|Image reproduced under license from Flickr: Adam Tinworth|
Campaigners are calling for women and ethnic minorities to be fairly represented on the GCSE and A-levels curriculum after finding current reading lists being weighted in favour of “white, deceased, male writers.”
Teachers at The Forest Academy in Ilford describe how they were choosing texts for the new school year and realised how unrepresentative the official reading list was. Female writers are represented by an average of just 31 per cent of texts across AQA, Edexcel, and OCR’s 2015/16 GCSE and A-level English literature reading lists, despite women accounting for more than half of the UK’s population. In addition, texts by writers from black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds account for five per cent of texts, despite them accounting for 14 per cent of the UK population.
Having noticed a “concerning” lack of female and ethnic minority authors on offer they launched a petition as part of a new Curriculum Campaign to pressure the Government to recognise the lack of representation.
Lascell Taylor, 17, an AS-level student at The Forest Academy, said: “Now, more than ever, I wholeheartedly believe schools must welcome, encourage, and promote a wide range of cultures into the curriculum, regardless of the subject studied; it is a necessity - not just for our generation - but for those to come if we are serious about challenging cultural, racial, and gender ignorance.
“If we turn our backs on the hundreds and thousands of well-renowned writers from female, black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds, how, as an English literature student, can I grasp the true nature of literature itself?”
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, helped to launch the petition and urged the Government to ensure the curriculum includes a proportionate number of texts by female and ethnic minority writers in English and across all subjects.
In a statement, a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said the Government is commitment to social justice, and wants every child to be able to read widely and well, including from texts by both male and female authors.
The spokesperson added: “Our reforms have already helped tens of thousands more pupils to leave primary school reading properly.
“Female authors have played a key role in shaping modern day literature, and it is absolutely right that pupils should learn about both classic and contemporary literature from a diverse range of authors.
“That’s why we are freeing teachers from a prescriptive curriculum and giving schools more freedom to decide which authors are taught in their classrooms.”