GCSE English exam branded ‘elitist’ and a ‘disgrace’ by school

Martyn Taylor (right), headteacher at Thomas CowleyHigh School, Donington, with chairman of governors Simon Lilley (left), Dave Cox who built the new classroom and students.
Martyn Taylor (right), headteacher at Thomas CowleyHigh School, Donington, with chairman of governors Simon Lilley (left), Dave Cox who built the new classroom and students.
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Staff at a Donington secondary school have branded changes to GCSE English 
literature exams as “elitist” and a “disgrace”.

An online petition has been launched by teachers at Thomas Cowley High School Donington who claim that students starting courses in September will have to learn “between 15 and 18 complex and challenging poems” by heart for exams in 2017.

The reforms announced by the Government last May will see students learning a variety of books, plays and poems, including Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

But reaction to the reforms focused on the dropping of US authors such as John Steinbeck and Arthur Miller rather than students having to memorize poems by Seamus Heaney and Wilfred Owen.

Assistant headteacher Mary Meredith said: “The new GCSE English literature specifications have changed dramatically from September 2015 onwards when students will be tested purely on their memories.

“Students in our current Year 9 group will have to commit between 15 and 18 complex and challenging poems to memory so they can ‘closely analyse’ them in an exam.

“This is a disgrace and most certainly the end of English literature for all because a lot of students will lose enthusiasm for the subject.”

Headteacher Martyn Taylor added: “The new exam is going to guarantee that there will be even more mediocre schools, developing an education system that will reward an elite.”

A Department of Education spokesman said: “As part of our plan for education, our new English Literature GCSE is designed to stretch pupils and prepare them for life in modern Britain.

“Pupils will read a broader and more demanding range of literature than ever before and we will expect them to study at least 15 poems by five different poets.”

The petition can be found at https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/74359