Angelou and Steinbeck cut from English literature GCSEs

The Telegraph is reporting that the row over a shake-up of English literature GCSEs has escalated with two more exam boards revealing plans to axe foreign authors from new syllabuses, after a similar move was announced earlier from the OCR…

AQA, the biggest exam provider in Britain, confirmed that American novels such as Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird would be dropped from courses taught from 2015 onwards.

It emerged that an entire section on “exploring cultures” had been removed in the new GCSEs which also affects books written by authors from Australia, New Zealand and Nigeria.

The move has been replicated by the Welsh-based examiner WJEC which has also confirmed plans to drop foreign prose from syllabuses being taught from next year.

It revealed that pupils will no longer study I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, the acclaimed African-American author and civil rights activist who died this week.

OCR, a third exam board, published similar plans earlier this week.

The move threatens to undermine claims from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, that the Government has not put pressure on examiners to ban non-British novels…

AQA’s draft syllabus – which must be approved by the exams watchdog Ofqual – covers a range of set texts.

Nineteenth century novels include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

A section on modern drama and prose covers Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Simon Stephens, Alan Bennett’s The History Boys and Meera Syal’s Anita and Me.

It also gives pupils a choice of six Shakespearian plays, including Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest.

But the new syllabus drops a section on “exploring cultures” that currently includes To Kill a Mockingbird and of Mice and Men. It also spells the end of Mister Pip by New Zealand author Lloyd Jones, Purple Hibiscus by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Rabbit-proof Fence by Australian Doris Pilkington.

A spokesman for the board, which is the biggest in Britain, insisted it was “really pleased with the combination and choice of texts we have put together”.

But she added: “Whilst technically it would not be impossible to add additional texts beyond the essential requirements, to do so would place an unacceptable assessment burden on teachers and students, which we are clearly not prepared to do.”

WJEC’s new syllabus –published on Thursday – also removes an existing section on “different cultures and prose”…

More at: Angelou and Steinbeck cut from English literature GCSEs

If either of these is your board, how do you feel about the changes to the set texts and the range to be offered moving forwards? Are you excited by them or concerned at what has been removed? Please let us know your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Secondary.


  1. GClewesMYT

    SchoolsImprove Disappointing, two authors whose work has the power to inspire young people as well as enthuse them about reading

  2. kml1959

    eveningnew In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. John Steinbeck

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