Schools Engagement at Cheney, Oxford

On Friday 22nd June I returned to my old school – Cheney, Oxford. Accompanied by fellow student ambassador Kate O’Connor, I introduced A-level English students (year 12, going on 13) to, discussed my ‘great writer’, and received some really useful feedback on the website.

Cheney School Logo

From a personal point of view, it was great to see how the school had progressed since I left (ten years ago!). When I was there, we just had a couple of computers in the library – now there are around 30! The librarian and teachers are very keen to use online learning resources where possible; they were very interested to find out what has to offer.

This blog post will concentrate on students’ views of the website. I’ll be writing a follow-up post on the teachers’ responses.

The students’ feedback focused on seven main areas: usability; layout; writers; themes; ebooks; podcasts; essays. Below, I have transcribed a list of direct quotations from the students.

Before you read the list of students’ quotes, I’d like to point out that we’ve already acted upon some of their suggestions. For example, as requested by Cheney, both Oscar Wilde and Thomas Hardy are now in our writers list. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to move forward with George Orwell – he’s still in copyright. We’ve also improved our search functionality; if you search for ‘pastoral’, for example, you now get two pages of search results showing all of the items which include the word ‘pastoral’.



Good points:

  • ‘It was easy to navigate around – it was really well laid out’
  • ‘It was good that it was a collection where you could easily find stuff’

Areas for improvement:

  • ‘My only issue about the website is the search function. It’s hard to get specific themes like “Pastoral”, for example – we’re doing that at the moment’
  • ‘It would be good to have, like, a blog for users – or a discussion forum’



Good points:

  • ‘It looks very nice’
  • ‘It’s a good layout’
  • ‘I thought the layout was really nice’
  • ‘I though the layout of the website was very easy to navigate and pleasant’

Areas for improvement:

  • ‘If it was more kind-of-like “jumps-out-at-you” then it would be more like a cool a website. Maybe more colourful and things popping out at you – I don’t know. It’s quite dull when you look at it.’



Good points:

  • ‘My favourite part was the selection of writers that are available’
  • ‘We were researching Charlotte Bronte and we liked the fact that there was stuff about her personal life, not just her work; you can get a more rounded view’
  • ‘It was great learning about Aphra Behn – we’d never heard of her before and she’s really interesting’

Areas for improvement:

  • ‘You should have Orwell and Wilde’
  • ‘Thomas Hardy, George Orwell, and Oscar Wilde weren’t on there – we learn about them in school and it would be useful to have them on here’
  •  ‘It would be good to have more obscure authors that we wouldn’t learn about in school’
  •  ‘It would be helpful to have a small amount on more writers, rather than just not having them at all’
  • ‘It would be good to have links to similar writers – it would help with comparative coursework’
  • ‘In the writers section it would be good to differentiate between poets, novelists, and dramatists, for students who don’t know anything about them yet’



Good points:

  • ‘I really like the authors and themes – being able to go through it in different ways’
  • ‘The section on Victorian Gothic is really good – we’re doing that at school at the moment’
  • ‘I thought the themes things were interesting. I was recently researching Victorian Gothic and it took quite a while. It was useful having it all here’

Areas for improvement:

  • ‘It would be good to split up Shakespearean tragedy and comedy’
  • ‘In the themes section it would be useful to a sample of a political work’
  • ‘A couple more themes would be good’



Good points:

  • ‘The library is really useful – it’s so wide-ranging’
  • ‘I thought the fact that you could read ebooks that are now out of copyright was really helpful – like Ulysses

Areas for improvement:

  • ‘The massive PDFs took a long time to download’



Good points:

  • ‘It was really good having video recordings and sound recordings’
  • ‘I really liked the lectures and stuff’ ‘
  • ‘I liked the lectures – I think you should really like big this up as this is what’s special about this website’

Areas for improvement:

  • ‘It would be good to have a comments section for the videos, so you could say, like “there’s a really good bit about 2 minutes in”’



Good points:

  • ‘The bibliographies at the end of each essay are useful for further research’
  • ‘The biographies of the writers give a real insight into the writers’ lives – it’s good’
  • ‘The biography section is really interesting. A lot times I look up writers lives I’m not sure if it’s true –websites write different things to each other. By looking it up on here I’m more sure that it’s trustworthy’
  • ‘I thought the short essays on authors and themes were really useful. They were concise and give you good background, so you don’t have to trawl through – like – really useless stuff on the web’

Areas for improvement:

  • ‘It would be useful to have a list of other books (with synopsises) at the end of the author essays’
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3 Responses to Schools Engagement at Cheney, Oxford

  1. Pingback: Schools Engagement at Cheney – Teachers’ Comments | Great Writers Inspire

  2. emmasmith says:

    Fantastically interesting: thanks for doing this.

  3. cleohanaway says:

    No problem. It was a really fun and informative couple of hours.

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