August 2013

Response to the consultation on the reform of Key Stage 4 subject content and assessment objectives in English Language and English Literature

As well as the responses of the individual bodies who make up the Common English Forum, the Forum also responded as a body to the consultation


(i) We are particularly concerned at the exclusion of a literary element from the English Language programme. We feel very strongly that there should be a literary component in the core English subject. As it is likely that not all students will take English Literature, we believe that the absence of a literary component in English Language would constitute a significant educational deprivation and thus severely limit the opportunity for students to study English at higher levels in both school and university.

(ii) We are also concerned about the absence of opportunity for the study of digital texts, particularly in view of the redefined scope of the ICT (now Computing ) programme of study with its emphasis on the cross-curricular importance of ‘digital literacy’.

(iii) We are concerned about the marginalisation of Speaking and Listening and its being separately reported rather than contributing to a candidate’s final grade in the subject.

(iv) We find that there is an artificial distinction between ‘reading comprehension’ and ‘reading critically’.


(i) We believe that the Arnoldian and Leavisite terms in which Literature is defined are not appropriate to the 21st century, nor are they in line with the way in which the subject is viewed in the universities

(ii) The canon of texts for study seems Anglocentric. We would hope that Welsh, Irish, Scottish, American or Caribbean literature would be included. We would find such an omission incongruous in view of the inclusion of ‘Seminal World Literature’ at Key Stage 3.

(iii) We see no reason why 20th century fiction and drama should be available only as alternatives to each other.

(iv) We are concerned in general about the prescriptiveness of the English Literature programme, and see no reason, for example, why the Romantic poets should be compulsorily studied. This inclusion seems somewhat arbitrary, in view of the wide range of poetry of all periods which is available.

(v) It is inappropriate that, in an English Literature programme, there should be a 30%

weighting for writing and feel there is a vagueness about what the relevant Assessment Objectives would actually be assessing.


The proposed examination of both programmes by exclusively linear means will prove highly unsatisfactory in practice. In English Language the absence of internal assessment means that certain important skills and areas of knowledge cannot be assessed at all. In English Literature we think that the final assessment is likely to be reductive and unreliable and that it will fail to provide opportunities for extended writing and for wider reading. It is also worth noting that the IGSE continues to permit an element of teacher-assessment.

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