As part of a commitment to a more diverse and inclusive curriculum, we’re reviewing our specifications to ensure they better reflect contemporary society, setting out new principles for assessments and collaborating with expert individuals and organisations to help guide our decision making on diversity.
Alongside our review of diversity within our own English Literature GCSEs and A Levels, we’re delighted to announce we’re now a named partner in the ‘Lit in Colour’ campaign. This important campaign, which was launched in 2020 by Penguin Random House UK and The Runnymede Trust, aims ‘to explore how to increase students’ access to books by writers of colour and those from minority ethnic backgrounds’.
Jill Duffy, OCR Chief Executive and an English literature graduate, said: “We’re honoured to join the excellent Lit in Colour campaign and to play our part in helping to give young people greater access to works by authors of colour.
“We plan to work shoulder to shoulder with our Lit in Colour partners to support access to a more diverse English literature curriculum in a number of ways. It’s an exciting time to be joining the campaign and for OCR’s broad approach to improving diversity.”
Zaahida Nabagereka, Lit in Colour Programme Manager, said: “We’re really excited to bring OCR on as a named partner for Lit in Colour. This campaign is all about starting a conversation and then following through with meaningful actions that will result in students having more access to literature by writers of colour. OCR has already started those conversations, and we want to do our best to support them through the rest of the process as the campaign develops.”
We’ve been talking to English teachers about ways of improving the diversity of the texts English literature students engage with at GCSE and at A Level. At A Level, we’re planning to add five new texts to our wider text lists. This is in addition to our current texts by writers of colour, such as Toni Morrison, Andrea Levy and Zora Neale Hurston, that can already by studied.
At GCSE, we’re asking teachers for views on introducing a new set play text and refreshing our poetry anthology with a range of new poems by authors of colour. We’re looking forward to adding new authors to our lists to sit alongside Meera Syal, Jackie Kay, Derek Walcott and John Agard. We've extended our survey deadline till 6 May to capture more teachers' views - please tell us what you think about the texts we're looking at for A Level, and for GCSE.
Our review of addressing diversity in novels, plays and poems on OCR’s English Literature GCSE and A Level has been achieved with the invaluable input of a panel of teaching and academic experts, including Lesley Nelson-Addy, Professor, and founder of Wasafiri, Susheila Nasta, Bennie Kara and Jennifer Webb.
Jennifer Webb, English teacher and author said: “Diversity in our English curriculum is about saying loud and clear to our young people that everyone has a voice and a place in the creation and enjoyment of art. Great writers come from every colour and creed across the globe; restricting ourselves to a narrow range of authors does a disservice to literature. I have been delighted to engage in the challenging discussions around diversity in the OCR specifications and I feel confident that English teachers will feel supported and inspired by the proposed changes and OCR's commitment to ongoing work in this area.”
Our GCSE and A Level History specifications have already attracted attention for their diversity. With key topics such as migration available at GCSE and African Kingdoms at A Level, students have the opportunity to see their own stories in the history they are learning and go some way to address the linked issue of ‘decolonisation’ which has been the subject of a research project.
Our approach to improving diversity is broad and goes beyond adding texts to a specification. Developing new resources to support teachers to engage with diverse content is another focus in English and in other subjects. In GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition for example, we’re expanding our recipe lists to support students to cook more diverse dishes as part of their practical work. We’ve developed posters for science teachers about the achievements of women in science.
Another important element for OCR is establishing a new set of principles and guidelines for anyone involved in producing assessment materials, such as question papers, to encourage equality and diversity through positive representation and to make our assessment materials as fair and inclusive as possible. One of our guidelines requires a fair balance of genders, races, ages, disabled/non-disabled people and cultures of characters portrayed in images throughout assessment material. To improve the student’s experience of assessments and celebrate diversity in our students, we have already applied this rule in developing new sample question papers for our vocational Cambridge Nationals qualifications, for example.
We’re also holding the first meeting of a new Equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging advisory panel of external stakeholders this spring to advise and support us on ensuring fairness, accessibility and inclusivity in our qualifications and our assessments.
Jill Duffy summarised: “There is much more for us to do but these are exciting steps in our drive to improve diversity.”