‘We need to stop teaching GCSE texts at primary’

As term winds down, we are now in the time of great restructuring: heads of department everywhere are looking at their key stage 3 plans, and wondering where improvements can be made in light of what we know KS2 are arriving with, and KS4 are expected to start with. One English teacher explains why in Tes.

A key part in this process has to be asking your primary feeder schools which texts they are studying at KS2. Often, the answers come back along these lines: Macbeth and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Of course, these GCSE texts contain language that is far too complex for primary-aged children – so, instead, abridged versions are used. But if you haven’t read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, then you haven’t read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And if you choose to do this text with a class of 10-year-olds, then you’re robbing them of the chance to read the reveal of Mr Hyde’s true identity in the words that Stevenson wanted us to read.

We want to expose children to as many texts as possible. Studying Macbethin KS2 and then again in KS4 limits students; when a class learns they are doing a text they did in primary school, they often feel irritated (“We’ve done this, Miss!”) or falsely confident (“Yeah, yeah we know this”) or else key points that are skimmed over to make it age-suitable in primary are then confusing in secondary (“This wasn’t in it before!”). Although it only takes a bit of persistence to overcome, it all feels rather avoidable.

AQA lists MacbethRomeo and JulietThe TempestThe Merchant of VeniceMuch Ado About Nothing and Julius Caesar as options for GCSE. Edexcel includes Twelfth Night instead of Julius Caesar and Eduqas includes Henry V and Othello. This leaves lovely rich pickings of Shakespearean texts to study at KS2. Here are just three that are perfect for primary.

1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A fantastic introduction to Shakespeare. There is the play within a play and a donkey. Who doesn’t love a play with a donkey in it?

Read more ‘We need to stop teaching GCSE texts at primary’

Do you agree? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Mrs O

    Perhaps if the end of KS2 SATs weren’t pitched at a level requiring their exposure to such complex vocabulary and rich texts we wouldn’t have to? Stop blaming primary and look at where the real problem lies.

  2. Glenn Mascord

    No A level texts at GCSE? What a failure to capitalise on prior knowledge and extend understanding through second readings and new approaches. Unimaginative secondaries blaming primaries for engaging children with challenging texts.

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