The new English literature specifications for senior school.

Many schools have now opted to commence their KS4 programmes of study from Year 9 onwards in order to fit the content in.

Students need to tackle at least one work of Shakespeare, a novel, a play, unseen poetry and eighteen anthology poems in exams lasting over four hours in total. Sounds fair enough? Students do not have access to any of the literature in any of the exams. Therefore effectively, twenty one texts need to be learned in order for exam success, and the mark scheme asks for direct references to the texts. So is attainment in English Literature now based entirely on a memory game? Perhaps. However, the new specifications offer a wide range and variety of opportunities to delve deeper and strengthen knowledge. Students consider a diverse array of contexts and themes, and are able to debate and consider alternative viewpoints, from feminism to fatherhood. Teachers have the opportunity to develop metacognition and levels of understanding through their delivery of English Literature, and students have some scope to take the texts in any direction.

Nevertheless, the course without controlled assessment is without doubt more difficult than before. At a recent conference in London with over 1000 English teachers, it is also apparent that the struggle to effectively deliver the course is widely felt. In addition, nobody knows secure grade boundaries.

All will become clear in August, however for now one thing is concrete: achievement in English Literature can only be obtained through thorough revision and the ability to revisit and recall key quotations and moments from the texts – for each character and each theme.

bu an English Teacher

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