More 'engaging' texts added to English literature GCSE

Edexcel seeks to increase diversity of course with texts by Benjamin Zephaniah and Meera Syal

Catherine Lough

pile of books

An exam board will introduce new texts in its English literature GCSE specification from September, as it seeks to include a more diverse range of authors for pupils to study.

Derek Richardson, responsible officer at Pearson Edexcel, said the exam board had brought in the new texts to appeal to the interests of both girls and boys.

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“I think there are things we can all do in making sure the curriculum is interesting and engaging for both genders and [to] make sure it’s really diverse for a wide group of people,” he said.

“We’ve just looked at the range of texts we set on our English literature exam – we’ve been introducing texts like Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah to try to make sure the curriculum and content work for everybody.”

Other texts taught from September include Anita and Me by Meera Syal, Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman and Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin.

Refugee Boy explores the life of a 14-year-old refugee from Ethiopia and Eritrea as he adjusts to life in the UK, while Anita and Me is partly based on Ms Syal’s childhood in the Midlands in the 1960s, exploring themes of racial prejudice and belonging.

"It’s important to us that all students are engaged in the subjects they study and that our syllabuses reflect the diverse nature of society and real-life experiences that they face in today’s Britain,” Mr Richardson said.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, has previously called for schools to adopt a more diverse curriculum that does not only teach the works of “dead, white men”.

The news follows Tes’ report yesterday that some English teachers have raised concern over the challenging nature of the Macbeth extract in this year’s Edexcel English literature GCSE exam.

Students were asked to analyse an excerpt from Act 2, Scene 3 of the play, in which a drunken porter pretends to control the gates of Hell.

Some teachers said the extract was “barely accessible” for lower-ability pupils and that it was unfair to include it on an exam catering to all abilities.

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