus writing materials, and books.  This supply of books from Glenalmond will enhance their library so that each student gets the opportunity to read a classic.  Glenalmond are donating the following titles: 'Tom Brow's Schooldays, 'Flour Babies', 'Just So', 'The Red Badge of Courage' and 'Watership Down'.  

picture of book

The English department has had a busy term, in addition to creative writing success for Issy Arnaud and Noah Khogali, we had news of another competition win for Emily Orviss. Emily entered a competition run by award winning children's author Barry Hutchison to design 'the book of doom' which features in his novel of the same name. Emily's idea of a smartphone app was described by Barry as 'inventive' and saw her taking second place in the competition. Barry of course came to talk to all of the juniors about reading and his books in the Lent term and so we are delighted to see that his talk was clearly inspirational.

Emily, along with the rest of the 2nd Form, was also involved in the celebrations on 23rd April. This is a special day in the English department calendar as it is both Shakespeare's birthday and World Book Night. To celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, the cloister leading to the dining hall was decorated with homages to 'Othello', 'Twelfth Night' and 'Macbeth'. Later in the day, 80 lucky pupils were given a free copy of either 'The White Queen' or 'A Little History of the World' courtesy of World Book Night. We were thrilled to join in this national event to encourage reading and it nicely rounded off a very exciting first week of term for the English department!

World book day event



National Galleries of Scotland Competition 2013


This year, Glenalmond College entered the National Galleries of Scotland's 'Inspired? Get Writing!' competition for the first time. We were delighted to hear that Issy Arnaud had been awarded a prize for her poem inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson. On Thursday she travelled to a special reception in Edinburgh to receive a number of goodies courtesy of the National Galleries, the Scottish Poetry Library and the English Speaking Union in Scotland. Issy and the other invited guests also had the pleasure of hearing her poem read out in front of the painting which inspired it. In addition to this, her name was printed in 'The Scotsman' newspaper alongside the other winners.

Please click on the link to read Issy Arnaud's poem: Competition Entry

Radio 2, 500 Words Competition

Second Former Noah Khogali heard today that he has been long-listed for a prestigious creative writing competition. The 500 Words competition is run by BBC Radio 2 and headed up by celebrity Chris Evans. Noah's entry 'The Detonator' was a compelling story about the lengths that people will go to in order to survive in a war zone. This is a phenomenal achievement from 90,000 original entries and we'll hear if he has made the shortlist at the end of April. Good luck Noah!

To read Noah's story please click on the following link: The Detonator


Battlefields 2012

During the last week of October, just before half term, the 2nd Battalion Glenalmond Pals followed their elder peers in the now annual pilgrimage to the First World War battlefields of France and Belgium. It is very much the battlefields "experience" and so off they went singing about how far it was to Tipperary and urging those staying at Glenalmond to keep the home fires burning. However, it was certainly not a glib trip as documentaries filled the gaps and allowed the pupils to hear about the experiences of war from the veterans' own lips. Yet, nothing could have prepared them for the sheer quantity of graves that they were about to see and the quantity of names on the Thiepval Monument and Menin Gate.

Following a visit to the hospital where Dr John McCrae penned 'In Flanders Fields', we paused by the grave of 2nd Lieutenant Francis Faithful OG, the youngest OG to be killed in the First World War on the Western Front aged just 18 years. Here pupils laid a wreath and 'Flowers of the Forest' and 'Highland Cathedral' was played beautifully by Robert Wilson of Reid's.

To view photos from the trip please follow the link below,

Battlefields trip 2012


Stratford 2012


While the tour has now become commonplace on the College Calendar, it certainly lacks no spark for the eager Lower Sixth who set off every year for the quaint streets of Stratford and the Shakespeareance, as it shall now be known. Usually the weather down in Englandshire is better than here at Coll and it would have been nice to know that we were heading for balmy warmth, long hot evenings and pleasant strolls in the parks of the town. However, the reports looked duller than a plate of beans on toast and the weather offered not much more than a damp squib of a weekend punctuated with hopeful snatches of sunlight to spur on the spirit.

On arrival at the Youth Hostel we unpacked and readied ourselves for the real-time research into Shakespeare's life and times. Yes, sure Sky Arts and the BBC have offered their views on Shakespeare of late, in this Olympic and Jubilee year. We have heard that Shakespeare might have been from Sicily, that he didn't write any plays, that he was a devious businessman, a murderer and a spy. We have learned that the real Shakespeare couldn't write his name and that his whole family was illiterate except him. Some will argue, forcibly, that there is no way a man could have a vocabulary so broad or have an in-depth knowledge on such an array of subjects. Yet for all this talk the rich, exciting and diverse texts that come under his name are quite simply breathtaking, awash with dexterity and intuition that voice the concerns of generations. The texts are what they are and, I suppose, that's all that matters.

This trip saw an eye-opening tour around all the major sites: Ann Hathaway's Cottage, Mary Arden's Farm, Shakespeare's Birthplace, New Place, Trinity Church and Hall's Croft. Along the way we learned about the allure and appeal of Shakespeare, about his wayward father, his shotgun wedding, rural conditions and a whole host of other interesting facts and ideas.

Yet the main reason for the tour is the plays we come to see. Yet again the RSC put on a tour de force in a simply brilliant, if politically incorrect, rendition of Richard III and then again a stunning version of Julius Caesar. In the former the stage setting was simple to contrast with the rich action of the plot and characterisation. The starring role was excellently handled and the deformities subtly rendered; the hump was not comically large as has often been the case. His limp was clear but unobtrusive and his hand bent and warped - much like his character - but the comedy stands out. It seems to me that while we can't entirely like him, we can't entirely hate him either. His ambitions for the crown aren't exactly opposed by strength and dignity but his merciless killing of the princes in the tower sends a little stream of revulsion in the onlookers. Best of all were the scenes when Richard attempts to feign piety, wrestle with one of the princes, be romantic and of course the famous "a horse a horse" speech that marks the beginning of the end for him.

The next night came as something of a sensual shock to the system as an all black cast took Julius Caesar to an African dictatorship gripped in a brutal civil war all too apparent in newspapers from the past twenty years. The AK47 toting rebels under Brutus wielded scarily serrated machetes around the stage as the action progressed from an earnest betrayal of an egotistical leader to the full blown warfare between two violent and determined rivals with Antony bearing the strength of the moral yardstick throughout. Of course, much later he will turn against Octavius, here learning the ropes of war and politics.

Once again, thanks have to go to the drivers Mr MacAulay and Miss Bircher who did a great job with the transport arrangements, getting us there and back in good time.


The Apprentices 2012

In the past few English lessons this May we have been split into two groups to complete an 'Apprentice' style task: to completely make up a new product for break time at school and advertise it with a leaflet, poster, magazine article and radio interview. One group did a blackberry tart called the Black Lady which was based on the playing card the Queen of Spades. My group did a really tasty sounding chocolate bar called Chooum with toffee and caramel in it.

The pressure was on when we found out that Mr Abbott from the kitchen would be coming to listen to our presentation and judge our promotion. This meant that we would have to do a good job! Overall, the task was fun, exciting and, most importantly, it was good practice of all of the skills that I have learned this year.

Alex Wainwright (3S) and Fergus Skinner (3P)

Whole School Literacy and Learning Strategy

From 2011 the College will be working in departments to promote literacy and its support in promoting good learning and therefore higher achievement. Good reading, writing and speaking skills are at the heart of the education system and are assessed formally in the majority of examinations a pupil will sit. Not only this, it is an essential life skill which will be tested throughout life from university applications to job interviews and beyond.

Therefore we have introduced a whole-school marking policy designed to stress the importance of spelling, punctuation and written expression which will be used by all teachers on every written piece of work. In addition to this departments will develop subject-specific vocabulary lists and have started looking at ways of incorporating the teaching of reading and writing in all subjects. For example the Third Form Chemists have been doing some creative writing to help them understand chemical reactions and the junior biologists have been doing "pop-corn" reading around the class, a fun and mildly competitive way to engage readers when they have to read complex material.

The English department has opened up a Blog for readers to offer comments about their reading and the Library continues with the Reading Challenge. Next term there will be a whole school writing day and a new school newspaper has been developed to promote writing outside of class and we hope that initiatives like these will spread throughout the college and promote reading, writing and learning at a higher level.

"Journey's End" Review

RC Sherriff's well known play was written and first performed in the late nineteen twenties, giving an insight into the lives of a group of World War 1 officers on the front line over the period of four days. Unlike other works of literature on the Great War, this play focuses not on the horror of battle, but on the anguish of suspense, of waiting for something, anything, to happen - young and inexperienced officer Raleigh's first observation on the front line is 'how frightfully quiet it is'.

The Fourth Form and a select band of the sixth form will be studying this play and a unit on World War One literature so this was an opportunity not to be missed to see the play in the flesh. It was a very good evening!

The whole drama takes place in the officer's dugout, showing their daily relations rather than the actual fighting. The set at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow was low-ceilinged and intricately detailed, which, coupled with the soft and murky candlelight effect, provided the audience with the same feeling of claustrophobia as the characters. Through much of the play there was complete and eerie silence behind the conversation of the officers, while at other times the rumble of the guns could be heard in the distance. This grew louder and louder throughout the last scene so that the curtain goes down to the deafening booms of the bombardment, leaving the audience fearful and slightly shell-shocked.

The story includes very little 'action', focusing on the interaction between officers at mealtimes or after duties. The static conversations on schools, 'rugger' and the importance of pepper can be hard to follow, but poignantly convey the way the soldiers distracted themselves from what faced them. One of the play's key themes is the way in which different people coped - pretending to be ill so as to get sent home, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, colouring in circles on a bit of paper - quietly questioning whether any one way is better than another, whether we have the right to judge those who could not cope, for as Stanhope despairingly remarks in justifying his alcoholism, 'is there no limit to what a man can bear?'.

Developing subtly through the first half, the characters built towards the disastrous attack in the final scene with deliberate evasion of the topic. Osborne's reassuring schoolmaster's attitude provided a comforting medium between Raleigh's painful naivety and Stanhope's hopeless exhaustion, while Trotter and Mason, less complex characters, provided some comic relief - though not much.

At the very end of the play the curtain rose on the cast standing in two rows, hands behind their backs, the backdrop showing a vast list of soldiers killed in the First World War resembling the Menin Gate. This poignant ending serves to remind the audience of the immense number of men who reached their own journey's end defending our country.

Iona Gaskell (U6th Home)


Stratford 2011

All the world's a stage...

The annual Shakespeare pilgrimage for the Lower Sixth English pupils was underway early, stopping for Starbucks a good hour and a half into the trip at about 7.30am; we are keen if nothing else. Arriving at the youth hostel at 2.30pm we thought we had made good time and were soon off to tour the town and begin our sojourn into the world of old Bill Rattle Stick. Starting at the end we went to the grave in Trinity Church on the meandering banks of the Avon and then headed up to Henley street where the group could sustain themselves in preparation for The Merchant of Venice that night. The new RST is a delight with some of the old stage now used for flooring in the foyer and bars and the auditorium now with a thrusting stage that echoes the Globe. The performance was stunning as it was set in Las Vegas. Shylock, played by Patrick Stewart, was a casino owner and his employee Lorenzo was an Elvis impersonator. Portia's casket game set up by her late father was done in the form of a game show and the accents ranged from New York eye-talian to ditzy southern belle. Visually it was arresting and daring and the whole stuck together brilliantly. A great way to start. The next day we packed in a visit to Mary Arden's farm, The Birthplace and museum as well as the Hall's Croft and Nash House - now there's commitment! The final show on the tour, Macbeth, was more Jacobean in its delivery the major change being the exchange of witches for the ghosts of murdered children. It was chilling. The icing on the cake was a last minute tour around Anne Hathaway's cottage and as always a key highlight was the interaction with the actors post show in The Duck. We look forward to next year.



Glenalmond College Stratford Shakespeare trip June 2011 

King Lear - Theatre Royal Glasgow

"Don't have daughters; they do your head in and then you die." A fitting if somewhat glancing review of King Lear, a dark but oddly funny (ha ha, not peculiar) play, famous amongst old people for reminding them of their eventual downfall. The real draw for our Upper Sixth was that it offered a live Shakespeare performance to complement the study of the set texts for the June examination (yikes). The other draw was of course the starring role taken by great thespian Sir Derek Jacobi - "He's in The King's Speech!" Yes he is and Gladiator, Cadfael (what?), Frasier, Evolution: Endgame (no idea either), The Rats of Nimh (as opposed to the knights that say ni) and lots more. The performance was also dotted with recognisable faces such as Gina McKee from Notting Hill, Atonement, Scenes of a Sexual Nature (ooh!) and lots more. Before I start sounding like an edition of Hello! I should tell ye about the show. It was the best King Lear I've ever seen, amusing, dark, impeccably acted and thoroughly engaging. The theatre was packed and suitably awed at the great performances on the stage. The set was simple and allowed one to focus on the stunning language and to be suitably appalled by the famous eye-plucking scene. All in all it was a great night out of Coll and a useful reminder of the nature of tragedy.