Academic rigour at the heart of A-level studies

Eleven Year 13 students from QE attended lectures on King Lear delivered by top-flight academics. The lectures, which are part of a series intended to enhance the boys’ A-level studies, were given by academics from the universities of London, Birmingham and Manchester, as well as by a Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute.

“While there may be a perception that A-levels are now somehow easier than in years gone by, such study days remind us that there is real academic rigour at the heart of the courses that our students continue to take,” said David Ryan, English teacher and Assistant Head. “Lecture programmes such as this one push our students to consider literature from a range of perspectives; they will act as excellent preparation for the way in which they will be taught at university.”

The topics were diverse and included The Poetry of King Lear and Suffering in the Play. “There was significant emphasis on the impact of history on the performance of the play,” said Mr Ryan. “Between 1650 and the 1830s, directors changed the ending of the play to a happy one. Since 1945 there has been a greater desire to focus on the play’s interpretation of the challenges of human existence.”

The Sixth-Formers will now go on to study Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath and Webster’s The White Devil as part of a paper entitled Poetry and Drama 1800

""A number of departments at QE take senior pupils to such lectures, which take place at venues including the Quakers’ Friends House at Euston and some of London’s most important academic venues. The King Lear lectures were held at the Conway Hall in High Holborn, which is owned by the South Place Ethical Society. It is renowned as a hub for free speech and independent thought, and hosts a wide variety of lectures, classes and performances. The society’s library, known as the Humanist Reference Library, is the largest and most comprehensive research resource of its kind in the United Kingdom.