Campaign to increase racial diversity in literature taught

Teach First has launched a campaign, urging for more diversity in the literature taught at schools, highlighting that pupils can finish school without reading a single book by an ethnic minority author.

The paper Missing Pages: Increasing racial diversity in the literature we teach, is calling for an increase to the representation of ethnic minority authors in English literature lessons. Currently, the biggest exam board does not include a single book by a Black author in their English literature specifications, and only two ethnic minority authors. Teachers would like to teach a more diverse curriculum, with 75% of English teachers having concerns about a current lack of ethnic diversity. An overwhelming 98% of English teachers think it’s important that students study literature by ethnic minority authors.

In the paper, four English teachers share their perspectives on why representation matters and how they have introduced a greater diversity of authors in their own lessons.

The paper also recommends measures that could help us progress. While pupils should continue to study and enjoy the literary classics already included, schools also need support to give them access to additional brilliant books by ethnically diverse authors.

The report recommends that exam boards should ensure that at least a quarter of authors in their GCSE English literature specifications are from ethnic minority backgrounds. They should also ensure that multiple ethnicities are represented.

Teachers should have access to professional development which helps them appropriately explore historical and current inequalities with their pupils. This also applies to initial teacher training.

There should also be a fund for schools to buy books specifically by ethnic minority authors to remove any remaining barriers to change. This could be achieved in a collaboration between the private and public sector.

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