In the English department we aim to help our boys make fond and lifelong friends of printed words, inky pens and word-processing software; we aim to inspire in the boys of Yardley Court positive habits of reading and thinking, and ultimately by helping them to fulfil their potential as sparky and thoughtful communicators in the English language enable them to gain entry into the senior schools of their choice.
Books are at the centre of our approach and through exploring why we feel and care and wonder when we read a good book, the boys’ critical responses are honed, their vocabulary expanded, and the extraordinary power of a well-crafted phrase learned. We are also interested in the deeper lessons that reading with feeling and imagination can deliver; we want to see our boys turning into fine and empathetic human beings.
Exams are never far from our horizons. We have a first-rate understanding of the special requirements and subtleties of the growing range of tests Yardley Court boys take, notably the Kent 11+, Common Entrance and Scholarship papers. By the time the boys come to sit their entrance examinations for their chosen senior schools, they are relaxed, confident and well prepared.
Strong readers have an easy relationship with the printed word; as a consequence they approach their English exam papers with a sense of entitlement that non-readers can only mimic. So there is a dynamic culture of reading at Yardley Court. We give our boys every chance and encouragement to get stuck into books. Each class regularly visits our superb school library to share recommendations, discuss books, and rummage through the well-stocked bookshelves. Love of reading is further brought to life through a programme of extra-curricular events and activities. The Year 7s and 8s have a weekly Book Club, where they get to choose the titles they want to read, and discussions often lead towards film clips and personal narrative. A highlight of the school calendar is Book Day, a high-spirited celebration of books, where dressing up and guest authors bring a special magic into our school. In the Lent Term, our whole-school Poetry Soiree fuels the boys’ self-confidence as they recite learned poems in front of an audience and also, by owning a poet’s words for a moment or two in the spotlight, they get to feel first-hand the awesome power of language to affect and entertain other people.
We have a shrewd idea of what inspires boys too. On any given day, different year-groups may be studying War Horse or Skellig, or possibly the journals of Captain Scott, or a Winston Churchill speech, an Apple TV commercial, or tabloid reports of UFO sightings. There are opportunities for experiential learning too in and around our extraordinary school building. Where better to set a ghostly tale than the school’s old stone courtyards and towers? Where better to enjoy Danny the Champion of the World than in our new outdoor classroom in the woods? From time to time, we abandon books altogether and respond to the world around us or take inspiration from the unique childhood experiences of the boys themselves. We feel it is important the boys realise that their own lives are an entirely fit subject for exploration and fascinating written work.
Publishing the boys’ written work helps create a buzz around the subject, engendering pride and satisfaction in their best efforts. Stories, poems, reviews and reports are regularly posted on display boards, but also may find their way into our light-hearted termly newspaper, or the school newsletter or the end-of-year magazine. Competitions are regularly entered, and on occasions won.
We are passionate about our subject here. Come and visit us to see what goes on for yourselves!