Polly Toynbee dismisses Michael Gove’s intention to strip English Literature out of the core English GCSE examinations as leaving it with nothing but grammatical corrections and straitjacket language. [1.]
Toynbee says English literature is to be regarded as an optional extra and not a highly regarded one. The new English literature examination will become more rigorous, concentrating on pre-twentieth century texts, which may deter all but enthusiasts.
She feels high achievers will be more clearly set apart, rewarding those who already thrive under any system
Toynbee believes that Gove’s plans will see drama, dance, art and literature slipping away despite the fact that in further education colleges, it is often these subjects that provide second and third chances for those failed by schools the first time around.
She challenges that drama is low value but notes that ever fewer schools employ specialist drama teachers. Shakespeare is on the curriculum but no longer to be examined.
In Gove’s schools, whatever might seize the imagination, give pleasure and stay in the heart and mind for a lifetime longer than rote learned facts, is being rooted out.
Toynbee compares Gove to a Dickens character obsessed with teaching boys and girls ‘facts’. She draws attention to an array of writers, artists and academics (including Michael Morpurgo, Robert Harris, Sheila Hancock, Miriam Margoyles, and professors John Carey and John Sutherland) that have sent a letter of protest to the Sunday Times. She, and they, feel when everyone has to do some literature it is more accessible to all and humanises all.
No school should be judged good or outstanding unless it’s good at arts and she guesses that Gove wouldn’t send a child of his to any school that regards arts as a waste of time.
In her Response , Liz Truss states that Polly Toynbee is wrong to claim that our reforms will narrow education to serve exams. Study of our greatest dramatists is to be enhanced, and the study of literature for all 11 to 14 year olds requires wider reading now than ever before.
 Toynbee. P - 5th November 2013 - In Michael Gove's world, Jane Austin, Orwell and Dickens will die out - The Guardian  Truss. E - 13th November 2013 - Response - Literature is not going to be stripped out of English - The Guardian Illustration - Pudles. D 5th November 2013 - The Guardian