Some of texts – such as Jane Eyre, War of the Worlds, Journey’s End or An Inspector Calls – may be familiar to when you were at school, and that’s because certain examined texts for GCSES haven’t changed in decades. Even though new texts have been added, often teachers are teaching the same texts to their GCSE pupils that they studied at the same age. Why isn’t there more variety? There are a number of reasons.
For one, buying books is expensive for schools. While there is money allocated to refreshing texts, it’s still a major outlay of cost for often-stretched school budgets; most books are used until they fall apart. A case in point: when the government decided to remove Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird from the GCSE curriculum in 2014 – citing a desire to “broaden the books young people study” – rather than waste those books, many schools decided to teach those texts to younger pupils instead.
Secondly, new texts require teachers to feel confident that they can teach them as well as the more familiar books. While exam boards do offer supplementary teaching suggestions, sample assessments, teachers and exemplar essays - necessary to see what is needed at each grade to be able to help their students reach their potential – there is simply not as much teaching history with new texts, making them a riskier option to teach.
Finally, there’s a lot of pressure on students to gain good English GCSE results – it’s one of the key qualifications they need to progress into work or higher education. As a result, teachers and schools are less likely to change a system if it might risk the chance of good results. Teachers are limited by both time and resources when it comes to creating new teaching plans, which can also make the switch to new texts difficult.