Language shapes our understanding of ourselves and our world. It is the primary means by which we relate to others and is central to the intellectual, social and emotional development of all students. In the years of schooling from Kindergarten to Year 12, English is the study and use of the English language in its various textual forms. These textual forms encompass spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts of varying complexity through which meaning is shaped, conveyed, interpreted and reflected. The aim of English in Years 7–12 is to enable students to understand and use language effectively, appreciate, reflect on and enjoy the English language and to make meaning in ways that are imaginative, creative, interpretive, critical and powerful. Students value the English language in its various forms to become thoughtful and effective communicators in a diverse global world. In acknowledgement of its role as the national language, English is the mandatory subject from Kindergarten to Year 12 in the NSW curriculum. Knowledge, understanding, skills, values and attitudes acquired in English are central to the learning and development of students. Proficiency in English enables students to take their place as confident communicators, critical and imaginative thinkers, lifelong learners and informed, active participants in Australian society. It supports the development and expression of a system of personal values, based on students’ understanding of moral and ethical matters, and gives expression to their aspirations and ideals.

Throughout Stage 4, students read, listen to and view a variety of texts that are appropriate to their needs, interests and abilities. These texts include forms such as fiction, poetry, film, nonfiction and drama. In Year 7, students undertake a study of Life Writing, Fantasy, The Art of Rhetoric, and a Concept Study exploring the notion of Discovery. Anthony Hill’s The Burnt Stick, C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows are some of the texts students may read throughout Year 7. In Year 8, students embark on a Close Study of Drama, a Concept Study of the topic Belonging, a Genre study entitled ‘The Quest’ and a Comparative Study, ‘From Page to Screen’. Texts encountered in Year 8 may include Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

By the end of Stage 4, students respond to a variety of texts critically, imaginatively and interpretively and compose accurate, clear and coherent texts. They use English in personal, social and learning contexts with increasing control and understanding of the textual forms and features of language. They also have an increasing awareness of purpose, audience and context. Students make connections between texts, identifying the main ideas and points of view, along with an understanding of the ways in which texts seek to position responders.

In speaking, writing and representing, students shape meaning through the thoughtful selection and ordering of appropriate content and by drawing on a widening repertoire of language choices. They can express a personal point of view, give words and images to their imaginings and compose logical arguments. Students reflect on their learning, becoming aware of how they learn and identifying what they have learned, effective ways to learn and what they need to learn next.

Throughout Stage 5, students continue to read, listen to and view a variety of increasingly sophisticated texts that are appropriate to their needs, interests and abilities. In Year 9, students study the unit ‘Australian Voices and Visions’, a Concept Study entitled ‘Relationships’, A Genre Study focused on Speculative Fiction and a Close Study of Film. Texts which may be encountered in Year 9 include the poetry of Judith Wright and Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began and Ang Lee’s film, Life of Pi.

The four units of study in Year 10 include: The Concept Study ‘Change’, a poetry and nonfiction unit entitled ‘The Literary Landscape of War’, a Shakespearean study on Power, and a Genre Study of Crime Fiction. The texts studied in Year 10 may include Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Kenneth Slessor, and Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Rear Window.

By the end of Stage 5 students respond to and compose a comprehensive range of imaginative, factual and critical texts using different modes and technologies. They enjoy, reflect on, critically assess and articulate processes of response and composition. They respond to and compose a wide range of simple and complex texts for pleasure, critical analysis and information-gathering, varying their approach according to a text’s purpose, audience and context.

Students use varying technologies to compose texts. They apply their knowledge of the elements that shape meaning. They use a range of strategies to shape their texts to address purpose and audience in different contexts. Students display a developing personal style in their factual, imaginative, critical and analytical compositions. They work through the composing process, including planning, researching, drafting, conferencing, editing and publishing. Students reflect on the composition process and how it has affected the final version of their text.

Students respond to texts from different cultures that offer a range of perspectives. In considering possible meanings, they develop sustained interpretations supported by evidence and think creatively beyond the text. They infer, interpret and investigate the similarities and differences between and among texts. By critically evaluating texts, students identify strengths and weaknesses and are able to articulate coherent responses. Students reflect on their own and others’ learning, assessing learning strategies and purposes to adapt their knowledge, understanding and skills to new contexts.

The study of English in Stage 6 develops in students an understanding of literary expression and nurtures an appreciation of aesthetic values. It develops skills to enable students to experiment with ideas and expression, to become innovative, active, independent learners, to collaborate and to reflect on their learning.

In their study of English, students continue to develop their critical and imaginative faculties and broaden their capacity for cultural understanding. They examine various contexts of language usage to understand how making meaning is complex and shaped by a multiplicity of factors. As students’ command of English continues to grow, they are provided with the following opportunities: question, assess, challenge, and reformulate information; identify and clarify issues; and negotiate and solve problems. They can become creative and confident users of a range of digital technologies and understand and reflect on the ongoing impact of these technologies on society. The enhancement of these skills and understandings allow them to develop their control of language for life-long learning and the world beyond school.

All students must choose one course from the following three: English Standard, English Advanced and English Studies.

English Standard is designed for all students to increase their expertise in English and consolidate their English literacy skills in order to enhance their personal, social, educational and vocational lives. Students learn to respond to and compose a wide variety of texts in a range of situations in order to be effective, creative and confident communicators. In Year 12, these texts currently include the short stories of Henry Lawson, the poetry of Robert Gray and the film Billy Elliott.

English Advanced is designed for students to undertake the challenge of higher-order thinking to enhance their personal, social, educational and vocational lives. These students apply critical and creative skills in their composition of and response to texts in order to develop their academic achievement through understanding the nature and function of complex texts. Texts currently studied in Year 12 include Albert Camus’ The Stranger, The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, the poetry of T. S. Eliot and William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

English Studies is designed for students who wish to refine their skills and knowledge in English and consolidate their English literacy skills to enhance their personal, social, educational and vocational lives. It is a course for students who wish to be awarded a Higher School Certificate but who are seeking an alternative to the English Standard course.

English Extension is designed for students undertaking English Advanced who choose to study at a more intensive level in diverse but specific areas. Students engage with complex levels of conceptualization and seek the opportunity to work in increasingly independent ways. Currently, this course in Year 11 involves an extensive study of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. In Year 12, the English Extension 1 course involves the study of William Faulkner’s As I lay Dying, the poetry of Emily Dickinson and a collection of short stories by Katherine Mansfield. English Extension 2 is a course offered in Year 12 to Extension 1 students who are highly competent in the use of English with the opportunity to pursue areas of interest independently, develop deep knowledge and manipulate language in their own extended compositions.