GCSE English Literature – Examining for 2021: Encore x 4

This is the latest latest, and it revolves around AQA. This is now an illustrative explanation of what they are offering, as I wrote about last night,

aqa 2021 latest latest

It puts AQA out there as the maverick, though I’m not convinced this is attractively so. I still have to research – if bothered – but I think they are the only English exam board making an extra compulsory element [in addition to Shakespeare].

As I have written previously, in other times, Poetry should be a core and students by and large engage and respond extremely well, and in the most pertinent case to this thread, they do well in the unseen element of Poetry study and response. However, as AQA’s initial ‘maverick’ response was to make the Poetry Anthology study compulsory – this to answer the challenge made by a number at the time to Ofqual’s ‘options’ decision which would have allowed the dropping of Poetry – I don’t see how the unseen poetry substitute for this addresses/answers that challenge.

Interestingly, early critics of AQA’s first change [now changed] referred to those mounting the challenge I have mentioned as ‘celebrity poets’! I had my reservations about the bandwagon of this, but the poets who mostly articulated that challenge do not deserve that denigration. Mostly. And that’s another argument/opinion.

Anyway, teaching and preparing for AQA’s ‘extra’ compulsory element does in the first instance break the whole pragmatic premise of Ofqual’s initial decision. Teaching to this will require a focus quite different to reading and exploring poetry in the Anthology. And surely, it will be ‘teaching to this’ precisely because it increases the amount that has to be taught in reduced time which was the whole point of the pragmatic decision from Ofqual [I genuinely find it uncomfortable to seem to support them, so I’m not, just acknowledging].

Unseen poems have often been very good and engaging and eliciting fine responses. But precisely because they are unseen they are selected for this: the timing and so on. Without explaining this further, I hardly see this satisfying/accommodating the arguments that had been made about keeping Poetry Anthology study compulsory.

So it would seem to be a decision made to accommodate what AQA explained [and I referenced in my previous about this] which is the allocation of marks. All I wonder is how if other exam boards are able to work across three elements [including Shakespeare as compulsory] I don’t understand why AQA can’t do some mathematical jiggery-pokery to achieve the same. Unless they want to be ‘different’.

Finally, as AQA are the largest exam board for this subject, will AQA schools who dislike this version be able to change their exam board? That would seem to be a whole other pragmatic decision that wouldn’t particularly help teachers and schools that already have to bear the burden of extra and uncertain work in these existential times.

3 thoughts on “GCSE English Literature – Examining for 2021: Encore x 4

    • I don’t think Edexcel have, having just copied their outline which is the Ofqual ‘norm’. The link to post-1914 is one of the options, I think, because you have a choice of codes to use for the options chosen alongside the S. I think…


      • No, that is correct – I forgot. Their’s is a nuance [!], but it means they have narrowed the options to 1! It retains the 3 elements, though makes 2 of the 3 done compulsory. It is a bit like the covid restriction variations….


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