The dedicated and dynamic English department is headed by Mr R Picken and includes four full time members of staff and two part time, representing a wide range of specialist interests and teaching experience.

Housed in the new William Jones Building, the department is located at the centre of the school, adjacent to the Drama studio and the Blake Theatre. Teachers in the English Department support a variety of student activities, including supervising student contributions to the School’s weekly newspaper (The Lion), Debating and Public Speaking, Literary Society lectures for the Sixth Form, excursions to the theatre and cinema, and a range of field trips.


Key Stage 3

Students in Years 7 -9 study a range of classic and contemporary texts; both fiction and non-fiction. Pupils will also study at least one play per year, enabling them to interact with the language and themes in a more physical and dynamic way.

There is a continued focus on key language skills and, while many of these are incorporated holistically within textual study, they are also addressed more discretely where appropriate, in class or at our weekly language clinics.

Throughout Key Stage 3 lessons are geared, with increasing focus, towards the diverse requirements of the iGCSE course that boys will go on to study in Years 10-11. This provides a strong basis for later study and maximises the boys’ written and verbal skills as they develop across the age range.

A number of co-curricular opportunities are also offered at Key Stage 3 including debating, public speaking, contributing to the school newspaper, literature evening, book groups and, for Year 8, the chance to perform in  the school’s annual Play in a Day.


IGCSE First Language English 0522:

Paper 2: Reading Passages (Extended) – Weighting 40%

  • 2 hours, 50 marks
  • Candidates answer three questions on two passages.
  • Passage A will be 650–750 words long and Passage B will be 550–650 words long.
  • This component is set and marked by Cambridge.
  • This component is eligible for grades A–E

Paper 3: Directed Writing and Composition (Core and Extended) – Weighting 40%

  • 2 hours, 50 marks
  • Candidates answer one question on a passage or passages totalling 650–750 words, and complete a composition task from a choice of four titles.
  • This component is set and marked by Cambridge.
  • This component is eligible for grades A–G.

Component 5: Speaking and Listening Test (Core and Extended) – Weighting 20%

  • Approximately 10–12 minutes, 30 marks
  • There is no question paper.
  • Candidates conduct an individual task and take part in a discussion. All candidates are recorded during the administration period.
  • This component is assessed by the teacher and moderated by Cambridge.
  • This component is eligible for grades A–G.

A* is available for the overall syllabus.

IGCSE English Literature 0486:

Component 1: Poetry and Prose – Weighting 50%

  • 1 hour 30 minutes, 50 marks
  • Candidates answer two questions on two texts: one poetry and one prose.
  • There is a choice of two questions (one passage-based and one essay) on each text.
  • This component is externally marked

Component 3: Drama – Weighting – 25%

  • 45 minutes, 25 marks
  • Candidates answer one question on one text.
  • There is a choice of two questions (one passage-based and one essay) on each text.
  • This component is  externally marked

Component 4: Unseen = Weighting – 25%

  • 1 hour 15 minutes, 25 marks
  • Candidates answer one question.
  • There is a choice of two questions requiring critical commentary (one based on literary prose and one based on a poem or extract of a poem).
  • This component is  externally marked
English Literature A level
Why study English Literature?

At A level we offer a qualification in English Literature. This is an exciting course designed to broaden your experience of literature and prepare you for study at university level. It is a rigorous and well respected A level subject and carries much weight in your university applications. Studying English will hone your analytical skills, improve your higher level communication skills and broaden your understanding of the human condition. The OCR A level in English Literature allows learners to undertake independent and sustained studies to deepen their appreciation and understanding of literature, including its changing traditions. Students will study classic literature in the shape of Shakespeare or John Milton’s poetry as well as 20th and 21st century texts such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ or Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. There are opportunities to select texts which particularly interest you as part of your coursework unit and you will study themed topics such as The Gothic Tradition; Dystopian Fiction or American Literature for your comparative study.

Class sizes are smaller, co-educational and more intimate in the Sixth Form and this is an advantage in English A level. You will find yourself discussing a wide variety of texts, issues and themes. Sharing your opinions and responding to those of others is an integral and rewarding part of the course.

A love of reading is a necessary requirement of this course! In order to fully appreciate English A level you need to have an interest in literature of all genres.  Regular essay assignments on the chosen set texts are a key part of your assessment.

An understanding of the cultural, historical and social contexts in which a text is written is important at A level.  Researching and presenting contextual information is a vital aspect of your studies. The department organises theatre trips, lectures and visiting speakers.

Head of Department: Mr R Picken

Course content

Board: OCR   A level Syllabus Code: H472

The A level examination consists of two examination papers and one coursework folder consisting of two assignments, one of which is on linked texts. You will be studying a mixture of pre- and post-20th Century texts.

Method of assessment

Component 1: Shakespeare & Poetry and Drama pre-1900.
2.5 hrs. 60 marks 40%

A closed text exam on one Shakespeare play, one pre-1900 drama text and one pre-1900 poetry text.  Candidates will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding of the texts, their ability to establish connections between the poetry and drama texts, while also exploring the influence of contexts and different interpretations across time.

Component 2: Comparative & Contextual Study.
2.5 hrs. 60 marks 40%

A closed text exam on two texts from a topic area. Candidates will be assessed on their close reading skills, analysis of language, understanding of relevant contexts and their ability to establish connections between the texts.

Component 3: Literature post-1900.
Coursework 3000 words 40 marks 20%

Candidates will be required to study three literary texts in three different genres (prose, drama and poetry) and complete two assignments, focusing on close textual analysis, literary critical concepts and comparisons between texts.

Whole School Literacy Programme

Literacy is a fundamental part of learning and, at Monmouth School for Boys, is incorporated across the whole curriculum. Students throughout the key stages are encouraged to read widely, as well as to be proactive in assessing the accuracy and efficacy of their own writing. At Key Stage Three there is a whole school topic timetable, focusing on one key area per half term. This topic is referred to in schemes of work across subject areas, as well as being reinforced in houses and within the English department.

Reading groups for strong, and less enthusiastic, readers are run in conjunction with the library and English departments and there are a range of different opportunities for pupils to join debates and public speaking competitions targeting their verbal literacy.

The skills identified at KS3 are designed to reflect the requirements of GCSEs, in order that students may express themselves with clarity and confidence in a range of different environments, purposes and for different audiences. These skills prepare students not just for their time at Monmouth School but also for future life and the literacy programme was seen as an area of strength in our most recent Estyn inspection.