The literary heritage of Marlborough College is as rich as it is diverse. Significant Old Marlburian writers range from the war poets Sassoon and Sorley to Betjeman, MacNeice and Chatwin. More recently, children’s authors Cressida Cowell and Lauren Child have also made a huge impact upon young readers. Therefore, our pupils don’t have to go far to find inspiration within the English Department; not least through the fabric of the wonderful North Block where we are housed along with the superb Memorial Library.
Throughout their Marlborough careers, pupils are introduced to great literature from all ages and eras. We encourage creative writing and provide a range of opportunities for young writers to discover and develop their own voices and styles. English beaks have a wide range of passions and expertise within English Literature, English Language and Creative Writing, which we seek to pass on to the pupils. We want pupils to read with ambition and sophistication and to respond to texts through thoughtful and precise analysis.
English studies form a vital part of Form; reading in preparation for this begins before pupils arrive into the Shell. There are regular assessments of literacy, as well as exposure to culturally significant and sophisticated writing. Many English beaks are also Form teachers.
In the Remove, all pupils undertake fortnightly writing lessons, as well as lessons dedicated to their own independent reading. We aim to create a culture of creativity and skill in their writing and ambition and rigour in their reading. This is embellished by opportunities to write and perform in our Poetry Festival and Short Story Competition.
Throughout the first two terms, pupils are introduced to a wide range of literature, including pre-1900 texts; analytical skills for both English Literature and English Language are developed. During the Lent Term pupils undertake oral presentations (known as Spoken Language Endorsements) which are a requisite part of the new English Language GCSEs. In the Summer Term, the focus begins to switch to the GCSE syllabuses including a first reading of drama set texts.
The Hundred follow GCSE courses in English Literature (CIE – IGCSE) and English Language (OCR J351). The Language course combines analysis of fiction and non-fiction texts (some of which are pre-1900) with creative and responsive writing. The Literature course requires reading and analysis of prose, poetry and drama texts, which reflect the international nature of the IGCSE.
English in the Sixth Form begins with a summer reading list of novels by contemporary authors which includes writers they will have the chance to interact with during Marlborough town’s October LitFest. In the Michaelmas Term, pupils experience an introduction to literature which includes the study of an anthology of epic poetry and the Lower Sixth Poetry Project in which pupils create their own portfolios of poetry with accompanying commentaries. The term also includes modern prose and modern drama along with Shakespeare and Chaucer.
The Lent Term involves the study of a specific theme such as the Gothic, pastoral, tragedy or American literature. In the summer, pupils will complete a first reading of their Shakespeare set text, which includes a visit to the RSC, as well as beginning to plan their coursework.
The Personal Investigation forms a key part of the Pre-U syllabus we follow in the Upper Sixth. This is an independent coursework essay in which pupils compare four texts; it is challenging and rewarding. Pupils will work on this throughout the year, alongside studying their four set texts (prose, poetry, drama, Shakespeare) and developing their skills in unseen analysis.
The English Department offers a plethora of trips, readings, talks and workshops. The year begins with our involvement in Marlborough town’s LitFest and the poet-in-residence’s week-long tenure at the College, which includes the Remove Poetry Festival.
Throughout the year we have visiting poets and writers who come for readings and talks, as well as running workshops with our pupils. Whenever possible we take groups to the theatre to see productions, especially if they are relevant for their set text study. In the Summer Term, we take the Lower Sixth to the RSC in Stratford to see Shakespeare in performance and to take part in acting workshops.
We offer a creative writing trip to Pembrokeshire in the Summer Term, and the Upper Sixth have the chance to join the study trip to Dublin, which has been extremely popular over a number of years.
There are a number of societies for pupils to get involved in and to lead, which encourage a wider experience of literature, such as Poetry Society, Shakespeare Society, C20th Drama and Film Studies.
Creative Writing exists at Marlborough is innovative and ambitious, with links to a leading university and to an exciting national initiative in creativity.
There are myriad opportunities for budding writers to develop their literary skills in the Lower School. Writing is an integral part of Form; the Remove starts with a poetry festival for the whole year group, and writing then remains part of the English course through to GCSE and beyond—there is a week-long creative writing trip to Pembrokeshire every June.
Marlborough has long championed the development of Creative Writing as a discrete subject in the Upper School, and this continues today. A stand-alone course in the Lower Sixth – run in partnership with Bath Spa University (which has the country’s largest Department of Creative Writing) – develops skills in the short story and flash fiction, poetry, drama script, and creative non-fiction, including journalism, travel-writing and life-writing; this course leads to a Certificate in Creative Writing assessed by lecturers and postgraduate students at Bath Spa. The College is also part of a recent initiative to develop a two-year course leading to a new qualification, the Apprentice in Fine Arts, which already has UCAS recognition. Students also have the chance to work with our poet-in-residence (recent incumbents have been the prize-winning poets Sarah Howe and Kayo Chingonyi), and with other visiting writers specializing in journalism and fiction. The Poetry Society was hailed by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy as ‘the most vibrant community for writers in a school that I have encountered.’
The best writing from all year groups finds its way into Piccalilli, the Department’s professionally produced magazine of creative writing and artwork, which is edited and designed by a pupil committee.