Perhaps unsurprisingly, English subject leaders feel that they and their teaching staff are little informed about changes to A-levels. In fact, the overwhelming majority of English degrees in the UK are making no (55%) or minor (33%) changes changes to the curriculum to support the transition of students who are taking the reformed A-Levels.
On a more positive note, the Lang/Lit A-level is more positively viewed in Higher Education than in schools. 95% of university English subject leaders perceive it as useful in preparing students for English degree programmes. In fact, this is tallies with our own anecdotal evidence. A couple of days ago, at a local college visit, the Lang/Lit teacher was telling how the English Literature A-Level still carries much more prestige and is more popular with staff and pupils than the Lang/Lit A-Level.
And finally, a third of English degrees do not require any of the three English A-Levels (English Language, English Literature and English Lang/Lit). It looks like we are not that unique at Middlesex!
So what can we do in higher education to help the transition of our students from secondary to tertiary education?
Billy explained the importance of connecting with secondary teachers and students, awarding bodies, even our PGCE colleagues. He also showed the importance of helping first-year undergraduate students understand how university work differs from school-level work.
Jenny Stevens (Teacher of English and freelance writer and editor) presenting the post-16 perspective on English teaching and learning suggested that HE sector can help by:
Getting involved in GCSE & A Level qualification;
Communicating with A-level student, parents and teachers via university website (podcasts/screencasts);
We are absolutely delighted to be the 2017-18 University partner of the Haringey Unchained. Haringey Unchained is a collective of students aiming to showcase the creative talent of Haringey Sixth Form Centre in Tottenham, London.
This collective publishes a volume of creative writing every year. Below is their 2017 collection, in collaboration with the University of Warwick.
The collection is a great read and was launched on June 22nd, at the final show of the Haringey Unchained and We Move Creative Arts Festival. Poetry readings were combined with dance performances inspired by the poems in the collection. Industry experts in the audience enjoyed the show as much as we did.
We are really looking forward to working with students and staff at Haringey Sixth Form College. Our Middlesex students at BA English will work with and mentor Haringey students in editing volume 3 of Haringey Unchained.
0930 – 1015 PAUL COBLEY (Middlesex University)
‘The magic of codes: semiotics and close reading’
1015-1100 BARBARA BLEIMAN (English and Media Centre)
‘Close reading in Secondary English – practices, problems and solutions’
1100 – 1115 tea/coffee
1115 – 1200 ADRIAN PABLÉ (University of Hong Kong)
‘Interpretation, radical indeterminacy and close reading’
1200 – 1245 STEFAN PETO (Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys)
‘Close reading at the chalk-face: strategies and observations in Key Stage 3’
1245 – 1345 Lunch & Launch of the undergraduate magazine Mesh
1345 – 1430 JON ORMAN (University of Hong Kong)
‘Thick description and/as close reading: some language-philosophical reflections’
1430 – 1515 BILLY CLARK (Middlesex University)
‘Pragmatic inference and reading processes’
1515 – 1600 MARCELLO GIOVANELLI (Aston University) and JESS MASON (Sheffield Hallam University)
‘Whose close reading?: emphasis, attention and cognition in the literature classroom’
1600 -1615 tea/coffee
1615 – 1700 ANDREA MACRAE (Oxford Brookes University)
‘Close reading as process and product’
1700 – 1745 LOUISA ENSTONE (Darrickwood School)
‘Is it time to stop pee-ing? A grassroots study into teaching reading and essay writing at Secondary’
1745 – 1800 JOHAN SIEBERS (Middlesex University)
‘Only the furthest distance would be closeness – semantic anarchism, close reading and academic practice’
In some reckonings, ‘close reading’ is now around 90 years old, having been inaugurated in I. A. Richards’ Principles of Literary Criticism (1926) and Practical Criticism (1929). The close reading of texts has become arguably the central activity of the humanities and close reading is carried out across different levels of education and through a number of disciplines. As its practitioners recognize, procedures of close reading can become ossified into routine practices of code identification rather than active interpretation.
This day symposium seeks to ask what ‘close reading’ is like now, how it is exercised in education in different contexts and how it might differ from or resemble ‘codes’ of reading. It features papers by teachers in Higher Education, Further Education and Secondary Education, including:
BARBARA BLEIMAN (English and Media Centre): ‘Close reading in Secondary English – practices, problems and solutions’
BILLY CLARK (Middlesex University): ‘Pragmatic inference and reading processes’
PAUL COBLEY (Middlesex University): ‘The magic of codes: semiotics and close reading’
LOUISA ENSTONE (Darrickwood School): ‘Is it time to stop pee-ing? A grassroots study into teaching reading and essay writing at Secondary’
MARCELLO GIOVANELLI (Aston University) and JESS MASON (Sheffield Hallam University): ‘Whose close reading?: emphasis, attention and cognition in the literature classroom’
ANDREA MACRAE (Oxford Brookes University): ‘Close reading as process and product’
JON ORMAN (University of Hong Kong): ‘Thick description and/as close reading: some language-philosophical reflections’
ADRIAN PABLÉ (University of Hong Kong): ‘Interpretation, radical indeterminacy and close reading’
STEFAN PETO (Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys): ‘Close reading at the chalk-face: strategies and observations in Key Stage 3’
JOHAN SIEBERS (Middlesex University): ‘Only the furthest distance would be closeness – semantic anarchism, close reading and academic practice’
Cost: £10 flat fee (includes lunch and refreshments)
This will be our fourth annual Integrating English conference. It will be a one-day event with a mix of talks and interactive workshops, led by HE academics and teachers, designed to offer support for teachers and provide new tools and techniques for studying English.
These events have been very successful with teachers in the past and we have received very positive feedback on previous events. You can see some feedback from last year’s conference in Oxford on the Integrating English events page