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Key Stage 4 

At Key Stage 4 learners revisit the substantive and disciplinary knowledge from Key Stage 3, building on their learning through more complex texts and learning to master understanding and application of key concepts in English.  Learners follow the Edexcel Literature specification, studying ‘Journey’s End’ by R.C. Sherriff, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the conflict anthology of poems. Alongside this, learners are taught approaches to comprehend unseen literary fiction and non-fiction texts, and learn the conventions of a range of nonfiction text types in preparation for their AQA Language GCSE. 

Learning Journey & Sequencing Rationale

Year 10 

In the first term of Year 10 learners study the first of their GCSE texts: Journey’s End a World War One play by R.C Sherriff. Learners revisit contextual knowledge of World War One to inform their understanding of the plot, characters and themes.  Learners also revisit key aspects of narrative from key stage three, including characterisation and symbolism and build on their knowledge of the dramatic form. Learners are taught to write critically about the play, integrating contextual details to develop their interpretations and comment on authorial intention. Learners are also introduced to the concepts of literary criticism, dramatic interpretation and audience reception across time. 

Alongside their study of this play, learners study the war poems from the conflict poetry anthology. Beginning with ‘Exposure’ written during world war one, learners explore attitudes to war and its representation in literature over time, before moving on to the rest of the anthology. Learners revisit a range of poetic devices first encountered in Year 7 and revisited throughout key stage three. Learners are also introduced to the comparative element of the poetry unit and are taught how to make connections between context, authorial intention and methods. 

In spring term, learners move on to the study of Romeo and Juliet, revisiting their knowledge of Shakespearean context, language and form. Learners explore types of conflict (informed by their study of the conflict anthology) and become adept at identifying and analysing a range of figurative devices in unseen extracts. Learners also learn the significance of the themes of the play in relation to the context and are taught to form thesis statements to structure their thematic essays. 

From spring term and in preparation for the language GCSE, learners are introduced to the content and structure of AQA Language Paper 1. They are reminded of the aspects of narrative they have studied throughout key stage three and are taught to apply this knowledge to unseen extracts from a range of authors. Learners are taught exam techniques, but are encouraged to make connections between their prior learning of genre, figurative language, characterisation, setting and symbolism. Learners then apply this knowledge to produce their own pieces of creative writing. They are reminded of how to emulate a writer’s style in order to make their own work convincing and compelling and are taught to plan and write in exam conditions. 

Year 11 

In autumn term, Year 11 are introduced to the final text of the GCSE Literature course: A Christmas Carol. Learners revisit their knowledge of Victorian literature and the context of Victorian Britain from Year 8. They also revisit the features of the form of the novella previously studied in Year 9. Learners revisit all aspects of narrative in their study of this novella: dialogue, characterisation, setting, symbolism, plot and theme. They practise close text level analysis and whole text thematic responses. Learners have previously encountered these question types in their study of Romeo and Juliet and once again, learners are taught how to formulate thesis statements to ensure essay responses are coherent. Learners practise honing their critical voice and explore literary criticism to support more advanced interpretations. 

For the language GCSE, Year 11s draw on their knowledge of studying non-fiction text types throughout key stage 3 and practise identifying and making inferences about writers’ viewpoints and perspectives in unseen texts. Learners are encouraged to draw on their knowledge of comparing texts to make connections between writer’s attitudes and beliefs in order to fulfil the requirements of the exam. 

For the writing component of this unit, learners will draw on their knowledge of rhetorical devices taught in Year 9, as well as other text types they have produced throughout their study at key stage three. Learners are taught how to plan and produce non-fiction texts to convey a viewpoint in exam conditions. 

English Language: Term Overview

English language

As teachers of English at Harrow High, we want our learners to be critical thinkers and readers who are equipped with the knowledge and skills with which to make their own choices and decisions throughout their lives and who are compassionate, conscientious and creative. We want our learners to be effective communicators, and we believe that mastery of the written and spoken word is fundamental to ensuring our learners have every opportunity to succeed in life.

AQA Language GCSE Paper 1: Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing


AO1 - Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas, select and synthesise evidence from different texts

AO2 - Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views

AO4 - Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual reference

AO5 - Communicate clearly, effectively and imaginatively, selecting and adapting tone, style and register for different forms, purposes and audiences. Organise information and ideas, using structural and grammatical features to support coherence and cohesion of texts

AO6 - Candidates must use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation.


In section A, reading a literature fiction text in order to consider how established writers use narrative and descriptive techniques to capture the interest of readers

In section B, writing their own creative text, inspired by the topic that they have responded to in section A to demonstrate their narrative and descriptive skills in response to a written prompt, scenario or visual image.

Required knowledge:

  • Knowledge of question requirements (marks, timing, criteria, approach)
  • Knowledge of word types (adjective, verb, noun, adverb,  pronoun, preposition)
  • Knowledge of language devices (imagery, simile, metaphor, personification, alliteration, symbolism)
  • Knowledge of sentence forms (minor sentence, short sentence, exclamative, declarative, interrogative syndetic list, asyndetic list)
  • Knowledge of structural devices (sequence of events, first lines, last lines, cyclical structure, paragraph lengths, shifts in focus, patterns/motifs, repetition, foreshadowing, zooming in/out)
  • Knowledge narrative devices (narrative voice and perspective, characterisation, setting, dialogue, symbols/motifs, structure)


This specification should encourage students to read fluently and write effectively. They should be able to demonstrate a confident control of Standard English, and they should be able to write grammatically correct sentences, deploy figurative language and analyse texts.

Courses based on this specification should enable students to:

  • read a wide range of texts, fluently and with good understanding
  • read critically, and use knowledge gained from wide reading to inform and improve their own writing
  • write effectively and coherently using Standard English appropriately
  • use grammar correctly, punctuate and spell accurately
  • acquire and apply a wide vocabulary, alongside a knowledge and understanding of grammatical terminology, and linguistic conventions for reading and writing


Unit overview - Romeo and Juliet

Edexcel English Literature GCSE – Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare


AO1 - Learners will be able to identify the theme and distinguish between themes; support a point of view by referring to evidence in the text; recognise the possibility of and evaluate different responses to a text, make an informed personal response that derives from analysis and evaluation of a whole text.

AO2 – Learners will be able to analyse and evaluate how language (including figurative language), structure, form and presentation contribute to quality and impact; use linguistic and literary terminology for such evaluation

AO3 - Learners will be able to use their understanding of writer’s social, historical and cultural contexts to inform evaluation of the text. This includes the author's own life and situation, including the place and time of writing, only where these relate to the text, the historical setting, time and location of the text, social and cultural contexts, the literary context, the way in which texts are received and engaged with by different audiences, at different times


Learners will need to know:

· Concept of a play and terminology associated with this (audience, prologue, monologue, stage directions, dialogue, aside, soliloquy etc.)

· Plot of full-length play and its key characters (and their development)

· Conventions of a Shakespearean tragedy (e.g. a tragic hero with a fatal flaw)

· Human concepts and experiences (unrequited love, internal conflict, honour, revenge, betrayal etc.)

Section A

· Concept of an extract

· Concept of a character

· Concept of language, structure and form and the differences between them

· Concept of an embedded quotation from a play

· Range of appropriate vocabulary to explore each character

· A range of subject terminology to identify language and structure (noun, verb, adverb, adjective, imagery, metaphor, simile, personification, oxymoron, juxtaposition, rhyme, meter etc.)

· Concept of language of interpretation and why it is used

· Concept of tentative language and why it is used

· Concept of a detailed analysis

· Effect on the audience

Section B

· Plot of full-length play

· Concept of a theme

· Key themes explored in the play (romantic love, family and relationships, conflict, fate)

· Concept of an embedded quotation and why it is used

· Concept of language of interpretation and why it is used

· Concept of tentative language and why it is used

· Concept of a line of argument

· Writers’ purpose

· Effect on audience

· Context of Shakespeare’s life and influences, differences between Elizabethan society and Veronese society (e.g. religion), societal attitudes towards gender, conflict, family, relationships and belief in fate at the time, audience perceptions of the play both now and then


In Spring Term of Year 10, learners will draw and build on knowledge of studying Shakespeare in both Year 7 and 9 to study one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. This component of the GCSE course is arguably the most challenging, but the learners arrive well-prepared for an exploration of a whole play having studied the WW1 play ‘Journey’s End’ in the previous term.

In this unit, learners will embark on a thorough exploration of some of English Literature’s most well-known characters and complex themes such as conflict and love. The learners are encouraged to use this knowledge, alongside relevant contextual knowledge, to produce an evaluative and assured personal response to the play. The process of curating a developed critical response will prove a necessary and important skill for further academic study of subjects such as history, English and politics. This unit also provides the opportunity for close analysis of an extract from the play. Learners will examine Shakespeare’s clever use of language and structure and are encouraged to explore the multiple effects and interpretations of this. This process not only supports the study of GCSE Language but also cultivates independent and creative thought, highlighting to the learners the various and seemingly endless ways language can be used to convey different meanings.

‘Romeo and Juliet’, aside from remaining one of the most influential texts in the English literary Canon, provides an opportunity to explore a range of complex human experiences and emotions that remain relatable and relevant in our society today. Conflicts between family and friends, boundaries set by gender and religion and the turmoil caused by unrequited love remain compelling and important in our modern society, particularly for young people. The play itself has also been adapted numerous times, offering the learners multiple platforms to engage with the plot, characters and themes. Furthermore, the Globe Theatre regularly puts of performances of this play for school groups, providing an opportunity for the learners to experience the text in its true form. There is also a wealth of resources to support the study of this play, thus encouraging learners to engage and expand their knowledge independently.

unit overview - journey's end

Subject: English Literature GCSE (Edexcel) Post 1914 Text: ‘Journey’s End’ by R.C. Sherriff


Learners will be able to:

AO1: Read, understand and respond to texts. Learners should be able to: maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response and use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations

AO3: Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written

AO4: Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation


Learners will know:

  • The historical, social and cultural contexts of World War One including trench warfare, propaganda, perceptions of the British army and class in Britain in the early 20th century
  • The literary context and audience receptions of a post 1914 World War One text
  • Features of the play as a literary form: e.g. stage directions, staging, dialogue, act, scene, line
  • The plot of a full-length play and its key characters, setting, events and themes
  • Literary concepts of foreshadowing, dramatic irony, tension, comic relief, characterisation and symbolism
  • Human concepts of morality, courage, resilience, loyalty, camaraderie, honour, sacrifice, cowardice, fear
  • Concept of literary criticism


Year 10 learners study the play ‘Journey’s End’ as part of Edexcel Literature’s Component 1: Post-914 Literature.  Learners will be able to draw on their knowledge of World War One from their study of War Horse in Year 8 and the interim unit on World War One Poetry in Year 9. ‘Journey’s End’ is the first GCSE text learners will study and studying it in the Autumn Term allows time for key skills such as developing and sustaining an interpretation of a text/character/theme to be practising and mastered.

Although ‘Journey’s End’ is a lesser studied text at GCSE, the themes of camaraderie, heroism and fear are universal and ones which learners engage with and enjoy reading and writing about. There is little action in the play itself, but the characters are complex, flawed and yet each are heroic in their own ways. The text lends itself to discussions about how human beings cope in extraordinarily challenging circumstances and learners build on their KS3 knowledge of characterisation to explore Sherriff’s methods of creating such complex, multi-faceted characters.

Being able to integrate contextual knowledge to develop and sustain an interpretation is a key skill (AO3) at GCSE and in further academic study. Through this play, learners are able to consolidate and build on their previous contextual knowledge of World War One, encountering new contextual factors such as the British class system and perceptions of the British army. Learners are also taught to understand the way in which literary purpose and audience receptions change over time and are introduced to literary criticism for the first time.

The play explores questions around the morality of war allowing teachers and learners to draw comparisons with conflicts going in the world today.  Journey’s End is taught alongside the war poems of the GCSE Poetry Conflict Anthology, allowing for further links to be made

The play has recently been adapted as a feature film and there are frequent large and small scale productions, offering the learners further opportunities to engage with multiple interpretations of the original text.

Knowledge Organiser

A knowledge organiser is an important document that lists the important facts that learners should know by the end of a unit of work. It is important that learners can recall these facts easily, so that when they are answering challenging questions in their assessments and GCSE and A-Level exams, they are not wasting precious time in exams focusing on remembering simple facts, but making complex arguments, and calculations.

We encourage all pupils to use them by doing the following:

  • Quiz themselves at home, using the read, write, cover, check method.
  • Practise spelling key vocabulary
  • Further researching people, events and processes most relevant to the unit.