Exam board adds texts by writers of colour to syllabus

OCR to include Bernadine Evaristo, Nella Larsen and Sam Selvon on A Level and GCSE English Literature, following finding of Lit in Colour campaign.

A portrait of Bernardine Evaristo
Bernardine Evaristo, whose novel has been added to the syllabus. Image: Stuart Simpson/Penguin

Students sitting English Literature GCSE and A Level exams with OCR will now have the option of studying a more diverse range of authors and books after the exam board has added a five new novels, a new play and a selection of new poems to its courses.

Girl, Woman, Other, the Booker Prize-winning novel by Bernardine Evaristo will be added to the OCR A Level English Literature course from September 2022, along with Passing by Nella Larsen, The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

GCSE English Literature students, sitting the paper with OCR, will be able to study Leave Taking by award winning playwright Winsome Pinnock as a modern drama text, as well as a refreshed selection of poems.

The changes mean that the number of texts written by writers of colour on the OCR syllabus will form nearly a third (28 percent) of the texts available at both A Level and GCSE. More than half (62%) of the texts being added for 2022 students will be by women.

The changes come in the wake of the Lit in Colour campaign by Penguin and race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust support schools to diversity the teaching of English Literature. A recent research report from the campaign discovered that fewer than 1 percent of English Literature students study a book by a writer of colour at GCSE, even though 34% of school students in England are from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. OCR joined the Lit in Colour campaign as a named partner earlier this year alongside exam board Pearson.

Evaristo said: “I feel very privileged to know that my work will be taught in schools alongside other books that broaden our understanding of the role of literature in contemporary society, and which explore what it means to be human from multiple, instead of limited, perspectives.”

Jill Duffy, Chief Executive of OCR, said: “Thanks to input from the English teachers we consulted with, a panel of teaching and academic experts, our experienced examiners, as well as feedback from partners such as Lit in Colour, we’ve carefully selected some exciting works to strengthen our English Literature A Level and GCSE.”

Learn more about the impact of Lit in Colour – including how you can join in – on the Lit in Colour campaign page.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more