What your child learns in Key Stage 3 English

Secondary school girl writing
KS3 covers the first three years of secondary school. Here’s your guide to what your child will learn in English classes in that time.

English is usually taught in ability sets in KS3. The curriculum will be the same, but higher sets will be working at a higher level, while lower sets will be given more support. 

The main aim of the English curriculum is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through reading for enjoyment across a wide range of styles and genres.

There are four separate curriculum areas in English:

  • reading
  • writing
  • grammar and vocabulary
  • spoken English

Reading

In KS3, children are expected to develop an appreciation and love of reading, and read increasingly challenging material independently. This includes reading a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, including in particular whole books, short stories, poems and plays from a variety of genres, historical periods, forms and authors.

They will study: 

  • English literature, pre-1914 and contemporary, including prose, poetry and drama
  • Shakespeare (two plays)
  • Seminal world literature

Students are expected to choose and read books independently, and to re-read books they've already covered to increase their familiarity with them and provide a basis for making comparisons.

They develop their understanding of increasingly challenging texts through learning new vocabulary, using context and dictionaries, making inferences and referring to evidence in the text, and using their knowledge of purpose, audience and context to help their understanding.

Pupils learn to check their understanding to make sure what they've read makes sense, read critically, recognise a range of poetic and dramatic conventions, study setting, plot and characterisation, and understand how the work of dramatists is communicated through performance. They will study work by a range of authors, including studying at least two authors in depth each year.

Writing

In their written work, students are taught to write accurately, fluently, effectively and at length, for a range of purposes and audiences, including:

  • Essays
  • Stories, scripts, poetry and other imaginative writing
  • Notes and scripts for talks and presentations
  • A range of other texts, including arguments, and personal and formal letters.

They learn to summarise and organise their material and apply their growing knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and text structure to their writing. 

They should be taught to plan, draft, edit and proof-read their work, considering how their writing reflects its intended audience and purpose, amending their vocabulary, grammar and structure to improve their writing, and paying attention to accurate spelling and punctuation.

Grammar and vocabulary

In KS3, pupils are expected to consolidate their knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary they learned at primary school. They do this by:

  • Analysing more challenging texts
  • Studying the effectiveness of the grammatical features of the texts they read
  • Picking up new vocabulary and grammatical tools from the books and other texts they read, and using them in their own writing and speech
  • Understanding the differences between written and spoken English, including formal and informal registers, and Standard English and other varieties of English
  • Using Standard English confidently in their written and spoken work
  • Using linguistic and literary terminology to discuss reading, writing and spoken language.

Spoken language

At this stage, students are taught to speak confidently and effectively. They're expected to use Standard English confidently in a range of contexts, including classroom discussions, speeches and presentations. They should be able to express their own ideas and keep to the point. Pupils take part in formal debates and structured discussions. They improvise, rehearse and perform play scripts and poetry, and use role, intonation, tone, volume, mood, silence, stillness and action to add impact.