Exploring diversity through GCSE English
Exploring diversity through GCSE English

As a champion for diversity, we understand the importance of learners being exposed to a range of topics that will allow them to develop their understanding and critical thinking. Here our English Subject Officers Nany Hutt and Julia Harrison explores how a diverse range of reading texts and oracy stimulus material can be used in preparing learners for our Eduqas GCSE English qualifications.

Questioning how we interact and respond to one another in troubling times has never seemed so important. Encouraging young people to explore issues through creative processes is one way we help them understand the world around them and celebrate the diversity they find.

As well as fostering enquiry and debate, teachers can support learners in topics and issues that interest them through our GCSE English qualifications.

GCSE English Language

For English Language there are plenty of opportunities to introduce learners to great writing, both creative and transactional, and spoken texts which explore a broad range of issues and attitudes across the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

The non-examination assessment (NEA) encourages learners to choose a topic that interests them and allows them the freedom to explore that topic in depth and answer challenging questions about it. Teachers could introduce the NEA by providing learners with examples of the different areas they could consider, for example, the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQ+ communities, or they could explore diversity in the music and film industries.

There are many excellent resources that can be used to broaden learners’ thinking and give them the opportunity to investigate something which really interests them.  For example, learners could view the TED Talk that interviews the founders of the Black Lives Matter group or one of the many talks about the importance of understanding gender and sexuality in the 21st century.

The beauty of studying literary texts is that learners are exposed to experiences and cultures beyond their own, and the extracts we select for assessment in Component 1 exemplify this. Rather than just working through past papers, learners could research countries or periods depicted or adopt the voice of one of the protagonists in a creative writing exercise for a truly empathetic experience. 

In preparation for the unseen 19th century text in Component 2, learners could be introduced to texts from the period that deals with Britain’s colonial past and explore how this has shaped attitudes in the present. The British Library newspaper archives have hundreds of digital articles from 1800-1899 that report on these issues that learners may find of interest when exploring through the lens of the 21st century. Similarly, the archive houses many articles that detail the suffrage movement in Britain during this period that learners could compare with contemporary texts calling for the gender pay gap to be addressed.

We are here to support teachers and student celebrate diversity in their studies and are proud that our GCSE English Language qualification gives the freedom for this to happen; if you have any questions or queries, please contact our subject experts who are happy to help.

GCSE English Literature

English Literature offers opportunities to introduce students to a range of texts by different authors from different races, classes, genders and sexualities. The GCSE course encourages learners to engage with different views, ideas, experiences and feelings through the study of poetry, prose and drama to help them to better understand the world and to explore the diversity which they find.

The WJEC Eduqas Poetry Anthology includes poets such as Imtiaz Dharker, Rita Dove and Carol Ann Duffy. It covers a range of poetry and is designed to introduce learners to the rich heritage of poetry across centuries as well as illustrating how poets explore similar themes in different ways. 

Teachers and learners have the freedom to explore their own choices of poetry from a wide range of contexts when covering work for the unseen poetry question. There are no prescribed texts and rich possibilities here. Poets suitable for study could include John Agard, Moniza Alvi, Maya Angelou, James Berry, Eavan Boland, Jackie Kay, Grace Nichols, Benjamin Zephaniah. Work by other poets from the 20th and 21st centuries may also be chosen.

Learners can discuss a range of matters linked to diversity, including gender issues, class, religion, race and identity, through their study of plot, characterisation, events, and key themes in the Shakespeare text.  Some teachers already take the opportunity to study Syal’s Anita and Me or Winterson’s Oranges are not the Only Fruit as the Post 1914 prose text.

The specification will be kept under review. We are here to support teachers and learners to explore and engage with the world in all its rich diversity in their studies; if you have any queries or suggestions, please contact our subject experts who are happy to help.

Useful Links:

John Agard

Moniza Alvi

Maya Angelou

James Berry

Eavan Boland

Jackie Kay

Grace Nichols

Benjamin Zephaniah