Department Overview

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) 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.

Reading Lists | Internal Page

Indeed the progressive decision to adopt both our own literature course in the Under School and at A Level and IB Diploma examinations in the Sixth Form allows us unparalleled freedom to embrace a vibrant range of both canonical and contemporary poetry, prose and plays. Gone are the days when the content of lessons was dictated by the conservative limitations of the examination board, with our scholars left underwhelmed by the same tired GCSE texts supplied year after year.

For full details of the curriculum, please use the link below.

Curriculum | Internal Page

Beyond the Classroom

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.

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.

Department Staff

There is an impressive breadth of knowledge and experience within the department. The team is comprised of brilliantly talented individuals who teach with flair, and who also play an essential and extensive wider role in the academic and pastoral life of Charterhouse.

Mr William Gaisford, MA - Head of English

Before joining Charterhouse, Mr Gaisford taught Harrow School for nine years. He was educated at Exeter School before reading English Language and Literature at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

Miss Alexandra Biffen, BA

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 Michelle Creer, BA, PGCE 

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.

Mr Matthew Dobson, MA

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.

Mr Charlie Hall, MA

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.

Dr Frank Hutton-Williams, MA, MPhil, DPhil

Dr Hutton-Williams was educated at Tonbridge School and read English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He gained his MPhil in Irish Writing at Trinity College, Dublin in 2010 before completing his doctorate at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was an Amelia Jackson Senior Scholar (2011-14). Dr Hutton-Williams is interested in publishing and editing, debating, athletics, basketball, flute and tenor saxophone and fundraising.

Mr Edward Monroe, MA

Mr Monroe was educated at Shrewsbury School before attending the University of Leeds where he gained his BA in English Language and Literature. He completed his MA in English Literature at Durham University. Mr Monroe worked in publishing and journalism, and was a private tutor before deciding on a career in teaching. He is very interested in theatre, both in the audience and behind the scenes, and enjoys literature, history, football, tennis and cricket.

Mr Edward Poynter, BA

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 Andrew Reston, BAMSt

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 John Richardson, BA

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 Charles Sparrow, MA

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.

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