1st Edition

The Trouble with English and How to Address It A Practical Guide to Designing and Delivering a Concept-Led Curriculum

By Zoe Helman, Sam Gibbs Copyright 2022
    196 Pages 43 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    196 Pages 43 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This essential book will help English teachers to address the challenges and opportunities in creating a powerful, knowledge-rich, concept-led curriculum, which draws on lived experience and engages with cognitive science and other educational research. It explores persistent problems in the teaching of English, why we have struggled to address them and how we can go about creating a curriculum which enables all pupils to achieve.

    Written by experienced English teachers and teacher educators, the book empowers teachers to reclaim their subject as one which has the power to change lives, and to deliver it with passion and authenticity. The Trouble with English and How to Address It contains:

    • A detailed exploration of the challenges English teachers face in designing and delivering a rigorous, coherent, sequenced curriculum
    • An overview of the implications of cognitive science research for the teaching of English
    • Approaches to building a powerful, knowledge-rich curriculum which encompasses concepts, contexts and content in English
    • Suggestions for how to use curriculum design and implementation as a training opportunity in departments
    • Practical strategies for English teachers which provide the link between cognitive science research and their classroom practice

    To equip leaders and classroom teachers with everything they might need to improve their provision, this book provides a forensic account of what to change, why and how, moving from the big picture into fine details about what we might see in a highly successful English classroom.


    Mary Myatt


    1.Persistent problems in English

    2. How do pupils make meaning in English?

    3. Teaching abstract concepts

    4. What are the implications for English curriculum design?

    5. Curating a curriculum

    6. How should the curriculum be assessed?

    7. Evidence-informed approaches to enacting the curriculum

    8. How should we implement change?

    9. Resource design – supporting teachers to enact the curriculum

    10. How can we measure impact?

    11. Sustaining high standards

    Conclusion: A Vision for English



    David Didau


    Zoe Helman is a highly experienced teacher and Education Consultant from West Yorkshire. She is co-founder of English-Ed which works with secondary schools to transform their English provision. Her main interest is in using Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. She was also involved, as an Advisor and Assessor, with the CPD Assessment Pilot set up by the Wellcome Trust.

    Sam Gibbs is Trust Lead for Pedagogy and Curriculum across secondary schools in Greater Manchester. She is an experienced teacher educator and coach, who has delivered evidence-informed training on curriculum design and implementation to primary and secondary schools across the country. She co-founded English-Ed with Zoe and was previously an Advanced Skills Teacher and leader in English departments. Sam lives in Leeds with her husband and three children.

    "A clear and accessible journey through the planning and implementation of a coherent English curriculum, from curriculum vision and design to subject-specialist classroom practice, drawing on real classroom experience. I would recommend this book to any English teacher who wants practical, research-led advice to inform and improve their practice."

    Michael Conley, CIT Leader, Runshaw Sixth Form College

    "The Trouble with English diagnoses, with pinpoint accuracy, the historic issues with how we have conceived of and delivered our curricula, whilst also offering a clear and exciting way forward. This book provides an exciting and compelling view of what the best curricula in English will look in the future. As a new Head of Department, engaged in the tricky business of rewriting a curriculum, this book has been my lodestar. It has provided me with a roadmap towards what a knowledge-rich, concept-led curriculum in English should look like, and (more importantly) how to get there. Sam and Zoe have achieved an unmissable read for teachers and leaders who want strive for evidence-informed, effective practice in English."

    Eoin MacCarthaigh, Head of English, St. Andrews International School, Bangkok

    "The Trouble with English is an amazing piece of work. I love how rooted in experience and research it is, and I respect the quality of discussion found in the chapters. I felt like it was a conversation with a colleague, rather than someone preaching their beliefs. When using the book with the secondary and primary schools I support, the discussion and focus on concept-led design has such clarity and detail that it’s been incredibly useful to use it when evaluating curriculum intent and implementation. What I value most is the professional dialogue that it allows and encourages. It is rich with experience and guidance, but invites reflection and development."

    Jess Blakeman, Education Improvement Advisor for English, Worcestershire Children First, Worcester Council School Improvement Team