Gove Hit by Backlash as English GCSE Ditches Classic US Literature

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Byline: Sarah Harris

CLASSIC American fiction is to be dropped from English literature GCSEs under plans that have triggered a backlash againt Michael Gove.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men are among the American novels being ditched by an exam board, along with the Arthur Miller play The Crucible.

The OCR board said it had taken the decision because of the Education Secretary's desire for the exam to be 'more focused on tradition'. But the decision has caused complaints on Twitter with thousands signing a series of online petitions to keep US classics on GCSE syllabuses.

Authors, academics and booksellers have condemned the shake-up, with some describing it as 'backward-looking' and a traditionalist attempt to reinstate the idea of a 'canon' of English literature.

The Department for Education has insisted that its document about content for the subject, published in December, 'doesn't ban any authors, books or genres'.

The new GCSE course will include at least one play by Shakespeare, at least one 19th century novel, a selection of poetry since 1789 including representative Romantic poetry and 'fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards'. Exam boards can add extra books, but experts say the rules leave very little room for 20th century writing outside Britain.

Paul Dodd, OCR's head of GCSE and A-level reform, said in an interview: 'Of Mice and Men, which Michael Gove really dislikes, will not be included. It was studied by 90 per cent of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past. Michael Gove said that was a really disappointing statistic.'

Yesterday he criticised the DFE 'restrictions', saying: 'The essential thing is that in the new GCSE you cannot do fiction or drama from 1914 unless it is British.'

One online petition, signed by 2,567, states: 'Modern texts from outside the UK are equally, if not more, important as British texts.'

Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman tweeted: 'Surely diversity in the curriculum is vital to encourage more extended reading and to expand our teens' minds? …