November is always a busy month in the English Department here at St Swithun’s and this year has been no exception. From debating to planning our first literary festival, girls have been challenged both in and out of the classroom.
Over the past three years we have raised the profile of debating by teaching public speaking skills, spoken argument and persuasion and by conducting in-class competitions in English lessons. In addition, Tuesday Stretch sessions are run for M5 through to U6; KS3 have a weekly debating club; and the recently created MUN society also meet weekly. The second week of November saw the L6 debaters receive a four hour intensive training session, in workshop format, from Debate Mate, the nationally renowned debating charity. The results of all these efforts are clear with girls becoming more confident and assertive speakers, able to handle rigorous ideas and identify flaws. External debating competitions have their local and first rounds in November and in the past four weeks we have participated in the following competitive debates: Debating Matters; ESU Mace; ESU Public Speaking; Cambridge Schools’. Further, L5 girls have debated against pupils from Leighton Park School and M5 and U5 have debated with Winchester College in friendly fixtures.
Of course reading occupies many of our co-curricular endeavours and two reading-related clubs meet weekly: the Reading Room caters for all those who love to share good reads and ideas; and Book Squad involves those who want to advance reading as a cause and those who are taking a leading role in orchestrating next summer’s inaugural literary festival. Look out for more information regarding our festival as it is sure to be fantastic. We also take opportunities to extend the girls’ experience of literature, with: our U6 attending a Symposium at Winchester College focusing on the role and form of speech in drama; a selection of girls across the school participating in our school round of the national Poetry by Heart competition; and our U6 English Literature group watching an innovative staging of Antony and Cleopatra in Stratford.
In the midst of all this activity outside of the classroom, girls have continued to impress us with their enthusiasm and energy in lessons and their thoughtful and considered analysis and creativity in homework. You could say that life in the English Department is never dull but we might go for always aspiring.