A-level English reform and English at University

In the 2018 University English meeting, Billy Clark and Andrea Macrae discussed academics’ perceptions and awareness of A-level English reform. The survey, funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme, was conducted  by the ‘Integrating English‘ dream team: Andrea, Billy, and Marcello Giovanelli. You can find a visualisation of their findings here.

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.

Professor Billy Clark at the Heads of Department & Subject Leaders’ Networking Day (13th April), University of Lancaster

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);
  • Cross sector collaborations on social media (e.g. linking with Centre for English & Media);
  • Joining the English Association Secondary Education Committee.

Sneak peak on this year’s ‘Haringey Unchained’ magazine

We are very happy to report that all content (poems, short fiction, illustrations, photographs etc.) that we have submitted this year has  been added to the Haringey Unchained blog.

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Please visit here: https://haringeyunchained.wordpress.com.

 

At the top of the page, there is the following link, which reflects the partnership between students and staff of English from Middlesex University and Haringey Sixth Form Centre:

https://haringeyunchained.wordpress.com/university-partnerships/

Submission on the blog are anonymised. Anything submitted by Middlesex is demarcated by a * in the title.

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be updating the blog so that it is a premium account so the URL will eventually change to: www.haringeyunchained.com.

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Our next and final editorial session together will be Thursday 3rd May at 4:30 pm. We are going to have to be merciless about the items we cut in order to get it to fit 52 pages.  We will spent the time placing pieces along the flat plan together.

Really looking forward to seeing the finalised version of the print magazine!

Footage of conversation with Ian McGuire

Last month, Ian McGuire, author of the celebrated novel, The North Water, visited Middlesex to answer questions from BA English students. The event was sold out and a great success. If you missed it, or would like to watch it again, here’s the footage of the discussion.

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Q&A with Ian McGuire on his celebrated novel, The North Water

ian-mcguire-author-photoIan McGuire, author of the celebrated novel, The North Water, visits Middlesex to answer questions from BA English students.

The Language and Communication research cluster invites you to the conversation.

When? Tuesday 27 February 2018, 17.00 – 18.30

Where? Room C110 (College), Middlesex University, Hendon campus

51AhoORZVXL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_The North Water is causing a literary sensation: it’s currently one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2016, and was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. You can read more about the novel here:

http://thenorthwater.net/

A visceral and emotional piece of literary art, The North Water has been described by Andrew Haigh, the director of the forthcoming BBC adaptation of the novel, as “a darkly brilliant piece of work, propelled by a vision of the world that is both beautiful and brutal. It feels bracingly modern and is piercingly perceptive about the nature of what drives us all”.

This event offers the opportunity to hear McGuire respond to a number of searching questions about creative writing method and literary composition – all from Middlesex students.

Time will also be allotted for questions from the audience.

Street Art Tour

On February 13th a select group of first and second year BA English students braved the freezing cold, together with James Kenworth and myself for a tour of iconic and ever changing street art in Shoreditch.

We say everything: painted chewing gum, preserved Banksy satirical street art and newly painted graffiti; subtle and bold work; elaborate pieces and ‘anti-style’, old and new, expensive commercially commissioned murals and illegal vandalism.

All through the eyes of our tour guide, a local artist and illustrator who is closely connected and involved with the street art scene in London.

We even got a glimpse of some street artists that talked to us about their pieces!

This is just a small selection.

Welcome 2017/18

We are getting really excited about the new academic year at Middlesex. We even have a week’s worth of welcome activities for our 2017-18 BA English cohort.

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For the film Screening on Thursday, September 28th, we are thinking of screening Ruby Sparks:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1839492/

It has literary references and explores lots of ideas relevant to work in English, e.g. about adaptation (without itself being an adaptation), creativity, and interpretation. Some things which have been seen as not fully working in the film (including about its ‘logic’) also raise interesting topics to talk about and we expect discussion also to focus on issues and questions about gender, genres, identity, value, . . . 

Do you have any better ideas?

Futures for English Studies

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We’re  looking forward to meeting our new first year BA English students tomorrow. We’ll be posting thoughts here from our work together on the BA English programme, things we have discussed in class, and anything relevant to the programme.

Last week, I went to a very enjoyable and interesting event at the Open University. It was an event to celebrate the publication of the book Futures for English Studies edited by Ann Hewings, Lynda Prescott and Philip Seargeant, all of whom work at the Open University.

It’s an excellent collection, exploring a range of ideas about the past, present and future of English, and there was lots of interesting discussion at the event.

I spoke there about our view of English as a broad and inclusive subject, covering work on language, literature and writing (and other things, including a wide range of genres and types of texts).

Andrew Cowan, Head of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, spoke about the rise of creative writing in the US and the UK, about differing views of the connections between writing and other subjects (particularly literary studies), and about differing views of the relationships between creative and critical work.

Matt Hayler, from the University of Birmingham, spoke about ‘digital humanities’ and about ‘digital cultures’, exploring different ways of thinking about each and future research directions.

These were followed by a roundtable discussion with a large number of speakers.

I was asked some very good questions after my talk, including some useful thoughts about our BA English programme.

Lots of interesting and useful points were made in the discussion and they suggested lots to think about with regard to the nature of English, how subjects interact in general, how communicative (including reading and writing) practices are changing, and lots more.

Two things which I thought were particularly interesting were that it provided evidence for two things I have been thinking for a while now:

  • that there is lots of positivity about English at the moment, confirming my view that this is an exciting time for the subject and a great time to be studying English
  • that there is a growing interest in seeing English as a broad and inclusive subject (and less interest in establishing boundaries)

I’m delighted to see more evidence for both of these!