During my visit to Ark St Albans Academy in Birmingham, I spoke to a number of student studying English Literature. English is sometimes a ‘hidden’ creative subject because of its status amongst the ‘core’ subjects at GCSE. People take English seriously, that is, it is viewed as more academic than creative. During my time traveling around the country visiting schools, I have found this attitude fascinating, because for me, English has always been fairly creative. It is about writing and reading, both creative pursuits in my book. At St Albans, I encountered a number of students who clearly felt the same way, and who felt that English was different to other more ‘academic’ subjects they were taking because it asked for interpretation and personal opinions.
It is a lot like a seminar style and I guess that allows it to be more laid back because with English, of course you have to learn things, but it is also your interpretation so it is nice to get everyone’s point of view.
It is a lot more independent. It is your interpretations. You have to work on them yourself to make your work look more outstanding.
I think, especially for people who like to be creative and independent, it is fun but you have to make sure you can justify it.
It is very different to Maths in a sense because with Maths you have a right and wrong answer but in literature there is no right or wrong answer. It is interpretation and how you see things. So once you can justify that it is quite good.
[It is] something creative for me. Creativity is so important. The freedom… Especially in this world where they are so rigid and you have to be in a box, whether it is your gender, your race, your height, you have to be in a box. Creativity allows you to go above and beyond.
The students also spoke with affection for their English teachers, and told me how you can always tell when a teacher is passionate about their subject.
I think you can totally tell the different dynamics with teachers. One teacher is so enthusiastic. The energy! She is teaching English. She is just so enthusiastic and you can tell that she loves her subject. I think people who really enjoy their subject, you can feel it whereas I think with other subjects you have some enthusiasm but it is really set, so it is like you learn this, this, and this. I feel like because there is so much freedom in English, like with your interpretations, teachers can provide more of their own mind and it helps us be more creative with it as well.
The teachers there [in English] are so dedicated to helping us.
The 6thfrom students at St Albans explained how teacher-student relationships were one of the reasons they had chosen to stay on at the school.
That is one of the reasons why I chose to come here. We already know the teachers, they know how we operate.
They know your strengths and weaknesses. They brought you up through the academic years. They understand where your flaws are. They try and build you up with confidence, and remove those flaws and make you the best version of you as possible.
The English students at St Albans clearly appreciated the enthusiasm and dedication of their teachers, and the way this allowed them to work creatively, and express their own interpretations of different texts and ideas.