The English Department prides itself on fostering a lifelong love of literature amongst our pupils. We seek to provide academically rigorous teaching while promoting the need for pupils to learn independently.
Reading and research skills are developed from the pupils' first term through our targeted use of the School’s superb library; all Fourths (Year 9 pupils) also complete our Foundation Course as we place emphasis on honing the technical accuracy of pupils’ writing. We cultivate diverse knowledge of fiction and non-fiction throughout their time studying English, always striving to venture far beyond the confines of the syllabus.
Our choice of IGCSEs, A Level and IB Diploma examinations allows us to embrace a vibrant range of both canonical and contemporary poetry, prose and plays. Taught by specialists who live and breathe their subject, English is a popular subject across all year groups.
For full details of the curriculum, please use the link below.
The Charterhouse Half-Century is a list of fifty reading recommendations for Carthusians in all of the School’s year groups. The list is made up entirely of books suggested by pupils in tutorials, with an emphasis on titles that are engaging and highly-readable. It contains both fiction and non-fiction, and wide range of writers and genres to appeal to all tastes. All of the books are available in the School Library and from the School Shop, with many titles also in House libraries.
The full list of books are available below:
Each Quarter a title from the list will be selected a ‘Book of the Quarter’, with Carthusians encouraged to read this book and discuss it with their tutors in tutorials.
An array of societies are run by the department that cater to all tastes: be they writing poetry, reading plays, discovering non-native literature or debating contemporary issues. There are reading groups in both the Under School and the Sixth Form, which allow pupils to develop and discuss their own personal literary passions. The department also has a strong tradition of encouraging creative writing. There is a flourishing creative writing society and an anthology of Carthusian writing, The Charterhouse Review is published annually.
The department regularly welcomes a number of visiting writers, performers and academics to speak and lead workshops. Recently these have included Paul Farley, Ben Haggarty, Ben Walden, Nicholas Royle, Peter Carpenter, Maddie Geddes-Barton, Peter James, Marcus Sedgwick, Guy Burt, Andy Mulligan, Michael Symmons Roberts and Professor Daniel Brown.
Creativity & Performance
We also follow the principle that every pupil studying English should go to the theatre at least once per academic year and arranges trips to see both plays which are examination texts and those of general literary interest.
Every year there are events that celebrate creativity and performance; for example, the Arts Festival involves collaboration with the Art and Music Departments to produce works connected by themes such as Metamorphosis and Storytelling, and our annual Recitation Competition entails whittling down five hundred or so entrants to twenty-five finalists – who then declaim to a packed house in Hall. Furthermore, there are regular theatre trips to the West End: whole year groups attend productions designed not only to be relevant to their studies but also to nurture their wider appreciation of drama. The Culture Society also runs evenings out to the ballet and opera, as well as more quirky forays to see fringe theatre or contemporary dance.
- Mr William Gaisford, MA - Head of English
- Miss Alexandra Biffen, BA
- Mrs Michelle Creer, BA, PGCE
- Ms Karen Davies, MA, MBA
- Mr Matthew Dobson, MA
- Miss Georgia Galton-Ayling, BA, PGCE
- Mr Charlie Hall, MA
- Mr Edward Poynter, BA
- Mr Andrew Reston, BA, MSt
- Mr John Richardson, BA
- Mr Charles Sparrow, MA
- Miss Georgia Gordon-Martin, BA, PGCE
Miss Biffen joined Charterhouse in 2019 from All Hallows Catholic School in Farnham where she taught for four years previously and served as Assistant Head of English. She was educated at Farnborough Hill and Alton College before reading English at the University of Southampton. Before returning to the U.K. for her GCSEs, she lived and studied in New York. Miss Biffen enjoys travel, theatre and, of course, reading.
Mrs Creer joined Charterhouse in 2019 from Lancing College where she was Housemistress and teacher of English for the previous ten years. Prior to that she taught at St Catherine’s, Bramley and at Woking High School. Educated at Leek High School Mrs Creer read English at Swansea and then undertook her PGCE at KCL. She has taught for 23 years in the private and maintained sector. She enjoys singing, reading, anything theatrical, and is an avid devotee of the gym. As well as teaching English, Mrs Creer is also Housemistress of Chetwynd.
Ms Davies joined Charterhouse in 2018 from The Royal Ballet School, where she was the Academic & Pastoral Principal for five years. She was educated in Manchester at Fallowfield C of E High School before attending Girton College, Cambridge to read English. Karen went on to study for an MBA at Warwick Business School. She worked for 15 years in financial services and management consultancy before qualifying as a teacher in 2003. Karen has two grown children. She likes choral singing and enjoys dance, theatre, cricket and hockey. As well as teaching English, Ms Davies is Deputy Head (Pastoral) and a member of the Senior Leadership and Executive teams at Charterhouse.
Mr Dobson read English at Cambridge. Before joining Charterhouse he taught English at Trinity Academy Halifax, and prior to this he taught in schools in both Hong Kong and Japan. His interests include writing poetry and he has published in numerous print and online poetry magazines. Mr Dobson is also a keen squash player.
Prior to joining Charterhouse, Miss Galton-Ayling was a teacher of English, house tutor and fencing coach at Ibstock Place School. She graduated from the University of Oxford with a BA in English Language and Literature before gaining her PGCE through the Teach First programme. Miss Galton-Ayling loves travelling and being outdoors but you'll find her with a cup of tea and a book when it's raining. Her hobbies include cycling, playing the saxophone, learning French and loitering in book shops.
Mr Hall studied at St John’s College, Oxford and, in a previous life, he worked on the arts desk at The Independent, and wrote catalogue essays for, among other things, Damien Hirst's exhibition at the ICA and for Aerial Creatures, an exhibition of Paul Nash's paintings at the Imperial War Museum. He claims to have particular interests relating to the representation of women in literature, but, given his devotion to dubious works of the 1950s, nobody is sure whether to believe him.
Mr Poynter has an English and Classics degree from Exeter University and had a career in the army before moving into teaching in 2010. During his six years as an officer in the 4th and 2nd Battalions in the Royal Green Jackets and the Rifles, he saw active service in Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Before joining Charterhouse, Edward was an Assistant Housemaster and English teacher at Ardingly College, where he was also responsible for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and for co-ordinating all outdoor education and has coached rugby and football. He is an enthusiastic sportsman himself, as well as an avid student of literature, history and the arts, and has recently completed the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. Mr Poynter is Housemaster of Weekites and the Senior Housemaster.
Mr Reston graduated with a double first in English Language and Literature from Balliol College Oxford in 1996, followed by a top Distinction in his Master of Studies degree. For seven years he was a Fellow of All Souls College, where he researched and taught English Literature and completed a doctoral thesis on Henry James. His areas of special interest include late-nineteenth-century fiction, fiction in general, Shakespeare, Romantic Poetry, Modernism, and American, Russian, French and East Asian Literature. He also has a penchant for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Comics.
Mr Richardson has a first-class degree in English Literature from Nottingham and was awarded an MLitt in Renaissance English Literature from Oxford. Within the department, he is jointly responsible for debating and enjoys sharing his passion for Shakespeare, Milton and Keats. Mr Richardson is also the School's Assistant Head (Pupil Welfare) and Designated Safeguarding Lead.
Mr Sparrow teaches English and Classics, having studied Classics at Edinburgh University and English at University College, London. He has recently taken over responsibility, as Master of the Yearlings, for new pupils arriving into the Fourth Form (Year 9). Mr Sparrow also coaches football, cross-country and cricket, and looks after the Junior English Society.
Miss Gordon-Martin teaches English and Politics at Charterhouse. Previously she taught English and was responsible for Year 8 pastoral care at Honywood School. Miss Gordon-Martin was educated at Charterhouse before reading Politics at The University of Leeds. Her passion for global politics led her to the US, working as a congressional campaign advisor. Before completing her PGCE, Miss Gordon-Martin worked at Notting Hill Housing Trust, one of the largest housing associations in the UK and held management positions at InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG). Miss Gordon-Martin is incredibly passionate about all sport: She has competed in District League netball and plays tennis as regularly as she can (she recently won the 2019 Colchester & District Ladies’ singles tournament).