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The study of English is central to the learning and development of all young Australians. It helps create confident communicators, imaginative thinkers and informed citizens. It is through the study of English that individuals learn to analyse, understand, communicate and build relationships with others and with the world around them. The study of English is built around three interrelated strands of Language (the study of knowing about the English language), Literature (the study of understanding, appreciating, responding to, analysing and creating literature) and Literacy (the study of expanding one’s repertoire of English usage, leading to the mastery of highly specialised ways of using language, and to an emphasis on the ‘critical’ and ‘cultural’ dimensions of literacy, necessary to equip young adults for post-school education and employment.).  Together, these interrelated strands equip students with the competency to undertake alternative English studies at VCE level that include English Language and Literature.

Proficiency in English language enables the learner to master and use the patterns of discourse characteristic of the many forms of knowledge information and ideas, empowering the learner, so that he can act in the world with greater critical understanding and control. Therefore, the English courses at Melbourne High School aim to develop the essential life skills required for clear communication while providing students with a range of programs to extend, challenge, and enrich their learning such as creative self-expression through speaking and listening in a variety of contexts, creative and formal writing, examination of national and global issues, analytical and persuasive responses, the reading and writing of poetry, in-depth analysis of literature, including film and other multimodal forms. Students are encouraged to regard reading, viewing, writing, listening and speaking as active and integrated processes and classroom practice promotes activities which integrate these areas.  English teachers strive to provide a supportive and positive learning environment in which students can increase their self-esteem, confidence and competence in English language use thus enhancing both their life skills and their enjoyment of English in a variety of contexts for a variety of purposes.

All students are assisted to develop their critical understanding and control of the English language.  They are provided with a broad range of closely connected learning experiences designed to encourage them to become more confident, thoughtful, discriminating and imaginative communicators as readers, viewers, writers, speakers and listeners in both formal and informal situations. In turn, this helps students to become ethical, thoughtful, informed and active members of society and plays an important part in developing the understanding, attitudes and capabilities of those who will take responsibility for Australia’s future.

The structure, methodology and expectations of our English courses provide our students with the competence to effectively exercise knowledge, experience, skills, and work habits necessary for successfully undertaking studies in the VCE, further education and training and the workplace.

The English curriculum is designed to respect the linguistic differences of students, to acknowledge diverse mother tongues, and to foster students’ self-esteem and confidence as language users, while developing and extending their proficiency in using standard Australian English. Our English courses encourage our students to recognise and value the diversity of social and cultural backgrounds and opinions (including marginalised ‘voices’) within our community as well as nationally and globally.  Students are further encouraged to broaden their horizons and experiences by understanding our national identity and literary heritage as well as engaging with Asian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature as a distinctive way into developing knowledge and understanding of traditions and cultures different to their own. This enables them to communicate knowledge, traditions and experiences in different ways: informatively, imaginatively and critically.

The English curriculum is therefore designed to challenge, extend and enrich our students by immersing and engaging them in language and literature, and by encouraging them to take risks to allow for effective language development to take place. MHS English teachers aim promote English as a valuable and life long rewarding experience that empowers them to participate actively and constructively in society. Thus, the student who emerges at the end of Year 12 at Melbourne High School is one who listens with sympathy and understanding, one who is articulate in his speech, and one who writes with courage, fluency and maturity proper to his age.


Specifically, the English curriculum aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to speak, listen, read, view and write with enjoyment, purpose, effect and confidence in a wide range of contexts;
  • have capacity to explore and develop complex ideas and issues orally, giving considered reasons for a point of view, using appropriate language to influence and engage the audience and listening actively and critically to the views of others;
  • understand distinctive ways to communicate complex, ideas and information effectively through finished writing for different purposes and audiences, using language appropriately;
  • discuss different perspectives on complex issues and themes and justify detailed and sophisticated interpretations in selected print and multimodal texts, including national and global issues;
  • apply knowledge of the ways in which language varies according to context, purpose, audience and content, and the capacity to apply this knowledge;
  • understand the knowledge of the linguistic patterns used to construct different texts, and the capacity to apply this knowledge, especially in writing;
  • develop a broad knowledge of a range of texts and a capacity to relate this to aspects of contemporary society and personal experience;
  • develop the capacity to discuss and analyse texts and language critically;
  • have knowledge of the ways textual interpretation and understanding may vary according to cultural, social and personal differences, and the capacity to develop reasoned arguments about interpretation and meaning;
  • develop, through literature and other texts, cultural awareness and intercultural understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Asian cultures and their influences upon Australian culture;
  • develop awareness and respect of cultural diversity within the community and how intercultural experiences influence attitudes, values and beliefs;
  • have an awareness of ethical issues in order to cultivate open-mindedness and reasonableness;
  • apply selectively a range of creative thinking strategies to broaden their knowledge and engage with contentious, ambiguous, novel and complex ideas;
  • have the ability to work effectively in teams and develop strategies to manage challenging situations constructively;
  • initiate personal short-term and long-term learning goals and negotiate appropriate courses of action to achieve them;
  • reflect upon their learning and approaches to tasks; review information and refine ideas and beliefs, explaining conscious changes that may occur in their own and others’ thinking and analyse alternative perspectives and perceptions;
  • develop competency in ICT literacy.

Furthermore, the English curriculum recognises that effective English teaching practice is based on the belief that:

  • learning is an active process, not the reception of a body of pre-established knowledge;
  • learning requires a mixture of independence and direction, of individual self-directed work and group involvement;
  • every student has an equal right to experience success in gaining the power conferred by command of the English language;
  • all students deserve to be challenged;
  • education should be sensitive to the society in which it is taking place, both in meeting the society’s justified demands and in providing an education which will enable students to cope with the requirements of living in that society;
  • teachers take into account the influence of gender, class and ethnic background of students’ learning;
  • in each classroom students learning styles must be catered for in a differentiated way;
  • there must be consistent and coherent planning of the programme to foster purposeful progression in learning;
  • as well as being purposeful and often demanding, learning should be a pleasure.

English Subjects Offered
English: Year 9; Year 10
Year 10 Elective: Literature
VCE Units 1–4 English
(Units 3–4 English–EAL is offered at Year 12 and is only available to those students who meet the VCAA criteria for enrolment).
VCE Units 1–4 English Language
VCE Units 1–4 Literature

VCE English Studies Offered
At Year 11 students may choose to study either English or English Language or Literature. No more than two English Studies can be undertaken in Year 11 and Year 12. Read more.

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Curriculum Delivery
The study of English covers three key areas of study centred aroung the langauge modes:

  • Reading and Viewing
  • Writing creating and presenting / craft of writing
  • Speaking and Listening using language to persuade
All areas of study integrate:
  • creating and presenting multimodal texts in a variety of styles, for different purposes, audiences and in a range of written and non-print forms
  • reading and responding to print and non-print texts
  • analysing, evaluating and interpreting texts
  • analysing persuasive language and the construction of persuasive argument
  • thinking critically and creatively
  • note-taking and information gathering skills
  • speaking and listening in a variety of contexts.
Read more on the respective Year Level pages: Year 9 English; Year 10 English; Year 11 English; Year 12 English.

Our English classrooms enhance personal and social development, both through the curriculum content and the pedagogies used in teaching English. Students examine and analyse current issues - providing opportunities to engage with public discourse. They read, interpret and critique a variety of texts – providing opportunities to consider the world from other viewpoints. They participate in a variety of oral activities – providing opportunities for productive talk to develop personal confidence in presenting ideas to peers, and to develop public speaking and debating skills. They develop an extensive range of writing skills, including personal and creative writing - providing opportunities to shape and communicate thoughts and feelings. Students are actively engaged with thinking: inquiring, processing information, creative thinking, reasoning, problem solving, evaluation and critical reflection – both within the context of their English course and cross curriculum, making connections and integrating these skills across all their subjects.

Our English teachers recognise the structuring of lessons that address an individual student's characteristics, needs, abilities and interests through the myriad of ways in which boys' learning styles are catered for through differential teaching. In essence, this occurs through a range of strategies that are summarised as follows:

  • varying the content of the lessons so boys can move through it at their own pace. The boys are provided with a range of materials allowing them to move on to more advanced or complex material rather than just doing "more of the same";
  • modifying the process of learning so activities are more intellectually demanding, such as open-ended questions that stimulate active discovery and an inquiring mind. We aim to incorporate higher order thinking skills, training students in the more complex processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation;
  • ensuring the class environment encourages boys to question, to be independent and to be creative;
  • providing alternative possibilities for the end product of an assignment, which take into consideration the fact boys have different preferred learning styles. These products address issues that really exist in life, making them more relevant to the student, and they require boys to synthesise information, rather than just summarising or dumping chunks from the Internet.
English assessment tasks reflect the breadth, depth and range in curriculum and learning styles. We have developed a range of assessment tasks and criteria to assist teacher and parent understanding of student development in a wide range of skills and knowledge. This includes the assessment of formal and informal written work, of oral presentation and communication skills, of creative writing, of reading and analysis of a range of texts. back to top

Wide Reading
Wide Reading is viewed as an integral part of the English program. Real Boys Read Books, the title of our reading programme, has been operating successfully for several years and reflects our commitment to the promotion of reading as both a pleasurable and educational experience for all students, and its success is evident in the increasing number of students electing to study Literature at V.C.E. level. The boys are encouraged to read widely from the published reading lists and to add to the titles. Wide reading is a valuable learning process enabling one to broaden and expand their horizons, their understanding of life experiences and their development of language. More than any other medium, reading stimulates creativity and imagination. Parents are encouraged to take an active interest and involvement in their son's reading by perusing the reading lists and discussing with their son his reading interests and choices of literature. We do expect all boys to devote at least 30 minutes each evening to reading for pleasure. As well as reading literature, all boys should be reading the daily newspaper to keep abreast with, and express informed opinions about, current issues - particularly since the study of media language and argument is a vital part of the English course. back to top

While much of the English curriculum focuses on enrichment, the faculty has developed and continued to refine and up-date specific programmes which further aim to extend and enrich the student's knowledge, understanding, application, processes, skills and interests that are appropriate to the developmental abilities and interests (e.g. intellectual, cultural, social) of the student. In addition, while all units studied in English are embedded with enrichment and extension activiteis, we also provide an extensive on-line Enrichment and Extension program. Many other units can be accessed from our On-Line Units page.

Beyond the core programme, students are enriched through participation in a variety of extra-curricular activities, both on a state and nation wide basis. These include student participation in Debating and Public Speaking, participation in the annual Writer's Festival as well, there are regular opportunities for students to enter poetry, story and essay writing competitions. Students have had their writing published in magazines such as Inscape and Voiceworks.

Each year the Faculty runs a range of faculty-based competitions: the Spelling Championship, Slam Poetry Competition, and Student versus Teacher Debate, which the boys find challenging, competitive and enjoyable.

The bi-annual professional publication of student writing, Laureate, was first published in 1999 to great acclaim. The journal further demonstrates the excellence of student achievement. By publishing our students' work, we are promoting their abilities, giving their work a professional edge, increasing access to their writing, and ensuring their satisfaction and pride in their achievements are nurtured.

To further enhance student learning, curriculum-based student activities are held, such attending the theatre, cinema or inviting guest speakers to address them. All year levels engage in workshops on writing as a craft, presented by notable writers such as Phillip Gwyne, Michael Hyde, and Arnold Zable. back to top

Information Technology
The focus of the English curriculum recognises the acquisition of literacy in the technological field. In this, we lay the foundation for the development of more complex language and communication and continue to encourage and promote the use of technology within our teaching and learning. By incorporating technology into the English classroom, our primary purpose has been to enhance teaching and enrich learning while ensuring that learning programmes with technology involve a real purpose. back to top

Much of the work that takes place in English is progressive and developmental. To this end, students are set both short and long term assignments which require regular drafting and revision. Parents are encouraged to assist their son to develop sound study habits by regularly monitoring their work and in particular, noting when work is due. Students may not necessarily have nightly English homework due the following day, but they will have an on-going assignment to work on; and they should be regularly engaged in nightly reading. back to top

The Value of English
The demands at the VCE level are high. Our programmes at the Years 9 and 10 levels ensure both the acquisition of skill development and study in a range of areas that enables them to be confidently equipped to face the challenges ahead. Indeed, the academic success of our students continues to be most rewarding: our NAPLAN and VELS results are well above the State average, as are our VCE results which continue to be consistently high, topping the State.

At Melbourne High School we are confident that our English courses challenge, extend and enrich our students by immersing and engaging them in language and literature, and by encouraging them to take risks to allow for effective language development to take place. Thus, the student who emerges at the end of Year 12 at Melbourne High School is one who reads extensively and intelligently with appreciation, one who listens with sympathy and understanding, one who is articulate in his speech, and one who writes with courage, fluency and maturity proper to his age. back to top

Private Tutoring

The curriculum at Melbourne High School has been carefully designed to provide a foundation of the skills and knowledge required for further study; to provide an intellectual challenge; to inspire a love of learning and to teach study habits invaluable for a life of scholarship.

Families have justifiably high expectations of the academic demands placed on a student at Melbourne High School. Classes do move quickly, and it is likely that more content will be taught in an average term at Melbourne High than at the student's previous school. This does not mean, however, any son will be expected to become expert immediately, or else run the risk of falling behind.

Some parents mistakenly believe that their son will not be supported in his learning if he has difficulty in a subject. Any student who does not understand what is taught in class will be assisted by their class teacher; there is no expectation that the student should hire a private tutor in order to catch-up.

It is the school's intention to help families develop young men who are well-rounded, have a wide-range of interests and are fully-equipped for a professional and personal life after their school years. It is concerning that some of our students receive so much tutoring out of school hours that they do not have the time to pursue other interests, or to develop important relationships.

Reliance on tutors also tends to undermine the school's efforts to help students become an independent learner. In order to acquire the habits of mind typical of a sophisticated thinker, students need to learn to solve problems through deep thinking; having a tutor provide 'the answers' could be detrimental to his intellectual growth and entrench his reliance on the advice of others, rather than trusting his own ability to apply the lessons learned in class.

Where any parent is concerned about their son's progress they should contact his Student Learning Coordinator. The coordinator will meet with the student to ascertain his needs and to implement any additional or alternative aspects to his study program.

What role should tutors play?
From the Principal's Report, published in OURS, Friday 10 June 2011. Volume 24, Number 16

Many MHS families employ private tutors to support their son's learning. A recent survey of Year 11 students revealed that approximately a quarter of students currently employ tutors with some students using multiple tutors.

Given that these students are the most academically able in the state, it is worth asking whether tutors are really necessary and what role they can or should play. Our students report that their first use of a tutor was often to prepare them to sit the entrance exam. Our own analysis indicates that coaching for the exam is unlikely to have much impact as the majority of the test assesses natural ability rather than prior learning. It may be the case, however, that the use of a tutor leads some families to believe that their son only gained a place on the basis of a tutor's assistance and therefore a tutor will be necessary to maintain them at MHS.

When we ask our students themselves, many report using tutors to give them an edge over their peers and from a perception that those students gaining the best results do so with the help of tutors. In fact our own analysis indicates that our most able students rarely use tutors.

There are certainly instances when it would be quite appropriate for MHS students to utilise tutors; however, this is not reflected in the current pattern of use amongst our students. There are equally a range of problems that can result from the use of tutors and it is worth considering these carefully.
The majority of tutors are current or past teachers; however, some have no teaching qualification and there bone fides are questionable. If they are not currently teaching the subject they are providing tutorial support in to the relevant year level, it is often the case that they are unfamiliar with the requirements of the course. They will certainly be unfamiliar with the MHS course requirements. It has given rise to situations when the tutor provides ill-informed and misleading advice. A possible solution would be if the tutor was a current MHS staff member; however, it is not permitted by their conditions of employment.

There have sometimes been issues when a tutor has given undue assistance to a student. In some cases this has led to authentication concerns and the teacher is not convinced that the work is entirely that of the student. In such circumstances, the teacher has little option other than to reject or fail the work submitted and report a breach of rules. In other instances it can lead to a self-defeating dependency. Where students have leaned too heavily on a tutor and therefore have not developed their own understanding of a topic, they will be brought undone when undertaking a test or exam when they have to stand on their feet.

Some tutors set students additional homework above that already set by the teacher. This can result in an exaggerated and unnecessary workload for the student. As tutors cost money there is also an equity issue stemming from who can afford a tutor regardless of whether they do or do not need support. Class teachers will provide some individual assistance to students and the School offers additional after class assistance in English and mathematics.

Finally, there have been instances when tutors have convinced students and their families that their good marks are largely attributable to the tutor's assistance. They clearly have a pecuniary interest in doing so to convince the family to continue to pay them. Unfortunately, this can result in students having an undeserved lack of confidence in their own ability.

The School Council is currently investigating the use of tutors at MHS. We recognise that in certain circumstances tutor support is necessary and justified; however, the current pattern of use does not match this need. The widespread use of tutors also comes with its problems as identified above.

One response being considered by Council is the establishment of a MHS authorized tutor service. This would be manned by tutors endorsed by the School and referral to the service would be based on perceived need. The cost of the service could also take into account the financial circumstances of the family. Another advantage of such a service would be for the class teacher and the tutor to work in collaboration rather than in isolation, as is the case at present.

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Last up-dated 6 November, 2016
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