Exam board apologises after ‘triggering’ students over choice of GCSE English passage

An exam board has apologised after “triggering” students with a GCSE English passage from a book in which a character was raped. The Telegraph reports. 

Pupils complained that the unseen text in their exam paper was taken from a story that later goes on to detail how a young woman becomes pregnant after being sexually exploited by her employer.

The passage featured in Tuesday’s exam  – which was about a couple and their daughter Alice who sell produce to people in their local area from a van –  is an extract from The Mill, a short story by H. E. Bates, published in 1935.

The description of the rape was not part of the excerpt in the exam paper, but students nonetheless protested that the excerpt should have come with a “trigger warning”.  

“Some people I know were actually disturbed and worried by the extract,” Alana Kingsley, a pupil from Lowestoft, Suffolk wrote on Twitter.  

One student, Hadiatou Barry, wrote a letter of complaint to AQA to say she was “horrified” to discover that the character Alice was sexually exploited later on in the story.

The letter, which she posted on Twitter, said: “Although I completely understand that AQA were not responsible for writing the fictional novel, you without a doubt had a vast amount of novels which you could pick from.”

An AQA spokesperson said:  “An extract on the paper was from a story that features this later on – but this was an unseen extract so no-one had to read the whole story.  

“We don’t think the choice of extract was inappropriate – but we’re sorry to hear that some people don’t agree, as we’d never want to upset anyone.”

Read more Exam board apologises after ‘triggering’ students over choice of GCSE English passage

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin 


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Categories: Exams and Secondary.


  1. Anna Rooney

    It clearly is inappropriate and shows no understanding of the barriers and experiences faced by young people in schools today

  2. Student A

    I took this exam and there was no mention of Rape, we were asked to read a section of the book and evaluate that passage and Alice and her fathers relationship. Unless you look up what this story is about, rape would not have crossed your mind. I found the passage age appropriate for anyone who studied GSCE language. There is far worst on TV and on internet.

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