• English at LRGS
  • Accelerated reading scheme at LRGS
  • English at LRGS


Our aims are:

1  To provide our boys with a keen understanding, interest and proficiency in their use of language, both written and spoken.

2  To show them the nature of the society and world in which they live, both through direct observation and through the books, plays and poetry which we teach and which we encourage them to experience independently.

3  To inculcate in them a love for the material they have studied - which will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

4  To enable them to obtain examination results which will allow them to make their own career choices.

5  That the boys will enjoy our lessons and find them worthwhile and stimulating.

English as a subject is unique in that its borders are so wide. Our interests cover both traditional Literature and all forms of media; likewise we are as concerned with the teaching of grammatically correct Standard English through learning about the history of the language and the origins of its dialects at home and abroad. Similarly, it is hard to say where the classroom stops and where extra-curricular activity begins. The lesson-time debates lead on to debates in local and national competitions. The good speaking and reading encouraged within the timetable appears in readings during the carol services. The teaching of a play is often accompanied by seeing it performed in, for instance, Manchester or Preston.

Staff Profiles

Miss Mitchell, Head of Department
Miss Mitchell joined LRGS in 2014. She previously taught at Ripley St Thomas School and has also worked for other organisations delivering training to teachers, in addition to her role in the classroom.  She is a regular member of a pub quiz team and enjoys fine dining; they are currently spending their winnings eating out at restaurants featured on the television series ‘The Trip’.  Miss Mitchell has a degree in English Literature from Lancaster University.

Mr Ashbridge has been teaching at LRGS since 1996. Prior to that, he taught in local schools and at Lancaster University and St Martin’s College. His interests include the life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson; he is also interested in contemporary fiction, with – he says – too much of a tendency toward detective novels; he listens to a wide range of music and enjoys the cinema. He is a long-suffering supporter of Carlisle United, and has both BA and MA degrees from Lancaster University.

Mr Hirst taught at LRGS from 1979-1985 and then returned in 2008 as Head of Sixth Form from Stowe School, where he had been a Housemaster and then Director of Studies. He originally graduated in English Literature from Leeds University, gained his PGCE at Newcastle and an MA in Late Victorian and Early Modern Literature from Manchester.

Mr Novell has taught at LRGS since 1983. He gained at MA in English Literature from Lancaster University and among his many interests, he is passionate about cinema.

Mr Rafferty joined LRGS in 2015. He has previously taught at Ripley St Thomas Academy after having completed a BA in English Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. As well as an interest in reading and writing, he is a keen cricketer, playing for local team Shireshead and Forton. Other hobbies include playing and watching football, writing and playing music, quizzing, going to the cinema and eating out.

Dr Thorn has a BA from Sheffield University in English Language, Mediaeval Literature and Linguistics and an MA from Birmingham University in Chaucer Studies. His doctoral thesis was on the Dissemination of the Middle English Psalter. He also has an Advanced Certificate in Education in Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia). He has taught at LRGS since 1997, having previously taught in Kent and the Midlands.

Email English Department staff

11+ Curriculum

All boys in the Lower School study English which follows the National Curriculum. This is divided into three areas: Speaking and Listening, Reading (ie understanding) and Writing. We do have some specific lessons on Language, but our teaching of this generally comes out of the boys’ own writing. We encourage boys to read widely through weekly Library lessons; the texts we study in class give a spread of prose (both fiction and non-fiction), poetry and drama. Talking and hearing what others say is a key part of lessons; boys are encouraged to give individual and group talks and to create their own drama.

11+ Extra-curricular Projects

Each year we have a number of competitions for boys to enter, these include the Short Story Competition and the Poetry Competition, where boys write their own original pieces for cash prizes. There is also a Reading Competition, held in Christ Church assemblies, where they compete in each year-group for a prize on Speech Day. The winners of this competition are encouraged to read at the annual Carol Services held in the Priory.

11+ FAQ

Do you test the boys’ spelling ages?
All Year 7 boys have their spelling tested early in the first term. Those who seem to do less well than they should for their age have their reading tested. If there are still concerns further testing is carried out to see if there is an underlying problem.

13+ Curriculum

In Year 9, boys consolidate the work of the previous two years in preparation for the public examinations at the end of Year 11. The boys are given a Teacher Assessment at the end of Key Stage 3.

In Year 10, they begin a two year IGCSE course, the first of which started in September 2013. This is taught as two separate subjects: we call them ‘English Language’ and ‘English Literature’, but strictly speaking their official Cambridge International Examinations titles are ‘First Language English’ and ‘Literature (English)’ respectively. The way the English Department structures its work from Year 7 onwards is a preparation for the two IGCSE subjects. (The present Year 11 is the last to complete GCSE.)

13+ Extra-curricular Projects

All boys are able to compete in the competitions which were outlined in the 11+ years. A number of boys have had work published in various poetry magazines.

13+ FAQs

What do IGCSE students do as well as the actual exams?
LRGS students following the CIE IGCSE English Language have ‘coursework’; this is not ‘Controlled Assessment’, but the type of work which was traditionally done for GCSE until several years ago. It is partly done at school and partly at home; it can be done on computer. These candidates also have ‘Speaking and Listening’ as an integral part of the qualification, and not as a ‘stand-alone’ element as in GCSE English Language. The IGCSE English Literature course is assessed entirely by terminal examination.

Sixth Form Curriculum

Since September 2012 we have taught the CIE Pre-U English Literature course. This has three examination papers at the end of the two-year course and also a Personal Investigation completed during the Upper Sixth year.

Sixth Form Extra-curricular Projects

Sixth Formers are encouraged to read other books than those on the syllabus, since a wide reading allows greater depth and maturity of interpretation of those being studied.

6th Form FAQs

Is Pre-U more demanding than A-level?
The grades for Pre-U and A-level are comparable, and at the bottom end a Pre-U P3 is the same as an A-Level grade E. An A-level A* is the same as a Pre-U D2, but additionally there is a D1 which is of a harder standard than an A*, however it is awarded very sparingly. Pre-U is not, therefore more demanding than A-level, but it does offer more reward intellectually; it does also offer more UCAS points for each grade than its equivalent A-level grade.

Samples of work

Winning Entries in the Short Story Competition

Writer’s Block Or A Tale of Woe and War
I sat down at my desk on a late April’s morning, wondering what to write. I was desperate for an epiphany, a ‘Eureka’ moment when a story, fully formed and worth twenty pounds and publication to spring into my head. So far, my brain, so full of Tolkein and Rowling, had yet to produce anything worth typing, let alone spending money printing. Fanciful tales of assassination and freedom came and went, yet no grand mythology I was so sure I could create. A story formed of a Celtic warrior-prince whose claim to the throne was challenged by a scheming little man with severe Napoleon Complex, perhaps, or maybe an Old Roman settler in Britain is found by Saxons in the wood? No, I realised to my dismay, these were stories from Saxon tales and Celtic legends! Perhaps I was doomed to failure. Or, maybe, that might work… I began to type.

Roland was a rebel. But not just any rebel. He was an instigator. One of the most dangerous men in the country, apart from the chains that held him fastened to the rock in his cell. His ever-talkative guard, Quimby, stood outside the bars that formed the barrier between the rebel and simpleton, whose life was insignificant in the grand scheme of things, or so it would appear to the Chancellor Overlord.

I read my work, and read it again. It seemed promising, maybe a little Asimov-come-Tolkein, but I could get over that. I re-read my work. No, it would not do. I deleted it all. All seemed lost and my literary prospects dim. The tales of assassination formed again. As satisfying as it was to think about pulling the trigger on a person whom I loathe (and shall remain nameless lest I summon the wrath of their supporters and admirers from around the school), I could not send them into a formal competition.

And then, in a flash of brilliance that would impress even the most sporadic of writers, I had it! A tale of woe and war, love and loss, it was an epic. But I am running out of characters and cannot share it with the worl

Owain Burrell, 3R

Things As They Were
In the dry years, the sun would sit blood red, elliptic over the dried ground below. The land would crack and the sagebrush turned a sickly, pallid grey. Cattle grew thin, roaming listlessly about the hills, and the river sunk away under the sand.

I was barely beyond childhood when I began to visit her, walking through the town, down to her dusty enclave, where the sun stuck to your skin and the flies incessantly orbited your head. She would sit in front of her only window, rocking away in that old chair and tapping her chewed nails on it, in time with her tidal agitations. The room was full of the wisteria that lined her window; the air seemed to breathe in its flowery scent like a colourful lining to her anguish.

I never brought the conversation, but acted simply as an invigilator to her rambling stories. I always thought she must have been long past any true sentient remembrance of events, but she told her tales with such a minute degree of detail that I never once doubted them.

Her son, she would muse, was always a weak willed boy – a boy whom the tides of time never shaped, who existed in a childish microcosm even through his adulthood, quite separate from the family. It was his shortsightedness, his perennial lack of forethought that had driven her to the edge of the town, down the dusty lane where even the jaybirds sang a sorry song, their cries weeping with the wind.

As she gazed through the tinted mirror of the past, I would look into her eyes. For a long time, it seemed as though she brought herself only pain by recounting the past, by telling of how her child had killed his wife and fled the town, leaving in his wake a path of anger and destruction that led only to her. However, as she grew nearer to death, as she faded and withered dismally with age, I saw that she cherished my visits ever more, as if she could finally whisper ablutionary sayings and wipe her name from the book, by dwelling on the sins of others.

About the town though, I could find no trace of truth in her accounts. Her sons were all long since dead; they perished in fires, drowned in lakes. They were stampeded on farms. As we lived in a town where rumours spread like leaves in the wind, coming and going from door to door, amongst shaking heads and withering looks, I could not fathom how it was that no one knew of this skeleton of a son, whom she exhumed in all our conversations. He was so very real to her, as if he stood in the corner of her room, a crystalised effluvium of her heart’s regrets. And yet he was a myth, an imagined ghost that lurked in her mind alone.

I now realize on reflection that she seems an impossible character, but she was the most curious and true person I knew in my early adulthood. Sat alone, with no wife or town to visit, I still think of her at times like these, when the wind whips up the wisteria outside my window, and from the corner of my room I am filled with the confusing scent of the past, as she once was.

Rowan Stennett 4L

A Memory
Privilege, it seems, delivers little of what is offered. To my mind it is the embrace desired by many, welcomed by few, and one that can give only a false sense of true comfort. All things decay. Bones draped in the finest of clothes wither; wallpaper peels its way from stone in disregard of its worth, whilst eyes can look through the dearest of glass, yet lose their sight. Indeed, the sumptuous walls of a room shall always become the walls of a cage, and the veil of rain that beats against this stained glass is sure to shield longing views of the world. It is at these times that the one true comfort age brings is revealed: that a fond memory will serve till the end. With the years gone by weighing heavily on my shoulders, and the pain of a crippled leg an unyielding reminder of regret, I find that at the closing of the lids, memories will serve.

Through that blanket of rain my mind begins to wander and journeys down the road that leads into the past. In this state the window holds no barrier for me, and so it is that through the night, my body would seem to travel along with me. As it moves, I gaze upon the wonders that befall it. Hovering inches above the ground, my feet move at a most unwarrantable speed through quite indiscernible surroundings. My position no longer remains seated, but straightens. This wretched spine aligns itself and I feel through every pore of my skin a touch of life long since lost to the world. Still the rain envelops me as a cloud, yet now I feel its cool touch upon my face. Slender fingers seek out those droplets that fleck my features and find, smooth as marble, the cheeks I had forgotten and the head of dark hair that should surely be but wisps of grey. My eyes shine in brilliance and see an aged robe replaced with the tailored suit of my youth. For the first time in years, it would appear I smile.

It is of a sudden that the cloud clears. The rain that has spared the dark wool now withdraws, and the space that separated my shoes from the floor closes. I am drawn into a slow walk. Night still floods my vision, yet nuances in the dark I am able to distinguish. A cobbled street passes beneath me and to each side buildings rise and fall. It is the city through which I walk, and I do not do so alone. On my arm there is another figure, a woman. Her attire is difficult to make out. In fact, when I look of a time, the dress is black and flowing, yet look again and I see it scarlet red in ruffles. Her hair is both shoulder length and flows down her back, while her face is quite impossible to focus upon. That, though, should not matter; it shall be a different one tomorrow night. I breathe deeply, and try to taste the densely fresh air within me. A laugh escapes my lips, one of intense joy – this is to be a night of pleasure, and shall be remembered always. The girl beside me turns her head in my direction in response to my outburst. It seems she speaks to me, though surely I cannot be expected to understand her when I cannot even see her face. So I ignore her, and turn to reflecting upon the life I live. Not a minute should go by in life that cannot be enjoyed, cannot be savoured. I see that if life is treated in this way, then it must become indefinite, as a man so impassioned of his actions cannot move on from those actions he is so impassioned of, and so they must never cease.

Tonight, it seems, the theatre holds in store such enjoyment. Truly I have no knowledge of the show I am to see, nor any inclination to discover such. The theatre is to be visited by those who can visit it, and should visit it, and those who experience what others cannot find in the act of doing so they become elevated above them. We must appreciate those exceptional experiences, and frequent them. I pass the mirror in the great entrance hall, and for the first time I am truly able to marvel at my appearance. The answer as to where the jacket came from lies in the mist hovering around my thoughts, as does its value  – though these are of trifling worry. Clothes are to be admired by their wearer and their beholders, as is, indeed, the case this evening. The show begins late, as of custom, and neither its characters nor its plot are of any meaning or significance to me. This matters not, and the muffled dialogue is like a symphony to my ears. In fact, I find that with the closing of my eyes, and the relaxation of my senses, I can appreciate it so much more.

As my sight encloses to nothing however, I feel the mist enclose my body. It draws me from the comfort of the seat, away from the obscure figures on stage, away from the girl without a face. It twists my limbs, carves deep lines across my skin and sets within my heart a heavy sense of loss and longing. Eyes open to reveal, once again, a hazy view of the world. I am leaning, out of necessity, for my spine has seen me bent over, against the doorway of the auditorium. A scowl that has been with me for years again marks my face for what it truly is. This accursed vision can only just pick out my younger self: eyes closed and utterly oblivious to the world, wrapped in the stifling cocoon of falsely placed confidence. A ridiculous smile plays on my youthful lips and inexperience hangs over that limp body of mine like a shield of fantasy, uselessly protecting me from the world.

Ben Kingcox, L6NT

Winning Entries in the Poetry Competition

Vesuvius Joseph Allen, 1G
The ground shakes,
The earth breaks,
Everyone freezes.
Came from the gloom,
It has begun.
People screaming,
Soldiers fleeing,
He has awoken.
Lava flowing down his sides,
Fire raining from the skies,
He leaves no survivors.
His breath is dark,
His breath is poison,
It is like a bullet that can't miss.
No matter how big or how small,
All face the same fate,
Death does not fail...
Red Snow Monday Connor Hughes, 5B

What wild things play across the sunrise?
What glazes this frost like sheets over your eyes?
Freedom is a notion, a fiction or a legend,
Can we really know to change our end?

Thick vines climb up plastered walls,
Marching’s in our town’s-end stalls,
Shouts of anger, pleas of fear,
Don’t cry out now, little dear.

Frost and bitter biting cold,
The soldiers’ ranks we all behold,
Cracks and thuds in snow gone red,
The Monday is the day of our dead.

Blackened hearts all, at the edges,
As they stamp on all our ledgers.
Walking down deserted streets,
Once were ours, not led with deceits.

Masquerades in colours of defiance
Have ended thus far in noncompliance
So burn, we will.
So spurn, we will.
And freedom shall be our utter guidance.

Her Twentieth Winter  Louis Bennett, U6DJN

December smiles will ebb away,
but always to return,
'and when the day draws near,' she said,
'my soul begins to burn.'

But half-remembered summer sins,
they haunt her every smile,
telling her it's all too late,
too little, too reviled.

A false semblance of something done
to cool the coming heat.
'That's how they sell the bread, my son,
that's how they sell the meat.'

Concrete secrets fade with use,
from blue, to grey, to beige.
An unlived life can somehow die,
and bleed unto this page.

Fleeting lovers will fill the gaps,
their passion them to reign.
Forgotten, makeshift, honeyed beds,
forgotten like his name.

Paper boxes stalk the streets,
and their colours coolly remark:
'Worse to live a panicked dream,
but better in the dark.'

And now today is come, how soft,
and in the grey all praise
that all which lives will soon collapse,
sodden, sweet malaise.