A Day in the Life Of

Times Educational Supplement, October 3, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Day in the Life Of


When it comes to planning his classes, this head of English at elite private girls' school Roedean is inspired by his atmospheric Gothic surroundings - and by the institution's can-do culture

My working day begins in the chapel, singing Jerusalem. It is the start of term and, once we have finished, all the staff line up in the corridors for the traditional handshaking, where the girls and teachers greet one other. It is a wonderful opportunity to make each other's acquaintance.

I am the newly appointed faculty lead for English and master teacher here at Roedean School in East Sussex, and I am fascinated by this place. This year I am teaching the Gothic unit of A-level English literature and I will be using the school's atmospheric setting to inspire the girls.

I am often reminded of Catherine Morland, the heroine in Jane Austen's Gothic parody Northanger Abbey, when I look at the building, with its turrets and panelled rooms. My classroom even has a secret door and passageway leading to the chapel cloister.

The school was founded in 1888 in Brighton's Kemp Town by the Lawrence sisters, Penelope, Dorothy and Millicent. It moved to its present position in Roedean Way 10 years later, built on the cliffs overlooking the English Channel. The school was created by women for women.

After chapel, I move to my first lesson, with the upper third form, where we look at To Autumn by Keats. How apposite, I think. Next comes A-level literature. We debate whether T S Eliot's The Waste Land deserves its place in the canon and how "in yer face" form and genre are in the work of the playwright Sarah Kane. I ask the students what is shocking and graphic about her play 4.48 Psychosis.

At lunchtime, staff and girls converse over dinner and then I dash off to subject support. Every subject at Roedean offers extra help to the girls as well as support for particularly talented students. …

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