Subject content – A-level

Our A-level English Language specification offers opportunities for students to develop their subject expertise by engaging creatively and critically with a wide range of texts and discourses. Students will create texts and reflect critically on their own processes of production, while analysing the texts produced by others. The specification explores the study of English Language both as a medium of communication and as a topic in its own right, with an emphasis on the ability of students to pursue lines of enquiry, debate different views, and work independently to research aspects of language in use. Language is seen as a creative tool for expression and social connection, as well as for individual cognition. The study of language as a symbolic system used to assert power in society is also fundamental to the scope of this specification.

The methods of analysis appropriate to the fields of English language/linguistics underpin all the elements of this specification, and these are applied to distinctive topic areas. This means that, for teaching purposes, there is a common core that all teachers and students need to understand but also discrete areas so that you can teach to your own specialisms and interests. There is also scope for students to pursue their own independent lines of enquiry and topics for writing, with support from their teachers, in the non-exam assessment.

The topics and titles of the subject content reflect a possible trajectory through the course, with 'Language, the Individual and Society' focusing on individual and immediate social contexts for language, and 'Language Diversity and Change' working outwards to consider larger-scale public discourses about change and variety, drawing on regional, ethnic, national and global Englishes. However, it would be just as viable to start with the bigger questions about language use in 'Language Diversity and Change' and end closer to home in 'Language, the Individual and Society'. Both of these represent valid teaching methods, and the chosen route will depend on teacher or student preferences and abilities.

While the specification aims to maximise flexibility, so that the different components can be sequenced in any way appropriate to the pedagogic context in question, 'Language in Action', is by its very nature, synoptic, as it requires an ability to make connections across the course as a whole. Exposure to many different texts and discourses and a focus on aspects of textual variation will feed into the writing element of this component; and study of all the different areas of language variation, change and acquisition, as well as attitudes to language, enables students to choose a topic for the investigation.

This specification draws academic insights from a range of fields within the study of English language/linguistics, including sociolinguistics and discourse analysis. In creating the specification, particular note has been taken of a range of associated factors. These are: the subject criteria for English Language GCSE; subject criteria for GCE English Language; benchmarks used at higher education level. In this way the specification is designed to fit within a continuum of study from GCSE to degree level.

In summary, our A-level English Language specification offers a common core of analytical methods, topics and skills that have proven value, set within a flexible programme that allows schools and colleges to shape learning and teaching in ways appropriate to their particular contexts and constituencies. It has the additional benefit of being co-teachable with our AS in English Language, thus widening options for you and your students and ensuring that you are able to deliver a programme of study that is coherent and manageable.