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Be more daring about texts, and sex, say examiners

Examiners are calling for teachers to be more adventurous when choosing GCSE English texts

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Examiners are calling for teachers to be more adventurous when choosing GCSE English texts

In 2008, the WJEC board examiners expressed frustration that schools are choosing the same poems every year. "It is dispiriting to see students desperately searching for something new to say . when there is a wealth of other verse which would more profitably repay study," one examiner said.

Only a few chose Welsh writers for coursework, they said. Those that did looked at "interesting" poets such as Tony Curtis, Mike Jenkins and Robert Morgan.

For creative writing, examiners said a one-size-fits-all topic did not work and pupils should be encouraged to experiment more and find their own voice. "The only exception to this is autobiographical writing, where virtually all students can, if guided properly, produce engaging work," they said.

Pupils should also not be afraid of discussing the sexual themes that abound in many texts. Examiners noted that responses to Dylan Thomas's play Under Milk Wood were generally good, but pupils were "a bit coy about articulating the erotic references" between the characters Mog Edwards and Myfanwy Price.

One pupil, however, drew a comparison between the text and the "orgasm scene" from When Harry Met Sally. "That candidate, at least, presumably grasped the nature of the characters' dreams!" the examiner said.

Markers were also pleased with pupils' responses to the unseen poem in GCSE literature. "It was lovely to see candidates find such relevance and derive genuine enjoyment from their reading of the poem; any who still harbour concerns about the place of the unseen poem in a literature examination would have them assuaged if they could read such responses," said one examiner.

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