Isobel Woodger, OCR English Subject Advisor
Over the last year, we’ve been working hard here at OCR on adding some new, diverse texts to our English qualifications across KS4 and KS5. We recently consulted our Language and Literature teachers on some new potential texts for Component 2: The Language of Poetry and Plays.
Working with our expert consultative panel, our colleagues in the Lit in Colour programme and with you, our teachers and students, we can now announce which poetry and drama texts we’re adding.
We will be replacing two of the least studied texts for both poetry and drama in Component 2 with some new texts by diverse authors that we included in our survey. These are being introduced for first teach September 2023, with their first assessment in June 2025.
We’ve included a bit of insight into the fantastic literary texts we’ve chosen and why we think they strengthen our offer.
Malika Booker’s Pepper Seed (2013)
As co-founder of the writers’ collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen with Roger Robinson, Booker has been at the centre of supporting and nurturing new poetic talent in the UK. In Pepper Seed, her first full length collection, she explores family, legacy and violence situated within a Caribbean diasporic experience. The collection was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre’s Poetry Prize for First Collection and the OCM Bocas prize.
Poems selected from Malika Booker’s Pepper Seed:
Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come For Us (2019)
Fatimah Asghar is an exciting new voice in poetry, whose work extends beyond their own writing to co-editing an anthology of work by female, trans, gender non-conforming, and/or queer Muslim poets. If They Come For Us is Asghar’s debut collection, exploring experiences of being a young Pakistani Muslim woman in contemporary America and on themes of loss, personhood and growth.
Poems selected from Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come For Us:
Initial ideas and approaches:
Inua Ellams’ Barber Shop Chronicles (2017)
Ellams’ work crosses genres as a poet, playwright, graphic artist and performer. Shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild and Alfred Fagon awards, Barber Shop Chronicles is Ellams’ fourth play, co-commissioned by the National Theatre and Fuel Theatre. It was staged first in Leeds, before two sold out runs at the National Theatre in 2017, before going on a national tour in 2019.
The play is set in an array of Black barber shops in Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos, Accra and London. Over the course of the play, we meet strangers and friends, fathers and sons, and explore ideas about Black masculinity, parenthood, community, sexuality and identity.
Nina Raines’ Tribes (2010)
With work spanning the last two decades, Raine is one of our most well-known contemporary female playwrights. Tribes is her second play and was produced in its original staging by the Royal Court theatre.
The play centres around Billy, the deaf youngest son in a hearing family, whose world is changed when he meets Sylvia, a child of deaf adults who is slowly losing her hearing. The play explores the constraints of family, language and desire.
We will have a launch event in the autumn term so do keep your eyes peeled for more detail! We’ll also be running some free Thinking about Teaching webinars from Spring Term onwards, giving a solid overview of the new texts, how they fit into the qualification and an opportunity for you to ask questions!
For more on this, and our wider work on diversity in English, do take a look at our dedicated webpage.
We really hope that you take a look at these new diverse texts and think about where they might fit within your offer. We’re also looking to create some new support resources for poetry and drama in this component so, do get in touch with any ideas for support you would find helpful, and let us know what you think.
If you have any questions, you can submit your comments below or email us at English@ocr.org.uk. You can also sign up to subject updates or follow us on Twitter @OCR_English.
Isobel has particular responsibility for the A Level English qualification suite. She previously worked as a classroom teacher in a co-educational state secondary school, with three years as second-in-charge in English with responsibility for Key Stage 5. In addition to teaching all age groups from Key Stage 3 to 5, Isobel worked with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education as a mentor to PGCE trainees. Prior to this, she studied for an MA in film, television and screen media with Birkbeck College, University of London while working as a learning support assistant at a large state comprehensive school.