English | Cargilfield : Scotland's First Prep School


A few thoughts on the teaching of English at Cargilfield

Teachers of all subjects deal with reading, writing, speaking and listening.  It is, however, the approach of these aspects of English by the English teacher which makes the subject an important influence on the way children come to see and handle their world, and not a thing of drudgery, marks and mistakes.

For this reason, the contents of this document is concerned with angle, slant or approach, rather than a detailed list of activities.  In any case, so many topics come under the umbrella of “English” that a teacher has to play to his or her strengths to make best use of the time available.

In order to reach some way towards the ideal of making English everyone’s favourite subject, remember that we start with enormous advantages: constant contact with a huge range of stimulating reading, an infinite number of interesting ways to reach the desired aims, and the opportunity to read pieces of children’s writing which can all be different and “correct”.  Few subjects actually require teachers to indulge their pupils and themselves.  And often enough to be exciting, children’s original writing and handwriting will compare favourably with adult standards, and sometimes outstrip them – the teacher’s ultimate reward!

It should not, therefore, be hard to pass on enthusiastic interest in books, in effective writing, in the complexity of language, in experience shared, and in radio and television programmes.  In fact, much of English need not look like “work” at all.

English is that area of the curriculum where students study and use English language and literature (including literature translated into English).  Literacy increasingly involves not only reading, but also viewing.  It is important to realise that we are all teachers of English, and that appropriate use of language, good presentation and spelling and fluent speech are important across the curriculum, but there are areas which more particularly concern the English Department.


The English department aims to develop the following:


  1. The ability to speak, listen, read, view and write with purpose, effect and confidence in a wide range of contexts.


  1. A knowledge of the way language varies according to context, purpose, audience and intent, and the ability to apply this knowledge.


  1. A sound grasp of the grammatical and linguistic features of Standard English and the capacity to apply these, especially in writing.


  1. A broad knowledge and enthusiastic response to a wide range of literature, including poetry, drama and prose, both 20th Century and earlier; and some American, Australian and European writers; Greek and Roman myths.  Also, the ability to relate literature to aspects of contemporary society and personal experience.


  1. The capacity to discuss and analyse texts and language critically and with appreciation.


  1. A knowledge of the way in which responses to texts may vary according to cultural, social and personal differences, and the capacity to develop reasoned arguments about interpretation and meaning.


  1. The ability to read and use written information, and to write appropriately in a wide range of contexts, using the appropriate register for the intended audience.


  1. A fluent cursive style of writing, and work which is well presented and laid out in a manner appropriate to the task.  Fluency and expertise in word processing and desk-top publishing, particularly for children with problems of co-ordination or spelling.

Children at Cargilfield come from diverse social, cultural and linguistic backgrounds.  There is no entrance test, and the ability range covers a wide spectrum from potential scholars to those with mild or moderate learning difficulties.  We must cater for this diversity, and recognise the important part language plays in a child’s educational achievements in every area of the Curriculum.

Many varied activities take place over the course of the year within the Department to stimulate an interest in and an enthusiasm for reading and writing, including:


Termly Poetry Recitals

Visiting authors

Visits to War Poetry workshops at Edinburgh Castle

Externally assessed English Speaking Board Examinations

Visits to theatre productions

Creative writing workshops

Termly Book Fairs

Handwriting competitions

Gold, Silver, Bronze reading competitions

Internal Literary magazine published each term

Enter Poetry competitions (we have won the Green Pencil competition run by Edinburgh Council and the Poppy Scotland Poetry Competition)

School reading competitions

Publication of children’s work in school newsletter

House debating Competitions

ESU debating competition

Glenalmond debating competition

Glenalmond Short Story Competition

And many, many more!

End of term poetry recital

End of term poetry recital