Dickens of a time as pupils taught Syal alongside Shakespeare

Meera Syal
Meera Syal
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MODERN British authors such as Meera Syal and Kazuo Ishiguro feature alongside Charles Dickens and Shakespeare on a new list of texts for GCSE.

The new exam have sparked a major row with Education Secretary Michael Gove denying claims that he had banned American authors from being taught in schools.

Exam boards OCR and AQA have both published their planned syllabus for the reformed qualification which will be taught in schools from next year and be the subject of exams from 2017.

Syal’s work features in both lists. Other modern authors include Bradford’s JB Priestley, Alan Bennett and George Orwell.

The Government’s new criteria is that pupils must be taught fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards.

Exam boards have also been asked to design exams which include at least one play by Shakespeare, at least one 19th century novel and a selection of poetry since 1789, including Romantic poetry.

Although Mr Gove has said there has been no ban of modern American Literature critics say that there will be little room for schools to teach texts which will not be assessed in this new GCSE.

AQA’s new list includes Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle, Alan Bennett’s History Boys is a drama option and Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade as a set text for poetry.

The OCR’s list includes Never Let Me Go by Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro and the play DNA by Dennis Kelly.

Its 19th century texts include Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

AQA’s chief executive said: “Choosing the right texts for students to study is crucial for an exam board, with many things to be considered.

“We want to make sure that we include a combination of titles that will engage and appeal to students of all abilities at the same time as allowing us to create stimulating exam papers. We also need to make sure we comply with the rules and subject criteria that set out what exam boards have to cover in the new GCSEs.”

OCR’s Paul Dodd said: “We believe that our new GCSE English Literature syllabus will inspire teachers and students alike. While the restrictions mean that there is no room for texts such as Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mocking Bird, the new syllabus does include exciting additions such as the play DNA by Dennis Kelly and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, both appearing for the first time.”

Earlier this week Education Secretary Michael Gove hit back at “culture warriors” who he says have wrongly accused him of banning modern American novels from the GSCE syllabus.

Academics and writers reacted angrily to news that OCR, one of the country’s largest exam boards, has left To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice And Men and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible off its draft English Literature syllabus. Responding Mr Gove denied that he had banned American authors in general or John Steinbeck’s work in particular.

“Just because one chap at one exam board claimed I didn’t like Of Mice And Men, the myth took hold that it - and every other pesky American author - had been banned,” he said.

He said the new subject content for English literature was intended to broaden the range of books studied by GCSE pupils.