If we contemplate a world which does not attempt to question why we behave, think or feel as we do – a world in which emotion and reason cannot coexist – the very essence of experience and understanding would be lost. As humans, we have an inherent need to make sense of life through language: words and ideas inspire, devastate, clarify, capture, delight … and the study of literature offers us the chance to really learn how to communicate.

English at St Swithun’s fosters a love of language and literature and embraces challenge and opportunity at every stage with varied and exciting units of work. During their time with us, it is our aim for pupils to become critical and proficient in their analysis, interpretation and use of language and literature, and aspirational and determined in their future lives.

Poetry by Heart

Annie Bolton L6 won the Hampshire Poetry by Heart competition which took place at the Guildhall, Winchester on 4 February 2015

Annie was representing St Swithun’s against eight other competitors from other schools in Hampshire.

Each pupil is challenged to memorise and recite two poems – one published before 1914 and one in or after 1914. Pupils choose these from the timeline anthology of over 600 years of poetry on the Poetry by Heart website. In addition, 2015 contestants also recite a third poem from a special collection of World War I poems as part of the centenary commemorations.

Annie’s chosen poems were Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley (Pre 1914), Originally by Carol Ann Duffy (Post 1914) and Setting Out by Ernst Stadler (World War I era). Judging is based on five criteria: voice and articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, overall performance and accuracy.

Head of English at St Swithun’s Alison Oliver said “Annie impressed the judges with her three evocative, powerful recitations. There was a very high level of performance from all competitors which makes her win all the more notable”.

You can see Annie reciting Ozymandias here


The Reading room

St Swithun’s co-curricular activities cover a breadth of different interests from creative, cerebral and musical to sporting and relaxation.

The Reading Room club takes place during Monday lunchtimes and is open to all, staff and girls alike. Girls can be found curled up on a comfy sofa with a sandwich in one hand and a good book in the other.  Lively literary discussion flows and some Mondays find the club watching and comparing different film adaptations of some of the greatest English novels.

A creative writing competition is generally set each term. Girls have been encouraged to enter national poetry competitions as well as internal writing competitions. The Reading Room was launched with the theme of ‘Flight’ and with the arrival in the room of colourful new rugs a competition was set which encouraged a piece of creative writing about a ‘Flying Carpet’.  Prize winners for this received books chosen to reflect their interests. Other competitions have included ‘Polarity’ based on the centenary of Scott’s ill-fated expedition and ‘What the Dickens!’ marking the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth.

For some examples of the competition winners please click below:

The Flying Carpet – Lucy Neish L5ZH
Italy – Harri Rose M5AS
To remember would be to change Mari Thomas M5LM
The boy, his dog and a black chicken - Florence de Jersey Lowney U4MH
The beginning of the end Edie Bailey L4NS