After Gove; musings on teaching English Literature 3A – update!

Many thanks to @McAllister1 who has pointed me towards the AQA draft mock literature paper 1 and the full list of examined texts, and then to AQA for the release of this page: though I am having trouble getting the link to the Specification to work. The papers are there to browse and apparently the link works on an i-phone!


Romeo and Juliet
The Tempest
The Merchant of Venice
Much Ado About Nothing
Julius Caesar

Robert Louis Stevenson The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens Great Expectations
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre
Mary Shelley Frankenstein
Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Sign of Four

No wonder they went for the edited highlights! Actually, I like the Shakespeare choices which seem to cover most of the expected common ground and develop the learning after KS3 reading. I would possibly want to see Twelfth Night in there instead of The Tempest, but that’s personal and I believe the extracts are rather brief and therefore guessable once the pre-released act is known.

The novels are just uninspired. Many schools read Carol in KS3. Why is it here? Probably because it is so short and well known. Cop-out. Otherwise, with the exception of the Conan Doyle it is yet more of the same and no flexibility. Still, now we know. However the form of the question is quite fun. I still resent the heads up warning about which area of the text the passage will come from since it will by nature limit questioning in some cases, but the questions are based on appreciation of the whole text and are suitably writer focused, as far as I can see.

The modern list is better:
JB Priestley An Inspector Calls
Willy Russell Blood Brothers
Alan Bennett The History Boys
Dennis Kelly DNA
Simon Stephens The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Shelagh Delaney A Taste of Honey
William Golding Lord of the Flies
AQA Anthology Telling Tales
George Orwell Animal Farm
Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go
Meera Syal Anita and Me
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English

This has some interesting choices: Pigeon English is causing excitement on Twitter at the moment and I will get to know it better. Incidentally, does a text have to be modern to be “relevant”? Don’t reply. Otherwise it is a blend of the well tried – Inspector, Flies, Blood, NLMG, Anita and the newly adopted. Texts like History \boys fluctuate between A level and GCSE, possibly suggesting a lack of appropriateness for either and “new plays” will certainly spark interest. I Know I am old and I know this might not be popular, but shouldn’t a play studied in English Literature be a play first and foremost rather than an adaptation? If it is an adaptation, why this one? Is it a text of such merit to be impossible to ignore in this form? If so, why is it not examined in its original form? I’d like Pullman’s Northern Lights in the RSC performing version, if there is no need to worry about the source material. Otherwise, there are plays by Stoppard, Rattigan, Hare… Once again, will many depart from the well trodden paths? I doubt it. So why are we doing this at all?

My issue remains with the missed opportunity to radically overhaul the nature of the examination and use it a sa springboard for further study as well as a measure of “quality” to appease league tables.