What the Dickens! Pupils Are Awarded English A-Levels without Studying Bronte, Austen et Al

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Byline: SARAH HARRIS

TEACHERS have accused examiners of dumbing down English qualifications by ignoring literary giants such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Emily Bronte.

The country's largest exam board, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, does not require GCSEs and A-level pupils to read the 19th century classics.

Teachers and academics have accused the AQA of patronising children by concentrating on 20th century authors instead. The most popular GCSE English Literature exam, which was sat by more than 400,000 pupils last year, offers questions on eight set texts. Pupils will have to answer questions on one of these books next summer.

The texts are To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck; Lord Of The Flies by William Golding; A Kestrel For A Knave by Barry Hines; The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger; I'm The King Of The Castle by Susan Hill; Green Days By The River by Michael Anthony; and Heroes by Robert Cormier.

The most popular AQA A-level English Literature exam, sat by almost 20,000 students last year, focuses on modern novels such as Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain as well as Shakespeare and other drama and poetry.

The only chance to study a 19th century novel comes through opting to compare John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman with Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. But schools could choose other options in this section of the exam - which is worth only 15 per cent of the total A-level marks.

The restricted reading lists were highlighted in the Times Education Supplement by Julia Parry, deputy head of English at St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, a comprehensive in South London. …