The members of the English department at St Paul’s form a diverse group but we share a profound love of literature and a passionate belief in its power to help human beings to understand the world, the past, other people and themselves


We are unapologetically literary in our focus and we believe that girls of all ages and backgrounds can respond to, and be delighted by, the works of the great writers in English from all periods and all parts of the globe. In the Senior School, we follow the Cambridge Pre-U, an exciting and challenging course which allows students and teachers to explore their own literary interests across the whole range of periods and genres. Current set texts include Antony and Cleopatra, The Canterbury Tales and Brideshead Revisited,  but the nature of the course allows us to study a diversity of genres, periods and national traditions.

The coursework component, known as the Personal Investigation, is an entirely independent essay on four works of the student’s own choice. Current Personal Investigation topics include the use of colour symbolism in fairy tales, the portrayal of the nouveaux riches in nineteenth-century fiction and South African literature pre- and post-apartheid.  Discussion is the cornerstone of English lessons. We encourage students to explore a range of interpretations and approaches to literature and to find their own voice as readers and critics.


The school Literary Society is run by a group of senior girls and meets weekly for speaker meetings, talks by girls and student-led discussion with girls of all year groups.  A member of staff has responsibility for the development of extra-curricular creative writing and there is a weekly creative writing group. We regularly host visiting writers and celebrate the work of our home-grown writers through our annual magazine, Words.

Paulinas are encouraged to enter essay competitions such as the Peterhouse College Campion Prize, the Newnham College Woolf Prize and the EMagazine Close Reading Competition. Paulinas have won prizes in all of these competitions in recent years. Paulinas are equally encouraged to enter local and national writing competitions such as the Tower Poetry competition and the Foyle’s Young Poet, often with great success. Recently a Paulina was accepted onto the Royal Court Theatre’s Introduction to Playwriting course.

Every year a group of students spend a week on a residential creative writing course led by published poets.


Studying English can lead anywhere. Every year, about 10 students go on to read the subject at university in the UK and USA. No doors are closed when you choose to study English.

Notable Old Paulinas who studied English at university include actress Rachel Weisz, and writer and presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell.

‘Practise any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow’
Kurt Vonnegut

Qualification: Pre-U

Board: CIE

Mode of Assessment: 75% examinations and 25% Personal Investigation