Young people are intuitively receptive to stories and to characters. We aim to nurture the love of story both through reading and through creative writing. We read to pupils, with pupils and we encourage a diversity of personal reading. Each term the Headmaster sets and adjudicates a short story for each age group.
Children also have a natural sympathy with poetry (something adults often lose). With the youngest children, who are taught in French as much as in English, there is a great emphasis on the reading, copying, recitation and learning of poems as a tool for developing language and comprehension. As children move through the school we aim to share a greater variety of poetry with them and encourage an understanding of form, metre and rhyme through creative practice.
Writing with flair, confidence and accuracy is an overarching priority. Once children are capable of good general standards of comprehension, we aim to develop persuasive, discursive and analytical writing skills with a view to GCSE. Written work is set and marked on a weekly basis and pupils are given feedback both about the quality of their ideas and expression and about the accuracy and control of the written word.
Long before children are prepared for the curious ‘Speaking and Listening’ requirements of GCSE, we foster lively and engaging discussion in the classroom. Children prepare talks and conduct debates and are encouraged to speak their minds with a calculated eye on their audience and careful consideration of their choice of words.
We take particular pleasure in introducing children to ‘unseen’ texts, which are often excerpts from a compendium of ‘great writing’ which has been carefully gathered by one of the school’s founders, Guy Holloway. We believe that when chosen judiciously and discussed sympathetically, work by the greatest English authors – Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Austen, Dickens, Tennyson and so on – can be wonderfully exciting and stimulating for surprisingly young children. But we live in a world where English is used vibrantly and differently every day. Hampton Court House pupils are exposed to journalism and media texts of all registers. We want them to be savvy and discriminating in their experience of and taste for contemporary non-fiction and fiction.
Drama and English are closely connected. We are especially keen on studying plays as performance texts and on seeing live theatre at the Kingston Rose and at the Globe.