English and the study of language is central to both underpinning the curriculum nationally and in Glenalmond College and in creating a platform for successful careers.  

The study of great literature is not only enjoyable but also stimulating and challenging.  Through texts, we can create a dynamic environment that introduces pupils to a wide variety of writers and their ideas.  The subject promotes reading and writing skills as well as speaking and listening dexterity and through debate, discussion and writing, we aim to promote the higher order thinking skills that help to shape thinking pupils rather than passive receivers.

Second Form

The Second Form follow a programme designed to promote good reading and writing skills and to prepare them towards the Third Form year.  Each pupil will study a text per half term having had the opportunity to read the texts in the preceding holiday.  At the heart of the study is the aim to foster an engagement and enjoyment of literature and language.

Third Form

The Third Form will follow an intense and vigorous course built around five textual themes each having a base text for study.  The course promotes a deep level introduction to the literary and critical skills necessary for study at GCSE.  Therefore, each text is supported by poetry, non-fiction and media texts to help forge thematic links between texts and to introduce pupils to the skills of comparison and the importance of contexts.  The year is formally assessed through critical examinations in reading and writing in November and in June and supported by a writing folder demonstrating progression through the core literacy skills.


We follow the AQA Certificate (IGCSE) in both Language and Literature.  Each pupil will be entered for both courses and will study towards two IGCSE grades.  The Literature course will be centred on one set Literary Text and a range of unseen poetry in the examination (70%) and the coursework will compare two texts in a critical and contextual task (30%).  The Language course is based around an unseen non-fiction passage with analytical and evaluative questions and composition (50%) as well as a coursework research project to produce a researched media piece with supporting commentary (40%).  In addition to these, there is a related speaking and listening task (10%).


The A-Level is built around four Units over the two years.  It is examined in May (AS) and June (A2).  The AS Units require the study of a significant poet and novel published before 1900 (60%).  The associated coursework (40%) demands the close linguistic study of a text chosen by the class teacher for the purpose and the critical, comparative and contextual study of two other literary texts published after 1900 with one text necessarily being published post-1990.  Teachers have the flexibility to choose any significant literary text for coursework making this an engaging and relevant study.

At A2 the coursework Unit, Texts in Time, compares three texts (one must be poetry) around a major literary theme such as gender, World War One fiction or the pastoral.  The 3000 word folder will compare the writers' language choices, contextual concerns and critical interpretations and will comprise 40% of the overall mark.  The examination (60%) will focus on the close study of one Shakespeare play and the comparative study of a selection of poetry and a play published before 1770.


The department runs a very active debating society headed up by Mr James Lugton.  They field both junior and senior teams in national competitions including the ESU, Mace and Donald Dewar competitions.  The inter-house competitions run from September through to March and are very popular.

As and when we can, we take groups to the theatre or cinema for live play screenings and once a year we take the Lower Sixth for a weekend in Stratford Upon Avon in preparation for the Shakespeare study of the Upper Sixth year.

Maintaining close links to the library, we are proud to help run The Reading Challenge to help promote reading for pleasure; the scheme has been a great success in getting pupils to develop their reading for pleasure and to introduce them to the importance of reading around the subject.

There is an excellent Poetry Society hosted by Mrs Gillespie which meets once a week to share and discuss their writing.  They usually publish an anthology at the end of each year.

The department encourages writing and so publishes a school satirical magazine from time to time.  While this is encouraged by the department, it is a pupil-led venture and as such is written by the pupils for the pupils.  It is great fun and sometimes demonstrates both wit and ability.

We are very successful in national writing competitions and have sent many pupils towards prizes and national finals.

The department has a good track record of sending pupils to university to study English in some form and it has been successful in sending pupils to Oxbridge.

Department Members

Mr John Hathaway Head of Department

  • Miss Tori Dryden    Speaking and Listening Co-ordinator and Creative Writing Supervisor
  • Mr James Lugton    Master of Debating
  • Mrs Kari Gillespie    Housemistress of Lothian and Poetry Soc. Supervisor
  • Mrs Wanda Youlten    Learning Support Assistant
  • Miss Lauren Kirk

Having studied English Literature at Stirling University, Michael Watson headed off to Oddbins to work in the world of wine before deciding to enrol on a PGCE course in Norwich.

Since then he has worked in several independent schools notably King’s School in Rochester and King Edward VII and Queen Mary School in the North West of England.

This is his Second Head of Department role and one where he has worked to create a culture of reflection and observation and the development of useful resources.  Staff training has been central to his aims and in this light the department lead the way on formative assessment and feedback strategies.

His literary interests include Shakespeare and Women, Feminist Studies, Chaucer and the Middle Ages, American fiction and writing of the First World War.

Michael is also the Literacy Co-ordinator for the College and is also our Teaching and Learning Leader.