What Does Outstanding English Teaching Look Like?

With uncertainties around the new marking system for English GCSEs in the school system lingering against a backdrop of a teacher recruitment crisis, and with 2016 figures showing that over 40% of students are failing to achieve a C grade or above in English, significant efforts are needed to raise the standards of teaching and learning in English Language and Literature.

Managing Expectations

Outstanding or effective English teaching can mean a whole myriad of things. To each individual it represents something different, depending on whether they be student or Headteacher, Teaching Assistant or Head of Faculty.

Take literacy for example. Often the teaching of literacy skills is left to early years teachers, or teaching and classroom assistants when working with smaller groups. But literacy is a key skill required throughout life, and many children and young people will need continued help and tuition throughout their school career. Understanding where and when  literacy and communication skills support is needed, and exploring to which teaching techniques a pupil will respond best is vital for teachers across the profession, but especially for teachers of English.

Harnessing Transferable Skills

Literacy is far from the only transferable skill developed under the tutelage of an English teacher. Critical reading and creative writing, are both staples of English teaching which tend to be honed almost solely in an English classroom setting. However, to explore where these abilities become useful elsewhere in the curriculum, in History, Drama and Geography to name but three, is to help cultivate a more nuanced appreciation among pupils both for English as a subject, as well as for their own aptitudes. The same applies, of course, where skills established in other subjects, such as problem solving, can be used in English.

Students realising that what they are able to do in one classroom with one teacher on one topic is in fact something that they can use and explore in any classroom can be extremely beneficial for the development of a pupil’s attainment not just in school, but far beyond.

Increasing Engagement

Undoubtedly, it helps if lessons are engaging and relevant for the individuals in the classroom. Whilst it’s not always possible to substitute the analysis of a Shakespearean text for that of the latest blog post from a teen internet sensation, allowing pupils to have input into lesson plans where possible enables them to contribute from the outset, thus broadening their understanding of English as a subject, and how it relates to them. Being able to offer thoughts on something the class has read more organically, perhaps via social media, can help pupils find common ground and trigger discussions that can be brought back to the theme or topic of the lesson if effectively facilitated by the teacher.

Making the Most of Potential

Teaching English has the unique potential to make an unparalleled impact on a pupil’s life and so it is vital that this potential is harnessed.


This article was written by Lauren Powell, Head of Programme, Education Team, Inside Government