Mark Benfield, Head of English



Wolverhampton Grammar School
Compton Road
West Midlands

  • BA (Hons) English Literature, University of Leeds
  • GCD, University of Birmingham
  • PGCE, University of Warwick
  • Formerly A Level Literature Principal Examiner with OCR
  • Member of National Association of the Teaching of English (NATE)
  • Member of Association of School and College Leadership (ASCL)

Mark leads a team of three full time teaching staff and a number of other teaching staff who support the work of the English Department. Their work is primarily based in the school’s Merridale Building and the purpose built drama theatre known as the Hutton Theatre, together with the school’s dedicated Library facilities.

The mission statement of the department, in essence, is to ensure all students believe in the power of words, imagination and creativity. Students at Wolverhampton Grammar School are encouraged to have a belief in the value and importance of literature, in addition to an appreciation of the value of academic rigour and the importance of asking “why?”

Students are taught to learn and read perceptively and with acuity; to write fluently, accurately, succinctly and with purpose. Students learn skills to enable them to speak with confidence and with purpose; but also to be able to listen; to think independently and critically.

As Head of English, Mark is responsible for ensuring the department delivers the requirements of the iGCSE and AS/A Level specifications. They do this by delivering an engaging and challenging curriculum. The Department prides itself in its ability to combine the study of both classic and modern texts.

English students have gone on to undertake a wide range of careers including journalism and teaching. For example, award winning Author and Journalist Sathnam Sanghera went on to study English at Cambridge University after studying English at Wolverhampton Grammar School. His career includes stints as a journalist with the Financial Times and The Times. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters for services to journalism by The University of Wolverhampton in September 2009 and a President’s Medal by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2010, while writer Jonathan Coe named him as one of “The Men of Next 25 years”.

Mark enjoys being involved in the school’s superb and renowned theatrical productions. In recent years he has co-directed a number of classic plays including Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet as well as Farquhar’s The Beaux Strategem.

 “It is an irony of living in the frantic 21st Century that the key skills needed in English is a harder and harder skill to teach. As the world gets faster and faster, students’ capacity to slow down and think hard, deeply and thoroughly becomes increasingly more difficult… That’s the challenge of a modern English Department”.

Mark is a keen sportsman and is Master i/c of the School’s 2nd XI Football team.

Mark came into teaching after beginning a career as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG. He wryly comments that he quickly decided that he wanted to do something more important!

He joined the school in 1988 and has forged his whole career here, fulfilling several roles in that time, including being Head of Sixth Form for 12 years. He is now enjoying building a thriving English department and is greatly appreciating the opportunity to do more work with students and less bureaucracy and administration.

“I see the English department’s role as being at the heart of this – or any – school. We serve a curious role, too, because our discipline is about so much more than simply teaching rudimentary grammatical and syntactical nuts and bolts, or introducing students to an obligatory dose of Shakespeare. As one of my former colleagues in the department succinctly put it, we are also in the business of teaching students to be nobody’ fool! This is why understanding language is so important. To be properly equipped for the world you need to know not only what people are saying, but why they are saying it. The agenda is all. Thus subtle and difficult aspects of English – nuance, tone, the balance of objectivity vs subjectivity – become increasingly the focus of what we are about. English is about freeing up students’ minds to think, enquire, question and evaluate; to discern and distinguish; and to imagine and create. The best English students understand that it’s all about breaking through, and down, boundaries. Really good English teaching – and it doesn’t always get there – is quite subversive and revolutionary.”

Mark plays squash regularly and likes to ruin its benefits with good food and wine! He enjoys watching modern dance and ballet, and going to the theatre. He also supports West Bromwich Football Club…. And reads the odd book too!


It’s been a great privilege to teach at WGS. It’s a great school and a great place to work.



© Wolverhampton Grammar School 2015. Registered Charity Number: 1125268