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.

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 to support the study of Shakespeare as part of the A Level syllabus.  It is our aim to give all Sixth Form pupils studying English Literature the chance to see productions they are studying or that will support their study twice each 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.

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


Head of Department - Mr John Hathaway BA, MA, PGCE

Miss Tori Dryden, BA, PGDE

Miss Karen Hynd, MA Dundee, PGDE

Mrs Meredith Myers, BA Saint Francis Xavier University, BEd University of Maine at Fort Kent

Mr Edward Philips, MA, QTS

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.  Study of English in this year provides an introductory focus to the level of work needed for GCSE whilst also developing and consolidating key skills in literacy and speaking and listening. Pupils will study, for example, Susan Hill’s spine-tingling classic, The Woman in Black, alongside a range of poetry and a Shakespeare unit, culminating in a Shakespeare project that allows them to explore one aspect of Shakespeare’s life and works. 

English is a Common Core subject which is taken by all pupils throughout the Fourth and Fifth Forms.

In this subject, we follow the CIE IGCSE specification for GCSE English Language (0500) and Literature (0475). Both English Language and English Literature are assessed by examination only.  English Language and English Literature provide two separate awards and take two years to complete.  It is normal for 100% of our pupils to sit extended papers.

The English Language course places emphasis on the comprehension of various types of writing in prose and in creative work in various forms (speeches, articles, letters, essays).  Knowledge about language and its use is also a requirement, as is the ability to read, summarise and synthesise information from different sources.  

The English Literature course involves compulsory study of novels, plays and poetry both before and after 1914.  In this way, knowledge of the literary tradition of writing in English is encouraged.  Each paper deals with an area of writing in the English Language and the course will explore Modern Drama, Poetry, Prose from Different Cultures and writing from the Literary Heritage.

English Literature is at the heart of our culture. This course opens many doors to a life-long acquaintance with both language and literature, and provides opportunities for an intelligent study of poetry, drama, essays and the novel.  At the same time, pupils are encouraged to develop their skills in writing to deadlines, analysis, debate and contextual concerns. Different styles of writing are attempted such as analytical essays and comparative essays.

English results at A Level are strong with few of our pupils scoring below a C and a high proportion of them gaining A*/A grades.  This is down to the dynamic and engaging teaching in the department and the work of a skilled and dedicated team of enthusiastic and experienced English teachers.

Course Description

A Level English Literature is an exciting and stimulating course and covers a wide range of literature, from mediaeval to modern.  Reading, discussion, analysis and essay writing are central features of the course, as is the enjoyment derived from studying and developing ideas that stem from reading literature. This is an ideal subject for pupils willing to think on their feet in the light of the knowledge they have acquired. The personal and social benefits of studying human behaviour through the relative safety of fictional characters, is not to be underestimated.

The Components are broken down in the following manner:

Component 1 – 40%       Shakespeare (1 text)                                                                              Exam

                                        Drama and Poetry pre-1900 (2 texts)                                                      2hrs30


Component 2 – 40%       Close Reading - unseen                                                                          Exam

                                        Comparative and Contextual Study (2 texts)                                            2hrs30


Component 3 – 20%       Analytical Essay (1 text)                                                                     Coursework

                                        Comparative Essay (2 texts)


We teach the OCR syllabus which involves the study of eight texts in total.  The course units are divided between examined papers and one coursework folder.  In the Lower Sixth, pupils will study a Shakespeare text, a 20th century text for their Critical Essay Coursework, and two texts from a specific genre. In the Upper Sixth, pupils will study a poetry and drama text from pre-1900, two texts for their Comparative Essay Coursework, and revise all texts in preparation for their A Level exams.

The coursework unit is a wonderful opportunity for pupils to independently study three texts and explore them in detail.  We have choice and flexibility which allows us to choose exciting and eye-opening works.  In all, the folder will consist of two essays of 3000 words in total.  One of the three texts must be published after 2000.  The folder will result in one comparative essay and one analytical reading.  This will provide 20% of the total marks for the A Level.  The first year of the course will also focus heavily on critical approaches and essay writing skills and there will be an optional trip to Stratford to support the study of the Shakespeare text as part of Component 1. 

Further information can be found on www.ocr.org.uk.  In both years pupils will have 12 periods over two weeks divided between two teachers.

Recommended Entry Qualifications

The qualifications for the study of English Literature at A Level are Grade C or above in both GCSE or Standard Grade English and English Literature, together with a lively enthusiasm for reading, writing and discussion.

Subject Combinations

English Literature can be combined with any other A Level. It is worth noting that many university courses insist on an English qualification at Higher or A Level and this should always be checked with UCAS in advance.

Careers and Higher Education

The A Level English Literature Course is a valuable qualification for entry into virtually any Higher Education course.  The skills developed in the study of this subject will stand the pupil in good stead, no matter what the chosen career is.  Obvious career paths might include law, publishing, journalism, broadcasting, editing, PR, marketing or advertising but English graduates end up in a wide range of fields.