Byline: DOMINIC HAYES
A NEW row erupted today over the "dumbing down" of A-levels and GCSEs.
The most popular English literature GCSE course, taken by more than 400,000 pupils last year, does not require candidates to read any novels by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte.
Those taking the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance's English literature A-level are also allowed to avoid pre-20th century novels.
The exam board said it had to cater for the "entire ability range".
AQA, which sets both exams, denied it was patronising to allow pupils to bypass Victorian novels because they might find their style too alien and confusing.
A spokeswoman for the exam board said GCSE pupils could study 19th-century literature as part of their coursework - worth 10 per cent of the marks.
Julia Parry, deputy head of English at St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, Tulse Hill, said: "My suspicion is that the exam board thinks that 21st-century children, especially those from the inner city, are not capable of understanding classic novels. …