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US literary classics dropped by exam board

27/05/2014 Kelly
A number of US literary classics will no longer form part of the compulsory GCSE syllabus as a result of an overhaul of the national curriculum.

Harper Lee's classic 20th-century novel To Kill A Mockingbird, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Arthur Miller's play The Crucible are to be omitted by exam boards due to the education secretary's requirement for more British literature to be studied in UK schools.

OCR has confirmed the texts will not feature on its new English Literature syllabus and other exam boards may follow suit.

Paul Dodd of OCR told The Sunday Times: "Of Mice and Men, which Michael Gove really dislikes, will not be included. It was studied by 90 per cent of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past."

The news has drawn criticism from some quarters, with Labour describing the changes as "ideological" and "backward-looking". 

Bethan Marshall, chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English and a senior lecturer in English at King's College London, said: "Many teenagers will think that being made to read Dickens aged 16 is just tedious. This will just grind children down."

However, a Department for Education (DfE) spokesman pointed out that no authors, books or genres have been banned.

Instead, as a minimum requirement, all pupils will study at least one Shakespeare play, a 19th-century novel written anywhere and post-1914 fiction or drama written in the British Isles.

New subject content was introduced by the DfE in December, aimed at broadening the content of the GCSE syllabus and introducing more rigour into the subject. The spokesman added that it is "now up to exam boards to design new GCSEs".

Works that could be studied under the new guidelines include Anita and Me, Meera Syal's 1996 story of a British Punjabi girl in the Midlands, and DNA, Dennis Kelly's 2007 play about bullying.

The changes have been well received by others. Writing in the Mail, AN Wilson says the education secretary is merely trying to ensure children study more works of literature from the British Isles.

Posted by Tim ColmanADNFCR-2164-ID-801723060-ADNFCR
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