Find out more about studying English at Westminster


  • About
  • Curriculum
  • Enrichment
  • Staff
  • After Westminster
  • About

    The English Department at Westminster values cutting-edge writing and canonical texts. Pupils study everything from medieval works to contemporary poetry, responding critically and creatively to writing that means something to them. We are as interested in the intricacies of expression as we are in the human heart of literary writing: we teach our pupils to be rigorous readers, scholarly analysts and open-minded individuals.

    Department Contact Dr Tom Durno
  • Curriculum
    Lower School

    Our Fifth Form (Year 9) English course encourages pupils to be excellent readers of texts, people, and situations. The course takes in literature ranging from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to contemporary fiction, Shakespeare and sci-fi. This breadth of reading fosters empathy and imagination as well as careful comprehension. Pupils are taught to express themselves in class and on paper, with clarity, verve and consideration. They respond to texts with analytical writing and in creative formats including stories, podcasts and visual works. 

    Alongside the academic course, pupils complete a Reading Certificate, reading six stretching works outside of lessons in order to foster their interests and embed their reading habits. 

    All pupils go on to study the OCR English Language GCSE and Cambridge International English Literature IGCSE.  

    The English Language course equips them to analyse a vast range of texts, studying fictional and non-fictional works. Pupils hone their expressive skills and are taught to write in a variety of forms, including persuasive speeches and vivid storytelling. 

    The English Literature course provides pupils with a brilliant breadth of reading, taking in a Shakespeare play alongside a 20th-century drama and major prose and poetic works. Our pupils study such plays as Othello or Twelfth Night, alongside works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ted Hughes, and Jhumpa Lahiri in preparation for their exams.   

    Beyond the examined syllabus, each teacher introduces their class to a wealth of wider reading, tailored to the group’s interests and the teacher’s expertise. Recent class reads for GCSE classes have included short stories by Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Gogol, Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger and Tim O’ Brien’s war memoir The Things They Carried. 

    Syllabus & Code
    CAIE IGCSE 0992 English Literature / OCR GCSE J351 English Language
    Upper School

    A Level English Literature at Westminster is an exciting and challenging course at the heart of the humanities. 

    While pupils hone their critical skills in studying the Eduqas A Level, they are taught many works alongside this: off-syllabus choices have included works by Aphra Behn and Jez Butterworth, Andrew Marvell and Claudia Rankine, and George Eliot and Ian McEwan. 

    A Level pupils study three plays, including one by Shakespeare, three poets (one working before 1900) and a wide range of prose texts written in the years 1880-1910 and 1919-1939.  Pupils also complete a coursework essay comparing two novels of their choosing: their choices are diverse, enterprising, and imaginative. 

    Creativity and criticism sit side by side in the course: all A Level pupils participate in the School’s creative writing competition, the ‘Gumbleton’, and imaginative writing is a regular component of lessons. 

    Syllabus & Code
    Eduqas A Level A720QS English Literature
    Sixth Form Entry
    Subject requirements for the course
    Candidates should be on track to achieve a grade 8 or 9 in their English Language and Literature (I)GCSEs.

    Entrance Examination

    The entrance examination requires candidates to write a single essay in response to an unseen passage of prose, providing a thoughtful, critical response.

    The examination assesses skills that are at the heart of the English Language and English Literature (I)GCSEs, and no specialist knowledge is required. Adventurous readers who are used to responding to a wide variety of interesting texts are, however, most likely to be successful.

    Overseas Candidates
    There is no (I)GCSE requirement for those who attend schools overseas that do not prepare pupils for (I)GCSE examinations. Candidates will be considered for a place based on their performance in the School’s entrance examinations and a transcript of results from their current school.
  • Enrichment

    The English Department makes the most of the School’s enviable location and regularly arranges trips to local theatres and museums, including the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern, Tate Britain and the British Museum. 

    There is a rich tradition of creative writing at Westminster, with weekly workshops and school prizes on offer. In recent years, pupils have seen success in the Tower Prize, Foyle Young Poets Prize, and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Prize. 

    We are proud of our pupil-led publications, including YARD, a creative-writing magazine, and Voce, a journal celebrating the School community’s diverse identities. 

    Our weekly Literary Society brings together our pupils’ eclectic tastes and sense of curiosity, with recent sessions on Nabokov’s metafiction, Bioshock and video game narratives, and the poetry of protest.   

  • Staff

    * denotes Head of Department
    † denotes Housemaster

    Mrs Edel-Anne Bailey (EAB)
    Ms Sam Clarkson (SEC)  †
    Dr Tom Durno (TED) — Head of English  *
    Ms Abigail Farr (AEF) — Director of Teaching and Learning
    Miss Lucy Freeland (LJF)
    Mr Solomon Hardwick (SAH)
    Mrs Vivienne Horsfield (VEH) — Deputy Head (Co-Curriculum, Events and Planning)
    Mr James Kazi (JHK) — Under Master
    Mr Keith Tompkins (KDT)
    Miss Rebecca Wait (RSW)
  • After Westminster

    Those who study English at university are creative thinkers, skilful communicators, incisive analysts, and empathetic individuals. Every path requires these skills, and around 20 Westminster pupils choose to step forward with English each year at university. Those who go on to study English at university, both singly or as part of a combined honours course, achieve successful careers in the media, law, creative arts, business, third sector and education.

"I have found the fact that we study such a broad range of texts incredibly enriching, as we cover and discuss things that I might not naturally lean to on my own."

— Amelia, Year 12 pupil

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