New texts and poetry bring greater diversity to AQA's English Literature GCSE

Published: Wednesday 28 Sep 2022

We're introducing three new texts and a poetry collection to our English Literature GCSE to bring greater diversity to the curriculum and around half a million students who take our course.

The three new texts being introduced are Chinonyerem Odimba's Princess & The Hustler, Winsome Pinnock's Leave Taking and Kit de Waal's My Name is Leon.

Odimba's Princess & The Hustler is a play about everyday family life set against the backdrop of the Bristol bus boycott; Leave Taking is a funny and moving play inspired by Pinnock's own mother who was part of the Windrush generation, and de Waal's My Name is Leon is a coming-of-age novel about a boy who's on a mission to reunite his family.

The new poetry cluster, Worlds and Lives, is a contemporary collection of 15 poems that includes some well-known names, alongside new and current voices.*

The new texts offer rich opportunities to engage with issues and ideas that will resonate with young people, introduce further great writers to our course and improve the overall balance of ethnicity and gender of writers. The new, additional poetry cluster is modern, but also rooted in the revolutionary spirit of the Romantics to help ignite young people's enthusiasm for poetry.

All the current poetry clusters will remain available for study; however, we recognised that the current choice of texts was not appropriately diverse. As the course already had twelve modern set texts, it needed to make room for the new ones. Three existing texts which were less popular with schools have been removed, and each accounts for less than one percent of the overall entry: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The History Boys by Alan Bennett and the play version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens.

We're providing support and resources for teachers to accompany the new texts, including free on-demand e-learning to provide a practical toolkit for preparation and teaching.

All the new works are being added from September 2023 and are part of a broader range of revisions and reviews we're carrying out across our qualifications to ensure they better reflect the diverse range of communities, teachers and students they serve.

Earlier this year we added four new plays by writers from ethnic minority backgrounds to our GCSE and A-level Drama courses, and last year we added the study of the campaigning work on social and race issues by footballer Marcus Rashford to our Media Studies GCSE.

We've also established an equality, diversity and inclusion expert group to consider representation in the curriculum and assessment – and to ensure that our decisions are informed by people who represent the full diversity of society.

*The new poetry cluster, Worlds and Lives:

  1. Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth (1798)
  2. England in 1819 by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1839)
  3. Shall earth no more inspire thee by Emily Brontë (1841)
  4. In a London Drawingroom by George Eliot (posthumous publication 1959)
  5. On an Afternoon Train by James Berry (1990)
  6. Name Journeys by Raman Mundair (2003)
  7. pot by Shamshad Khan (2007)
  8. A Wider View by Seni Seneviratne (2010)
  9. Homing by Liz Berry (2010)
  10. A Century Later by Imtiaz Dharker (2014)
  11. The Jewellery Maker by Louisa Adjoa Parker (2018)
  12. With Birds You're Never Lonely by Raymond Antrobus (2019)
  13. A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson (2019)
  14. Like an Heiress by Grace Nichols (2015)
  15. Thirteen by Caleb Femi (2020)

Pauline McPartlan, our Head of Curriculum for English, said:

"I'm delighted to be announcing these exciting new texts and poems as part of AQA's commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in our English qualifications.

"As the largest awarding body for English we have the greatest influence on what's taught in the classroom. We want to make the right changes, so we've listened to teachers, consulted with external experts and academics, and worked with our senior examiners to inform the decisions we've made.

"We're making these changes because it matters that current and future generations of young people have an opportunity to experience a diverse, balanced, inclusive English Literature curriculum that resonates with their lives and better reflects modern Britain."

You can find the updated specification for GCSE English Literature (version 1.3) on our specification pages.

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