English

All pupils receive lessons in English from Year 7 through to Year 11, and take IGCSEs in both English Language and English Literature. English Literature is then an option at A Level.

In Years 7, 8 and 9, pupils study a wide range of literature from all genres and periods. This involves a mix of poetry, prose and drama, and covers writing from Chaucer to the present day, including a Shakespeare play every year. They also have dedicated language lessons every week, which cover everything from technical areas such as grammar and punctuation to a wide range of writing skills. The girls also enjoy having dedicated reading time every week.

English Language

At IGCSE, the girls follow the Edexcel Language A course. They consolidate their handling of grammar and syntax, and apply these skills in a variety of writing styles, both transactional and creative. They study non-fiction, including media, travel writing and autobiography, and learn to analyse unseen texts. They also study a selection of poetry and prose writers, including Wilfred Owen and Benjamin Zephaniah.

English Literature

At IGCSE, the girls follow the Edexcel course, which covers all three major literary genres. In poetry the girls encounter a variety of writers, including John Keats, Carol Ann Duffy and John Agard. For prose, they conduct an in-depth study of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and for drama they study Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. They also learn the skills of unseen analysis.

At A Level, the girls follow the OCR course. They study a range of literature from across the ages, including Shakespeare, Webster and Milton, as well as a coursework unit in twentieth and twenty-first century writers such as Harold Pinter, Ian McEwan, and Carol Ann Duffy. They also complete a detailed study of the Gothic genre, which includes a wide range of reading from the late 18th century to the present. In addition to studying the texts themselves, the girls look closely at contextual influences and critical history.

Beyond the classroom

Theatre trips are a regular feature of life in the department. Recent performances we have seen include The Duchess of Malfi at the Almeida Theatre, Hamlet at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, An Inspector Calls, Betrayal, Endgame starring Daniel Radcliffe, Macbeth at the Globe Theatre, and Ian McKellen’s one man show Ian McKellen on Stage. Girls also attend the live poetry reading event Poetry Live.

Reading is an important part of the girls’ day, and there is an enthusiastic independent reading culture in the school. In addition to dedicated reading time in lessons, every girl has 15 minutes of reading time before bed, called ‘Little Lights’. There are two pupil-driven Reading Groups, one for younger girls, and another run by senior girls for the Sixth Form. The Library is well stocked with contemporary and classic fiction, and is open throughout the day, including on weekends.

The Debating Society meets every week, and is open to girls in Years 10 and above. The girls develop their skills by debating a new motion each week. The Society competes in friendly debates with other local schools each term. It enters four teams into the annual Oxford Schools Union Debating Competition, and one team into the ESU Mace competition.

Public Speaking takes place in both junior and senior formats. Teams compete in local public speaking competitions, as well as in the annual House competition.

The Creative Writing Club meets every week. Workshops are run by members of staff, and give the girls the opportunity to experiment with the writing of both prose and poetry, and share their work with each other. Inspirational prompts are posted each week for all girls to try out. There is an annual Poetry Competition in Year 9 which all girls enter. Younger girls take part in annual poetry workshops with a visiting poet.

Journalism is a popular activity, and is run entirely by the girls. They write regularly for the school magazine and newsletter. They also produce a more substantial annual magazine called WHAT, which contains a mixture of news and feature journalism, and is sold for charity.

Economics and Politics

Economics

Economics is taught at A Level, and follows the AQA course.

The course covers both micro and macroeconomics, including supply and demand analysis, markets, AD/AS analysis, and how government policy seeks to achieve economic objectives. Pupils then go on to look at economic theory in greater depth. In microeconomics, this includes labour markets, the distribution of income and wealth, the environment and market failure. In macroeconomics, pupils learn about national economy, and then cover international topics such as globalisation, trade theory, exchange rates, and the UK’s global economic links.

Politics

Politics is taught at A Level, and follows the AQA course.

The course covers both UK and US politics, and explores comparisons between the two systems. The pupils look at how political systems and parliaments work, the role of the judiciary, and how participation in democracy happens through elections, referendums and pressure groups. The course also covers the main political ideas, including liberalism, conservatism and socialism.

Beyond the classroom

Sixth Form pupils stay closely in touch with current news and events. There is an Economics and Politics Society, which is open to girls in Years 11 and above. Sixth Form pupils have a trip to London, visiting Parliament and attending economics lectures, and they organise whole school participation in the National Youth Parliament’s annual ‘Make Your Mark’ initiative. St Mary’s pupils also take part in Model United Nations. They attend several conferences each year, representing a different nation state each time.

Drama and Theatre Studies

Drama is taught to all girls in Years 7 to 9. It is then an option at both GCSE and A Level.

In Year 7, the girls are introduced to a wide range of theatrical styles, live performances and basic stagecraft, including Greek theatre, silent movies, radio plays, and immersive, long-form role plays.

In Year 8, they experience a range of theatrical styles and practitioners, from commedia dell’ arte to Laban’s Eight Efforts of Action. Every girl also participates in performances of condensed Shakespeare plays that are presented to parents as part of the Year 8 parents meetings.

In Year 9, the girls learn about dramatic genres such as forum theatre and physical theatre. They use political theatre to look at issues such as the suffragettes and homelessness, and they also explore script-writing.

At GCSE, pupils follow the Eduqas Drama course, which contains a significant practical element. The girls put on their own devised pieces as well as performances from text, which are chosen by the girls in consultation with the department. Recent choices have included The Wasp, Be My Baby, and My Aching Heart. Trips to live performances are a regular part of the course, and girls normally see ten or more plays during the two years, in addition to seeing performances through the NT Archives and Digital Theatre. There are also regular workshops with professional practitioners.

At A Level, pupils follow the AQA Drama and Theatre course, which combines challenging practical performance with intellectual rigour and academic enquiry. The course includes the creation of a piece of devised theatre, accompanied by a written portfolio, and the exploration and performance of three extracts from contrasting plays. Previous extracts have included work by Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Steven Berkoff, Philip Ridley and Caryl Churchill. The written examination includes the study of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good, as well as the analysis and evaluation of a live theatre production seen during the course.

Trips to live performances are a regular part of the GCSE and A Level courses. Girls normally see ten or more plays, in addition to seeing streamed performances through National Theatre Live. There are also regular workshops with professional practitioners such as RedCape Theatre, Splendid Theatre and Frantic Assembly.

Beyond the classroom

There are plenty of opportunities for girls to perform on stage and to support productions in backstage roles. In any academic year the department puts on at least seven productions in either our fully-equipped, professional-standard 400-seat Rose Theatre, or our intimate, fully-equipped black-box space, the Rufus Sewell Studio. Recent productions have included A Midsummer Night’s DreamAntigone, The Wizard of Oz, The Wardrobe, Little Women, The House of Bernarda Alba, Jane Eyre and The Canterbury Tales.

Every year our Sixth Form Drama Captain directs a play of her own choosing. Recent productions have included Red by Somalia Seaton, Out of Love by Elinor Cook, and As We Forgive Those by Andrew Smith.

There is an annual House Drama Festival, the entries for which are directed by the Sixth Form House Drama Captains, and the pupil-led open platform A New Narrative, in which girls perform new and original material in a relaxed studio environment.

Taking advantage of its many close professional contacts, the department holds acting for camera and audition technique workshops with professional actors and casting directors. Girls also enjoy using our high quality video recording equipment to participate in our short film competition, in which House teams take control of all aspects of the film-making process from directing and editing to sound and costume.

Computing

In Years 7 to 9 all girls have timetabled lessons in Computing.

The syllabus offers a mixture of Computer Science, ICT and Digital Literacy. The girls are taught important ICT skills such as spreadsheet modelling, database, data analysis and graphing, which are important in supporting teaching and learning across the school. Digital literacy encourages the safe and productive use of technology.

The Computer Science modules cover a wide range of skills. Year 7 are introduced to the principles of coding by producing sequenced scripts and creating games using Hopscotch. Year 8 learn to use the turtle module in Python to sequence instructions and draw beautiful shapes, exploring the connections between programming and art. They also enjoy learning about Swift programming in the self-paced problem-solving Swift Playgrounds environment. In addition to this, the girls design web pages using HTML and CSS. In Year 9 the girls develop their understanding of the principles of computational thinking and programming, again using Python.

All girls in Years 7 to 9 and GCSE are entered in the Oxford University computational thinking challenge annually. They also sign up to iDEA, the international Digital Enterprise Award programme, which helps them develop and demonstrate digital, enterprise and employability skills. This is the digital equivalent of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

Year 8 have one collaborative STEM lesson a week as part of the design, electronics and computing carousel.

At GCSE, girls follow the OCR IGCSE course in Computer Science. They develop their understanding of the main principles of problem-solving using computers, and apply this to creating computer-based solutions to problems using algorithms and a high-level programming language. They also cover how computers work, how to represent data, connect to networks and transfer data, and associated security issues and solutions.

A Level Computer Science follows the AQA syllabus. This course helps girls to understand the core academic principles of computer science. Classroom learning leads to creating real-world systems through the development of an independent programming project. Girls also develop their technical understanding and their ability to analyse and solve problems using computational thinking.

In the Sixth Form, all girls are given the opportunity to take a Computer Technology course in which they receive support for pursuits such as web or app design, programming, advanced spreadsheets, CAD (computer-aided design) and 3D printing. This programme is designed to support pupils who want to increase their knowledge and understanding of computers, or who have interests they may want to pursue at university such as engineering, architecture, graphic design or computer science.

Classics

Latin

Latin is taught to all girls in Years 7 and 8. Most girls continue with Latin in Year 9, though some are invited to pursue a course in Classical Studies instead. Latin is then an option at both GCSE and A Level.

In Years 7 to 9, pupils are introduced to the Latin language, and then begin to learn more complex language skills, including composition. They study the city of Pompeii and its eventual fate,  and learn about Roman culture, society and history.

At GCSE, pupils follow the OCR course, which involves the study of authors such as Pliny, Tacitus, Virgil and Livy. They learn to appreciate Latin prose and verse literature in the original and develop a more sophisticated understanding of the accidence and syntax. They are then able to read continuous Latin prose with fluency and tackle simple English into Latin translation. The course includes trips to the British Museum, and to classics conferences at other schools.

At A Level, pupils follow the OCR course, which provides a blend of language and literature, including works by Ovid, Cicero, Virgil and Horace. They study Latin authors in depth and tackle both unseen verse and prose for translation and comprehension, as well as building on their composition skills. They also go on regular outings to places such as the Cambridge Cast Gallery, to university events and lectures, and to theatrical performances of Greek tragedy.

Classical Greek

Pupils are given a taster in Classical Greek in Year 8, and able pupils then begin a course in Classical Greek in Year 9. It is then an option for both GCSE and A Level.

At GCSE, pupils pursue the OCR course, studying authors such as Euripides, Herodotus, Homer and Xenophon. They learn to appreciate Greek prose and verse literature in the original and develop their understanding of syntax so that they are able to read with fluency. They also tackle simple English into Greek translation. They go on trips to the British Museum and classics conferences, and performances of Greek tragedies at local and national theatres, including the Cambridge Greek Play.

At A Level, pupils pursue the OCR course, which includes the in-depth study of authors such as Plato, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Homer and Thucydides. They tackle both verse and prose unseen for translation and comprehension, as well as building on their composition skills. There are regular outings to university events, lectures and performances of Greek tragedy.

Classical Civilisation

Aspects of Greek and Roman civilisation are encountered as part of the Latin course in Years 7 to 9, and some Year 9 girls are invited to take a course in Classical Studies instead of Latin. Classical Civilisation is then available as a subject option for GCSE and A Level.

At GCSE, pupils follow the OCR course. They learn about Greek and Roman society, religious beliefs, mythology, and domestic life. They also analyse ancient source material, including classical literature in translation, and material evidence such as archaeological finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum. They develop an awareness of the relationship between classical Greece and Rome and the world of today.

At A Level, pupils follow the OCR course. This incorporates a blend of ancient literature in translation and the study of classical culture, including religion, politics, sculpture, architecture and pottery. Pupils explore the world of the hero though an in-depth study of selected books from Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid in translation and develop an appreciation of the religion of the Greeks and Romans using a variety of sources including classical art and architecture. They go on outings to the British Museum and other sites of interest.

Beyond the classroom

Sixth Form classicists run the school Classics Society for the benefit of all girls. They attend plays, and host film and video evenings, suppers, debates and discussions. They offer craft activities for junior girls, such as designing and creating Roman mosaics, making Roman jewellery, writing and shooting videos on Greek mythology, and devising classically-themed board games.

Trips are plentiful and varied across the year groups. Younger girls visit the museum at Corinium and Chedworth Roman Villa, Butser Ancient Farm, and the Roman Baths. Senior girls attend set text study days and lectures at a variety of venues such as Cambridge University. They have also regularly visited exhibitions at the British Museum. There are regular theatre trips, most commonly to see Greek tragedies and comedies performed in the original Greek and in translation at Cambridge, Oxford, Stratford and London.

Overseas residential trips normally take place approximately once every two years. The most recent trip was to Rome in February 2018. A trip to Athens for Sixth Formers is planned for October 2022.

Art and Design

All girls receive lessons in Art and Design from Year 7 to Year 9. It is then an option at GCSE and again at A Level. Photography is also available at A Level.

Art and Design

In Year 7, the girls receive specialist teaching in textiles, painting and ceramics. In Year 8, print-making is added to the syllabus, and in Year 9, both digital and traditional back and white film photography. Classes are small, and each discipline is taught in its own dedicated space within the Art Complex.

At GCSE, pupils follow the OCR course. The girls work in small groups, developing their skills, and recording their research and progress in their sketchbook. They experiment with the three main disciplines of painting, textiles and ceramics, before choosing one to pursue as part of a self-directed project.

At A Level, pupils follow the Edexcel course. This begins with a trip to Brighton and the South Downs, and the chance to work with an artist in person. Girls then experience a carousel of four disciplines, painting and drawing, textiles, ceramics, and printmaking, before choosing their specialism. During the course they experiment and refine their technique, research different artists, and develop their own project work. There is a focus on independent work, and the girls document all their preparatory work in sketchbooks, before embarking on their final pieces.

Photography

GCSE pupils follow the OCR course. They experiment with dark room and digital photography, exploring a range of genres within the discipline before embarking on self-directed projects.

Photography A Level follows the Edexcel course. It begins with the department’s trip to London, where the girls visit galleries and begin taking photographs as part of their project work. This is followed by studio workshops in digital and dark room techniques. The girls build on their understanding of photographic technologies and techniques, and then develop their own independent project.

Beyond the classroom

The girls are taken on regular trips to museums and galleries, and have the opportunity to work with practising artists, both here at school and on our annual residential trip to Brighton. They also attend artists’ talks, and life drawing takes place at school once a fortnight for senior girls.

Pupils’ work is exhibited around the school throughout the year, and the department also stages a major exhibition on Open Day. Girls enter their work for competitions such as the Windsor School Festival and the Saatchi Art Prize. The girls also host pupils from St Francis Primary School for an art day once a year.

View gallery of recent art work.