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The English department strives to ensure that all students develop a love of language and literature, whilst also developing their proficiency in reading, writing and communication skills.

We are also part of the Year 7 Specialist Schools Curriculum, and run a module on Creative Writing in the School of Creativity.


The limits of my language are the limits of my world.



Creative Writing Club - Wednesday lunchtimes

Why study this subject? 

English is vital to all students, whether they are entering the work force or furthering their studies. English enhances every career path through the skills developed in communication and creativity. Employers expect young people to be able to articulate their ideas in spoken and written form, and to have a mature understanding of both the self and others. 

Topics of study and assignments

In Year 7 you will learn a variety of fiction and non-fiction text to understand genre and writing for different audiences. You will learn the craft of writing and how to write detailed responses to questions about texts.

In Year 8 you will gain an increased understanding of audience and purpose and explore how language can be adapted in order to achieve intended effects with your own writing. You will study modern and heritage literature in order to gain the analytical and evaluative skills that will be required for GCSE.

From Year 9 onwards you will read challenging GCSE style texts and develop your analytical and evaluative skills in order to develop an opinion on the characters and themes. You will read poetry, study Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', complete creative writing tasks, compare a range of texts from different centuries and develop your writing skills. Spoken language is also a key element of the English Language GCSE and will require you to give a short presentation on a topic of your choice to a small audience.

The Team

Dawn Gillam is the Acting Head of English. She has a BA Hons in Key Stage 2 and 3 Education and English with Qualified Teacher Status and a personal interest in providing students with a love of literature.

David Fouracre (Head of Media Studies) BA Combined Hons, PGCE is particularly interested in the influence of media texts, intercultural communication and individual learning styles.

Shelley Baker, BA Hons QTS, MA, is an English teacher with a focus on interventions in the classroom. She is interested in personalised learning, partnerships between schools and families and governance in schools.

Ruth Binnie-Moore is qualified with a PGCE (distinction) in secondary English and a BA Joint Honours in English and Drama. She is currently studying for a Masters in Education, with a focus on reading strategies. She has competed nationally with England basketball and continues to play locally for a Brighton based team. 

Zoe Bolton is an English teacher with a specialism in creative writing. She is a graduate of Creative Writing at uea, where she completed her Masters and is also qualified with a BA in English Literature.

Seanin Friel, BA Hons, PGCE, is an English Lead Professional with Literacy Responsibility.

Elise James, BA Hons, PGCE, MA, is an English teacher with a focus on interventions in the classroom. She enjoys building resilience and developing a growth mindset in all learners.

Elaine Kiely, is the Faculty Departmental Assistant.

Richard Melly, BA Hons, PGCE, is an English teacher and EAL (English as a Foreign Language) Lead, looking at development of whole school strategies for EAL students.

James Rayment, BA Hons, PGCE, is an English teacher.

Lipi Sanyal, BA Hons, MA, GTP, is also interested in developing strategies for EAL students as well as developing literacy in English in Key Stage 3 and 4.

Layla Smyth, BA Hons, focuses on developing learning and progress outcomes for SEND students.

Alice Watts, BA Hons, MA, PGCE, English teacher.

Sarah Wenn, BA Hons, MA, PGCE QTS, Lead Professional, developing literacy and increasing progress in English in the lower school.

Events and Activities

We aim to offer trips to watch theatre performances, such as those at Shakespeare's Globe or the Theatre Royal in Brighton; attend the Poetry Live performances in Brighton and often welcome authors and acting companies into school in order to share performances. We hold inter-school writing competitions and have also entered the national poetry competition 'Poetry by Heart'. Recently, we ran the Carnegie book group, which involved both students and teachers meeting on a weekly basis to discuss the shortlisted books.  

Poster advertising Summer drop Everything And Read event on 28th June


Parent Readers at Varndean School

Do you have some time to spare to help encourage reading? How to get involved.


Twitter: @VarndeanBooks