Revised examination texts will ‘narrow choice’ for pupils


A revised selection of novels, plays, short stories and poems chosen by the SQA for a new compulsory question on Scottish literature in future English exams could still reduce pupil choice, teachers say.

The texts will be part of the National 5 English qualification, due to replace Standard Grade in 2013/14.

Confirmed prose works range from one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classics, Kidnapped, to the more recent novel The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson.

Poetry by Edwin Morgan and the current poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy are also among other texts included as expected.

Other writers include Ann Marie di Mambro, who wrote Tally’s Blood, a Scottish-Italian romantic comedy set in the Second World War, and Rona Munro, author of Bold Girls, a play about three women in Belfast.

Ann Donovan, who wrote Hieroglyphics and Other Stories, and Ena Lamont Stewart – Men Should Weep – set in Glasgow in the Great Depression, are also on the list.

The Cone Gatherers, a novel by Robin Jenkins that was published in 1955, and a selection of poetry by Norman MacCaig, are the two new additions.

Roderic Gillespie, head of Curriculum for Excellence development for the SQA, said concerns about a lack of crossover between National 5 and the Higher exam had prompted the changes.

He explained: “We listened to these views and made appropriate changes to the list, while ensuring it reflected Scotland’s rich culture and heritage and covered a range of geographical locations and time periods. 

“The Cone Gatherers and the poetry of MacCaig were particularly popular among teachers.

“We always said the list was subject to change and we feel reviewing and refreshing it every three years will be appropriate,” he added.

However, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said any kind of set list could lead some staff to teach to the test and remove flexibility.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The changes show they have listened but these changes very much reflect what is already widely taught in Scottish schools.”

He continued: “It begs the question of why we have the set texts if the list reflects what is already in teachers’ book cupboards and what is already being taught in schools.

“The fact some texts can now be studied at both levels is more practical, but it will narrow the choice even further.”

Last January, Scotland’s education secretary Michael Russell, off the back of a recommendation from the Scottish Studies Working Group, said that candidates sitting future English exams must answer at least one question on a Scottish work.

The aim is to ensure young Scots have an understanding of their literary heritage. 

However, teachers argue that this need is already being met in the classroom.


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