English and drama are at the heart of the School’s curriculum. The Department inherits the celebrated Perse ‘Play Way’ tradition of teaching English through performance, and to this day English and drama go hand-in-hand at The Perse. We marry this heritage with exciting contemporary teaching to inspire students with the cultural riches of language, literature and the theatre.
We strive to ensure that students flourish in English, enabling them to participate fully in contemporary social and cultural life with its inherent global dimension, and inspiring many to degree level and beyond in the subject.
Through their study of English, students become effective and engaging communicators and confident public speakers; develop a love of literature in all its forms; become critical readers; synthesise and prioritise information; think and write with independence, initiative and originality; attain proficiency in spelling, punctuation, grammar – and in other aspects of the quality of written communication; and become familiar with techniques associated with ICT, media and the moving image.
- Learning journey - Years 7-9
At this stage of their studies, the focus is on both literature and literacy. Students develop their skills through classroom study, theatre trips, debates and author visits. We work closely with our librarians to develop both a love of independent reading and transferable research skills.
Pupils study a range of set texts spanning prose, poetry and plays and exploring concepts such as identity, social structures and global perspectives. Set texts form the core of the work covered in the classroom; there are also additional texts for use at the teacher’s discretion. Prose might include Roald Dahl, John Boyne, Susan Hill, Chinua Achebe or Mark Haddon; poetry might involve Tennyson, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy or Seamus Heaney; and drama could cover Shakespeare, Chaucer, Mary Shelley or Oscar Wilde. Reading lists exist to encourage further independent reading.
The drama curriculum includes theatre trips to the Globe, West End, RSC and regional theatres.
- Learning journey - IGCSE and RADA Certificate
In Years 10 and 11, students build on the work started in Years 7 to 9, and commence the IGCSE courses in English language and English literature. Note that we are moving from the CIE syllabus to the Edexcel reformed IGCSE, starting with Year 10 in September 2016.
The courses include both examination and coursework and cover a wide range of skills including creative and persuasive writing, close analysis of texts and an appreciation of literary genres.
Students can also elect to take the RADA Shakespeare Certificate. This one year, stand-alone drama course complements the wide range of drama activities available here. The course represents an excellent opportunity to develop important skills whatever students’ broader ambitions: public speaking; developing confidence; spoken diction and clarity; persuasive skills; and performance. Students cover acting and technical aspects of theatre (including lighting, sound and effects), and receive an introduction to other skills of the theatre (such as production, direction, stage management, costume and make-up, and masks).
- Providing stretch
There is always something going on in our Department. We mark national events such as Book Week, World Book Day, National Poetry Day, National Schools’ Film Week and Bookbuzz.
Students wishing to take their learning further can carry out one of the optional investigations set each term, from contributing to the Perse Patronum newspaper to learning a poem for the Poetry by Heart competition or creating a presentation on an aspect of linguistics.
We run an exciting programme of trips to the theatre – in Cambridge, the West End and elsewhere in London, Stratford-upon-Avon and beyond – and a thriving range of extra-curricular activities.
- Beyond the classroom
There is a whole host of different activities to get involved in, from debating and public speaking events, trips to the theatre, cultural events and more.
We run a mix of lunchtime and after-school clubs that cover creative writing, film making, and debating and discussion, as well as book clubs and public speaking clubs.
Our in-house writing and public speaking competitions include the Year 7 Arts Festival, poetry and prose competitions, a series of public speaking competitions and the Armitstead poetry competition.
We prepare and enter students for external public speaking and debating events, competitions and workshops including Debating Matters; the English-Speaking Union (two age categories); the Rotary Youth Speaks competition (three age categories); the Rotary ‘Young Writer’ competition; the Cambridge Union Society; and the Oxford Union. In 2016, Year 9 students reached the national finals of the Youth Speaks competition, the English Speaking Union’s Performing Shakespeare competition and the Rotary Young Writer competition (intermediate section).
Other external challenges our pupils enjoy include:
- The Rotary (Cambridgeshire) and Cambridge University colleges essay competitions
- The Betty Haigh Shakespeare Prize
- Poetry Now, Poetry Live, Poetry by Heart, Foyle Young Poet of the Year, the National Poetry Competition
- The National Short Story Competition
- The Mastermind Book Challenge, and
- The Carnegie medal shadowing scheme
In 2015 pupils taking the Year 9 Drama option entered the Young Writers’ One Page Play competition, run by Menagerie Theatre. Four of their plays were performed by professional actors at The Junction, and one student’s submission, Graham, won the competition.
We also encourage pupils to submit their writing to the School’s student newspaper and to compile their own anthologies and blogs.
Each year the Perse Players put on a production, with opportunities for all ages in every aspect of staging a performance. Recent years have seen a mix of classics and brave new dramas , including Romeo and Juliet, the musical Our House and, most recently, Lord of the Flies.
There are at least nine drama productions during the course of each academic year, providing opportunities for students of all ages. Recent productions have included well and less well-known pieces including works by Shakespeare; musicals like Anything Goes; One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest; a new adaptation of Julius Caesar; an original promenade production of Wanderland; a touching traverse-stage immersive piece entitled Forgotten Voices; and an original piece of writing, Telling Tales.
We have a range of performance and rehearsal spaces from a fully-equipped theatre to our ‘loft’ rehearsal space, the main hall for theatre in the round and outside spaces for open air or promenade productions. We have begun constructing a performing arts centre this year. In recent years, productions have been staged at external venues in Cambridge including the ADC, Cambridge Arts Theatre, The Junction, Corpus Christi Playroom and the Mumford Theatre.
For more detail about drama opportunities beyond the classroom, including our range of drama and dance clubs, please visit our extra-curricular pages.