Although the main thrust of the school is very much its A-Level programme, it nevertheless does offer a limited number of GCSE subjects which may serve as a one-year foundation course for overseas students or as a one-year ‘rescue’ programme for students who perhaps have been forced to miss a year because of illness or accident. The school also offers re-takes in core subjects such as English and Maths which can be taken in conjunction with a student’s A-Level programme.
The one-year ‘foundation’ GCSE course is designed for overseas students who have not obtained the required academic qualifications in their own country or the required standard of English to enable them to begin A-Level courses. (See also courses offered at Hurtwood under English for Speakers of Other Languages – ESOL). Depending on the level of intensity of their English language course, overseas students can have up to five GCSE subjects added to their English programme on an individual ‘tailor-made’ basis. Typically students would choose five subjects – English Language, Mathematics, Science, Additional Science, and Drama.
Class sizes are usually very small with only about five or six students in a group, but in core re-take subjects such as Mathematics or English the numbers can grow to around 12 per class. A minimum of four-and-a-half hours teaching is provided in each subject each week.
The only ‘re-take’ courses we offer are in the vital core subjects of GCSE English and Mathematics. Students who are doing a re-take would usually be restricted to three rather than four AS subjects. Re-takes can be scheduled for either November or June.
Class sizes vary according to demand each year but are usually around 10 or 12 students per class. Lessons are fitted in around the A-Level programme and there are usually three double sessions per week per subject.
The ESOL department plays a fundamental role in equipping international students for life after Hurtwood, whether it be an academic future or a creative / vocational one. Our aim is to provide every ESOL student with the language skills they require to confidently perform in their chosen field. We build on their existing skills and aim to ensure that students’ language foundations are strong. In addition to having the specific language and qualifications required for their careers, we aim to produce students whose language level and cultural awareness allows them to participate fully in society.
We are keen to ensure that our ESOL students work towards and gain the most useful qualifications for their future. The examination which is preferred by UK universities and the UK Border Agency is the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and it is this examination for which Hurtwood international students who require English language qualifications are prepared. This is an academically rigorous examination which has four modules: reading, writing, speaking and listening, which are graded independently, as well as forming an overall grade (on a scale of 0 to 9). An IELTS qualification specifying particular grades often forms part of a student’s UCAS offer from his / her universities.
ESOL classes support and enhance students’ existing language skills. They provide students with the essential language building blocks including grammar and vocabulary, consider a wide range of topics and prepare students thoroughly for their IELTS examination. The examination preparation in particular involves familiarisation with examination tasks, effective examination techniques and strategies and plenty of practice with both written and oral feedback.
In addition to ESOL classes, one to one support sessions and in-class support in other subjects we encourage all our international students to participate fully in all Hurtwood has to offer. ESOL students enjoy playing key roles in drama productions, Hurtwood concerts and providing the crucial technical support that makes their peers look so good on stage. As they take part in these activities they are constantly improving and honing their language skills. Additionally, ESOL students are very active in school competitions. Last year, one of our students entered Hurtwood short story competition and with support from the department was able to go on and claim first prize. ESOL students are also active students who are keen to explore; many of them join us on mountaineering trips to Snowdonia and closer to home, on long walks on the North and South Downs.