To widen the diversity of works English Literature students can engage with, OCR is adding five novels at A Level, as well as a new play and new poems for its anthology at GCSE, for teaching from September 2022. We will be the first exam board to offer Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker prize-winning novel, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ as a text for A Level students.
As well as ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, the four new novels added to OCR’s A Level English Literature course from next September will be ‘Passing’ by Nella Larsen, ‘Parable of the Sower’ by Octavia Butler, ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier, and ‘The Lonely Londoners’ by Sam Selvon.
For GCSE, students will now have the chance to study ‘Leave Taking’ by award winning playwright Winsome Pinnock as a modern drama text, as well as a refreshed selection of poems.
The number of texts by writers of colour, the majority of whom are women, will increase overall by 19 and will form 28% (up from 13%) of the texts available across both A Level and GCSE. 62% of the new works being added for next year are by women.
Jill Duffy, OCR Chief Executive, said: “We’re committed to increasing the breadth of writing that young people can engage with. Thanks to input from the English teachers we consulted with, a panel of teaching and academic experts, our experienced examiners, as well as feedback from partners such as Lit in Colour, we’ve carefully selected some exciting works to strengthen our English Literature A Level and GCSE. The quality of these diverse works will not only support students to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding of English Literature, but provide an opportunity to engage with work that is more relevant to their lives and to the lives of fellow students.”
Bernardine Evaristo, Booker prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other, commented: “I feel very privileged to know that my work will be taught in schools alongside other books that broaden our understanding of the role of literature in contemporary society, and which explore what it means to be human from multiple, instead of limited, perspectives.”
We are developing a package of support to help English teachers to deliver these fresh texts from next year, alongside the texts they know well. The support package will include supplementary materials to help with teaching and assessment, as well as a full programme of free online training and events.
Madeleine Champagnie, Head of English and Head of Teaching and Learning at Thames Christian School in London, commented: “By supporting teachers to step into the rich diversity beyond the canon, OCR will begin to redefine what ‘English Literature’ means for the next generations; a welcome and pertinent change.”
Confirmation of our new GCSE and A Level texts comes shortly after the publication this summer of a groundbreaking report by Lit in Colour (a joint campaign by Penguin Random House UK and The Runnymede Trust to make English Literature in schools more inclusive), which highlighted the need for greater diversity in the English curriculum. The report found that fewer than 1% of English Literature students study a book by a writer of colour at GCSE, despite the fact that 34% of school students in England are Black, Asian or minority ethnic.
The new texts are part of OCR’s broader drive to improve diversity which goes beyond English Literature. Our History specifications championed diversity by adding new topics such as Migration and African Kingdoms when GCSEs and A Levels were reformed. Religious Studies and Media Studies are two further areas where OCR is exploring ways to improve diversity. The broader approach includes developing new resources to help teachers to engage with existing or new diverse content and establishing new principles for anyone involved in producing exam materials to make sure they are as inclusive and representative of our society as possible.