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The Key Stage 3 curriculum is designed to engage, nourish, and create critical thinkers.  The curriculum will develop key skills needed for Key Stage 4 and 5.  Our aim is that every student leaves Vanguard with an English qualification, whether this is GCSE English Language, Literature or Functional Skills. We want to build our students’ cultural capital with rich experiences reading and studying fiction and non-fiction texts from a wide variety of writers and genres.   


Each year will have an overarching theme across all texts that will be studied, starting with Identity in Year 7, Women in Literature in Year 8 and looking at Literature across Time in Year 9.  We will be teaching language through literature, whilst also developing necessary key skills needed for Key Stage 4 and 5 such as close reading, textual analysis, and extended writing.  We want our students to develop their confidence as speakers, engaging in rhetoric and debating. 

The nature of English allows the skills to be taught as a spiral curriculum, revisiting skills throughout the key stages through separate units of content. The use of assessment allows us to see how achievement will then affect future lessons. As students progress throughout year 9, there is a clearer focus on how the skills will relate to examination content and give them meaningful purpose in the wider curriculum. Units are taught with a focus on a line of enquiry rather than simply an examination focus.  

Students will be taught the same core curriculum knowledge areas from Key Stage 3: 

  • How can writers use structure to create meaning? 

  • How can I create meaning with precision and write like a literary scholar, novelist or journalist? 

  • How can powerful knowledge of genres enhance my appreciation and understanding of literature? 

  • How do historical, social, political, religious, literary, and personal factors influence writers and their audience? 

  • How can writers use language, imagery, and symbolism to explore profound themes and universal human truths? 

Each year, we will have the opportunity to develop a passion for reading.  Along with their class texts, there will be ample opportunities to read a variety of books school wide. Students will read a text of their choosing in form and English lessons to broaden their reading horizons.  All teachers and learning mentors will encourage students to develop a passion for reading, as all staff will be modelling reading for pleasure throughout the school.  We are also creating reading nooks for students to utilise and will have a list of books that students must read before they leave secondary school.   

We recognise the difficulties our students may face understanding different perspectives and points of view.  We will endeavour to ensure all students are given the same opportunities to develop Cultural Capital experiences as students in mainstream schools.  Students will visit the theatre to see play productions, take part in World Book Day, National Poetry, and World Poetry Day.  Students will also have a variety of diverse and inclusive texts to study and read for pleasure.    

Students at Vanguard are given the opportunity to work with poets and authors and have the chance to publish their own anthologies.  Students see that what they write can change the world.   

This year we had our very first Poetry Slam in celebration of World Poetry Day.  Students wrote poems about identity and performed them.  Students took great joy in showcasing their work, and it will be continued with support from professional poets running workshops across all key stages.  This would run alongside a school writing competition to engage students and with the support of professional writers.  This would be a great stepping stone for their GCSE creative and descriptive pieces of writing exams. 

Students will sit the NGRT three times a year (at the start of the year, middle of the year and towards the end of year).  This will help determine which interventions are needed and to make sure students are receiving the correct support in lessons.   


Our chosen exam boards are the following: AQA Literature (8702), AQA Language (8700) and AQA Functional Skills.  The exam boards we have chosen fit in with the curriculum that we are teaching.  The texts from Year 9 are on the AQA Literature study list and our students are taught the assessment objectives that they will be examined on from year 7 as it will help prepare them for the exams.  Whilst students will not be taught the full GCSE texts in Year 9, we understand and appreciate that students will need more time to process the texts and understand the historical, social, political, and literary theory behind the writing and how this influences the audience. 

Our Functional Skills choice will enable all our students the possibility to leave school with English qualifications.  All students will be sitting this exam and, since they can sit it until they pass, this gives our students every chance of doing well.  All students at Key Stage 4 will be entered for Functional skills and all students will leave school with Level 2 Writing and Reading in English.   

An overview of the curriculum for Years 7-9: