Above all, the English Department aims to make all children able to listen, speak, read and write confidently and appropriately in whatever situation they may find themselves.

We teach children not just to read but to become independent readers. The well-stocked library is at the centre of the school and many events are devoted to enjoyment of reading. Each year we invite in to school an author and a book illustrator; recent visitors have included the poet John Foster and illustrators Sarah McIntyre and Mini Grey. Book swaps are held regularly. In lessons we not only study a wide range of writing but we also do our best with recommendations for further reading, matching individuals to books which they will enjoy.

We encourage children to write expressively and with sophistication. Writing from direct experience is actively promoted and we use our very special buildings and grounds to help stimulate ideas. For example, an exploration of the Main House can be used to inspire ghost stories or a visit to the ‘Secret Garden’ as the starting point for writing about the natural world. We run an annual poetry-writing competition and, where possible, we enter children’s work for local and national competitions.

We recognize that developing a child’s ability to speak in public helps them to grow in confidence and equips them with skills they will continue to need as adults. We work closely with the Drama department and encourage the children to begin performing as young as possible, so that it becomes a natural thing to do.

Children from Year 2 upwards take part in our annual Public Speaking Competition. Choral speaking pieces performed in Years 2, 3 and 5 ensure that every child should have experienced this more than once before they leave us. By Year 8, children are able to write and perform their own speeches or to speak for a minute unprepared on a topic suggested by a member of the audience.

Questions and activities are designed to be open-ended so that is always a challenge for the most able children and we have a good record of success in English at scholarship level. We also work closely with the Learning Support department to ensure that there is a tailored support system for those with difficulties.

We offer various theatre trips. In the younger year groups these are often within school time and an integral part of the curriculum. As the children get older, trips are more often voluntary and take place in the holidays. Recently we have accompanied trips to Matilda, Robin Hood and Peter Pan at the RSC in Stratford; to Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theatre and to the Wind in the Willows at Northampton Royal and Derngate.