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Plans to include Dizzee Rascal and Russell Brand in Gove's 'more rigorous' English A level

A new English A level could see students studying an interview with rap star Dizzee Rascal, tweets by journalist Caitlin Moran and the evidence on drugs policy that comedian Russell Brand gave to Parliament.

The English Language and Literature A level would also include more conventional texts on its study list, such as the poems of Emily Dickinson and William Blake as well as works by Shakespeare and George Orwell.

Exam board, OCR, is billing the new qualification – planned as one of the government’s new “more rigorous” school exams – as “the most diverse yet for any English A level”.

However, it may prove controversial for traditionalists like education secretary, Michael Gove, who has spoken of his belief in the importance of studying the “great works of the [English literary] canon”.

But the new exam, due to be introduced alongside Mr Gove’s other reformed A levels in September 2015, has been drawn up according to a specification for subject content approved by the education secretary last month.

OCR has developed the A level in conjunction with the English and Media Centre, an independent educational charity which was responsible for the content.

Barbara Bleiman, the centre’s co-director said: “Taking on board feedback from teachers, we’ve created a specification with a superb choice of texts, from familiar names like George Orwell, Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte to fresh voices including Grayson Perry, Allie Brosh and poet Jacob Sam-La Rose.

“From graphic novels like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, to comedy scripts, TV screenplays and journalism, the course offers great diversity, within a set of broad parameters.”

George Norton, English curriculum team leader at Paston Sixth Form College, Norfolk, said: “For me, an English Language and Literature specification must be distinct from other English A-Levels: rigorous but appealing to students; varied but with real academic depth; exciting to teach but practicable.

“The OCR/EMC specification is all four, a real and exciting indication of where English as a subject is right now. It will be hard to resist a course that allows me to teach William Blake, the writing of The Secret Footballer and the script of Dizzee Rascal’s Newsnight interview. I’m looking forward to it already.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “All new A levels must be accredited by the independent exams regulator Ofqual against new, more rigorous criteria. This exam has not been accredited and we await Ofqual’s decision with interest.”

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