Academic Year 2024-2025

Term 1 is from Monday 2 September to Friday 25 October. The Autumn break is from Monday 28 October to Friday 1 November.

Term 2 is from Monday 4 November to Friday 20 December. The Christmas and New Year break is from Monday 23 December to Friday 3 January.

Term 3 is from Monday 6 January to Friday 14 February. The Winter break is from Monday 17 February to Friday 21 February.

Term 4 is from Monday 24 February to Friday 4 April.
The Easter holidays are from Monday 6 April to Monday 21 April.

Term 5 is from Tuesday 22 April to Friday 23 May.
The Summer break is from Monday 26 May to Friday 30 May.

Term 6 is from Monday 2 June to Tuesday 22 July.


GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are the qualifications students attain when they complete secondary school. They are highly valued by schools, Sixth Form colleges and employers. Many schools and education centres require a minimum of 5 A-C passes at GCSE in order to go on to study A-levels and almost all require C passes in Maths and English. Assessments are largely based on written examinations, with many subjects having elements of coursework. Coursework and examination papers are sent to standardised examining boards such as AQA, OCR, Edexcel and WJEC, and they determine the final marks and grades of the student.

How to get good grades in GCSE English

How about learning new words in English in the same way as learning new vocabulary in a foreign language?

This at first may seem a strange suggestion to students for whom English is the language they naturally think and work in, and which is therefore developing in them all the time. Besides, the GCSE exam does not explicitly test knowledge of vocabulary, apart from technical terms used in language discussion – words like genre, diction, metaphor etc. Passages for reading comprehension taken from newspapers or websites are chosen for their topicality and rarely contain uncommon words.

So what is the point of methodically building and widening one’s vocabulary for GCSE English? And how should one go about it? Turn the pages of a dictionary at random and stick in pins?

Sticking pins in a dictionary is not a good idea – but using the dictionary to look up words selected from a passage of ‘quality reading’ – any interesting book or article written for the serious general reader – can be productive and enjoyable.

Take for example these words, sodden, gambolled, unspeakable, reiterated, timorously (all from a few pages of George Orwell). None of them is a rare word with a difficult meaning – but of course each is less commonly used than equivalents like wet, ran, terrible, repeated, nervously. Each word then is ideal to use in an English examination answer where the object is to showcase a command of language and capture the examiner’s interest.

I am not suggesting that any particular set or sets of words must be learned and introduced into an exam. Vocabulary-building is not a last-minute revision technique; it should be a long- term, little by little, endeavour. A few words a week for six or eight months will create a bank of 200 or 300, from which perhaps only 10 or 12 words might be naturally and usefully employed in an exam. But those 10 or 12 will make such a positive difference to the overall impression – and that’s what raises the grade.

And let’s remember, it’s not all just for the sake of exams. Words are interesting in themselves and the choice of them adds greatly to the pleasures of reading, conversation and the arts.