Campaign calls to make English curriculum more diverse

Students and teachers in East London have launched a ‘Curriculum Campaign’ which calls on the government to ensure women and ethnic minorities are fairly represented on the UK’s curriculum.

English teachers at The Forest Academy secondary school and sixth form have claimed they are choosing new texts to teach students, after curriculum changes came into effect across the UK last September.

The campaign has been launched along with a petition to urge the government to recognise the lack of representation. According to research, female writers were represented by an average of 31 per cent of texts across AQA, Edexcel, and OCR’s 2015/16 GCSE and A-level English literature reading lists, even though women account for more than half of the UK’s population.

Data also found that texts written by writers from ethnic minority backgrounds had been ‘marginalised’ with some courses only offering five per cent of texts from such writers.

Olivia Eaton, English teacher at The Forest Academy, said it was crucial for students to be able to ‘enjoy and relate to what they were reading’.

She said: “It’s important they’re able to recognise themselves and their heritage in some of the texts they study, and that they’re exposed to a variety of authors and backgrounds to gain a better understanding of the society they live in.

“The current reading lists are weighted in favour of white, deceased, male writers and this has - in turn - muted the voices of an integral part of our society, sending a message to students that these other voices and narratives are not as relevant.”

In a statement, a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “Our reforms have already helped tens of thousands more pupils to leave primary school reading properly. Female authors have played a key role in shaping modern day literature, and it is absolutely right that pupils should learn about both classic and contemporary literature from a diverse range of authors.

“That’s why we are freeing teachers from a prescriptive curriculum and giving schools more freedom to decide which authors are taught in their classrooms.”

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