Literature is no one’s private ground, literature is common ground; let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves – Virginia Woolf
Central to OHS English is a sense of serious fun. We take every opportunity to foster the girls’ creative and critical engagement with ideas, through lessons that are varied, stimulating and highly distinctive.
The department believes profoundly in the universal power of great writing to inspire and move us to a deeper understanding of the world and of ourselves. Like Virginia Woolf, we see girls’ freedom to pursue insights and ideas with confidence as central to their development of creative thinking and independent judgment. By writing in a wide range of forms and genres, Oxford High girls learn to express themselves with fluency, accuracy and individual flair.
Sharing insights, the to-and-fro of questioning and discussion are at the heart of every English lesson throughout the school. Yet girls also learn to expect the unexpected in their English lessons. We use drama and art to foster new ways of reflecting on a text or topic; the department walls are alive with murals of a current novel or poem, and we are as likely to share the experience of ‘pied-ness’ in Hopkins’ ‘Pied Beauty’ through the sweet-sourness of lemon drizzle cake as through the minute unpicking of imagery and sound – which we do as well. We follow the Cambridge IGCSE courses in English and English literature, for the freedom they give us to explore the greatest canonical and contemporary texts, and to discover our own voices in writing and speech. At A-level, we take the OCR course in English literature, and a stand-alone AS in Creative Writing.
We have a wide and lively range of co-curricular and enrichment opportunities across the age ranges, with clubs and workshops for creative writing, book groups, junior and senior debating and a visiting speaker programme. We take our A-level English literature students on a residential weekend in the summer term of Year 12, and we take groups of committed writers to a week-long writing course at the Arvon Foundation’s centre at the Hurst in Shropshire, led by published poets – and with an abundance of pancakes.